- Introduced in 1986 shortly after the launch of Hallmark’s Shoebox card line, Maxine has entertained millions with her feisty, insightful, and hilarious observations on life. The character has appeared on everything from greeting cards to books to popular Hallmark gifts.
- Maxine follows current news, trends and popular culture with an eagle eye and has an opinion about pretty much everything. Her irreverent quips about aging, the workplace, technology and political correctness strike a chord with fans, especially professional, college-educated women aged 35-65. But it’s clear that Maxine appeals to anyone with attitude. Fans say they love her because, “Maxine says the things I wish I could say.”
- Maxine cards have consistently rated among Hallmark’s highest selling alternative humor cards, with millions (and millions) being sold since 1986.
Hallmark artist John Wagner created Maxine in 1986 based on his mother, grandmother and maiden aunts while he was the first art studio manager for Shoebox Greetings. The new card line was trying to attract hip, young card senders with fresh female characters. He thought the line needed an older character too, just like the smart and funny women who helped raise him. So with a few passes of his pen he created the no-nonsense grouch who would be known for years only as “John’s old lady.” (Watch a video of John Wagner speaking about his mother’s influence on the crabby character.)
Maxine was born. Her first card sold well, so Wagner drew more of them. He added the spot-on details of an outspoken, loveable curmudgeon that have become Maxine’s trademarks, from her chemically tortured hair, aviator shades, and perpetual snarl, right down to her housecoat and bunny slippers. He gave her a canine best friend, Floyd, who plays her straight man without saying a word.
Soon Wagner’s mom got involved. Toni Wagner, who helped inspire the character, was a willing conspirator in Maxine’s publicity boom. Toni began dressing up as Maxine and attending special events at Hallmark Gold Crown stores and nursing homes throughout New England, where she lived.
Maxine was featured in a 1995 People magazine article alongside Toni and John. From then until her death 10 years later, Toni took on the Maxine persona in countless interviews with national and local media. These days professional Kansas City actor Cathy Barnett dons the garb to play Maxine for special occasions, such as Keepsake Ornament Club events and events around Kansas City.
For more than a quarter century Maxine has been popular for the way she channels everyone’s pet peeves. But in these times of change and uncertainty, her fearless quips especially resonate with both genders and all ages. As one online fan recently put it, “Maxine is a walking bottle of truth serum.”
And in spite of Maxine’s age, she’s still with it, including being on top of the online trends of today. With 3 million active fans on Facebook, Maxine is a social media star these days, ensuring her a growing base of younger devotees who just like her sass.