There are many collectors of old advertising, including signs, figures, cans, bottles, small trade cards and giveaways. Hard and soft drinks, grocery-store products, automobile-related items, paint cans and even flower seeds are popular anything that shows a company name or logo. Less well-known are advertising pieces for pottery and porcelain firms.
Eighteenth-century Chinese Export plates have been found with many different borders or center designs. The plates must have been sent to England from Asia to help a buyer select a china pattern. In the 19th century, samples of pitchers that could easily be carried to customers were popular with American salesmen. These samples were flat versions of actual pitchers, showing just the front and part of the handle. Potteries also made oversized pitchers for display in stores. By the early 20th century, salesmen would carry samples of special-order dinner sets. Many different restaurant or school logos were shown on one plate. This kind of sample plate is worth about $100 to $150 today. Sometimes you can find a glazed sample plate with many sections. Each glaze was a different color.
Ceramic "giveaways," ashtray-size dishes with the name of the factory on the front or the back, are the most popular with collectors. Sometimes a full-size dinner plate was made with an advertisement, including a slogan and a logo for the pottery company. A few factories gave away paperweights with the company name. They hoped the weights would be displayed on a desk to remind the store owner to buy more dishes. By the 1930s, pottery and porcelain companies made plaques to be displayed in stores alongside dishes. These plaques now sell for about $150 to $200 each. Some are still being made. Today, a plate advertising an early washing machine or refrigerator is worth hundreds of dollars. So don't ignore the ceramics that were made as ads, not as dinnerware.
Sometime during the 1950s, my dad traded a horse for a matching chair and couch. Both pieces are upholstered in wine-colored, over-stuffed mohair. The upholstery is attached to the wood frame with decorative steel tacks. The wood frame is visible only at the front edges. The labels read "Pullman Quality Living Room Furniture, Chicago." Any information?
The Pullman Couch Co. was founded in Chicago in 1906 by Jacob Schnadig and his brother-in-law, Julius Kramer. The two men gave the name "Pullman" to the small furniture-manufacturing business they bought because they planned the new company while they were eating lunch in the Pullman Building on Michigan Ave. The Pullman Couch Co. made parlor suites like yours and some overstuffed rockers. What made the business profitable, however, was a patent it bought for an inner-mattress davenport-bed. Pullman was in business until 1954, when it became the Schnadig Corporation. Schnadig is still working near Chicago.
Sixty-five years ago, I bought a complete set of dinnerware, including a three-tiered sandwich tray. Each piece is decorated with a green, maroon and yellow rooster in the center. Most of the dishes are marked "California Provincial, Hand Painted, Poppytrail, California Made Metlox." Some have an outline of the state of California under the word "Poppytrail." Do you have information on the maker and current value?
Your dishes were made by Metlox Potteries, founded in 1927 in Manhattan Beach, Calif. The company made its first dinnerware in 1931 and continued to produce dishes until 1989. Metlox used the trade name Poppytrail on its dinnerware lines. California Provincial is the pattern name. It was introduced in 1950. Poppytrail dinnerware by Metlox is popular today. One dinner plate can sell for $35.
You ran a picture of a toy motorcycle in a recent column. I had no idea that these could be valuable. I have a windup motorcycle toy that I know is original, because it was given to me in 1936, when I was 6 years old. Mine is lithographed tin and is marked "Marx." A policeman is riding the cycle, which is about 8 inches long. When you wind it up, it travels around in a circle and falls over on its side. But then it rights itself and continues around, making another circle and repeating the falling/getting up pattern.
Louis Marx & Co. introduced your "Police Tipover Motorcycle" toy in 1933. It originally sold for 59 cents. Depending on condition, the toy could sell for more than $150 today. The original box, in excellent condition, triples the value.
I collect record-album covers. What should I look for?
Record albums were in plain brown wrappers in the 1930s. In 1939, Alex Steinweiss, a graphic designer at Columbia Records, designed the first album cover for a Rogers & Hart collection. Pictures were soon used on every album. The artistry continued until the smaller CD became popular and there was little space for clever art. Collect the covers you like.
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