Sillisculpts were introduced in 1968 by R&W Berrie, a company that produced little novelty items which sold from dimestore counters and in gift shops. The company already produced little figurine statues, but when they started selling them with (more or less) humorous slogans applied, the line began to catch on in a big way. The items appealed to consumers who wanted to buy a little momento or sympathy card for a loved one; the statues were popular for this purpose because (a) they expressed a particular sentiment (such as 'Bitch A Little... You'll Feel Better') and (b) they had a long shelf life, unlike a greeting card which would probably be thrown out soon after being received.
To be sure, they were kitsch items - funny, goofy, sometimes grotesque little knicknacks that some people collected by the hundreds, sitting them around their homes on every available surface. But they appealed to young and old alike with their silly, childlike humor (despite sometimes racy content), and so were embraced by a wide spectrum of consumers. Of course, as the statuettes began to sell like hotcakes, the number of designs expanded to include all sorts of characters, usually representing different members of the family from toddlers to grandparents.
So too did the number of competitors blossom. Since the Berrie company could hardly patent a statuette with words on it, other firms began cranking out the figures to take advantage of the sudden fad. C.M. Paula Co. had been making chalkware statues starting in the mid-60's, but with the popularity of Sillisculpts they also began to manufacture their own hard-plastic variety, which are usually lighter and not as durable. American Greetings also produced their own line of statues, and with their superior distribution, were able to put a number of different designs on the market fairly quickly. It's easy to tell the manufacturers of these statues, should one decide to collect them: each one should be clearly marked with the date, company name, and identifying item number.
There was a great variety to Sillisculpts and their competitors. Although the great majority were off-white or ivory, examples also exist in bright red, pink, blue, and other colors; these are usually highly sought after by modern collectors. Many statues came with little accessories as well: little plastic 'google' eyes, eyeglasses, candles, valentine hearts, etc. Sillisculpts and American Greeting statues were filled with sand, with a rubber stopper at the bottom; their bottoms were also felt-lined. The sizes of the statues ranged from about 5" to 12" in height.