Archive for Sunday, December 7, 2003

Robot collectibles worth thousands of dollars

December 7, 2003


Space travel, rocket ships and robots were among the fantasies of the 20th century.

Possibly the earliest pictured robot was a prize winner in a contest in 1915. It was made from a Meccano toy construction set. The 1927 German movie "Metropolis" and the 1951 American movie "The Day the Earth Stood Still" featured robots, but it was not until "Forbidden Planet" was released in 1956 that a toy was created to resemble a movie robot -- Robby the Robot.

The original battery-operated Robby toy, by Nomura of Japan, was copied by many other companies. And Nomura made several versions of the original. One of the better Robby-inspired robots was a 1956 remote-controlled toy, also by Nomura of Japan. The paint color was different, and so was the name. A mint in-the-box example sold recently for $1,834.

During the 1950s and '60s, many imaginative tin robot toys were made, mostly in Japan. Today these robots can be worth tens of thousands of dollars.

My mother has had a mahogany Chippendale center table since the 1940s. She's in her 90s now. The green label on the pedestal base reads "Imperial, Grand Rapids, Mich." What can you tell us?

The Imperial Furniture Co. was founded in 1903 by F. Stuart Foote. Before that, Foote had worked at the Grand Rapids Chair Co., which was owned by his father. At first, Imperial made extension tables. Later, other tables and bookcases were produced. Much of the furniture was made in traditional styles like Chippendale. The green label you describe was used by the company starting about 1927. Foote died in 1954, and the business was sold. While your mother's table is not an antique, it is a good piece of reproduction furniture.

I just purchased a box of old games and jigsaw puzzles. One of the puzzles is complete and in its original color-lithographed wooden box. The box cover pictures a woman sitting next to a large tree while she examines an atlas. Standing next to her is an American Indian woman. The title on the box reads "A New Dissected Map, United States." In small print are the words: "Copyrighted 1887 by McLoughlin Bros., N.Y." There are 40 pressboard puzzle pieces. The puzzle shows Oklahoma as "Indian Territory" and North and South Dakota as "The Dakotas." What is the puzzle worth?

McLoughlin Bros. was a famous publisher of books, games and jigsaw (dissected) puzzles throughout much of the 19th century. Puzzles were considered an entertaining pastime for children, but many of them -- including maps -- were also educational tools. The Dakotas became North and South Dakota on the same day -- Nov. 2, 1889 -- which helps date your puzzle. Because McLoughlin Bros. manufactured sturdy puzzles and produced some in relatively large numbers, quite a few survive. Yours would sell for about $60 today.

Is there any value to a Campbell's Kids silver-plated fork-and-spoon set? It was a Campbell's Soup premium in the early 1950s. Images of the Campbell's Kids are engraved on the handles.

More than a half-dozen children's flatware sets were made as Campbell's Soup premiums between the 1950s and the '80s. The 1950s two-piece sets sell for about $50.

My grandmother had a tin match-holder on her kitchen wall. Today it belongs to me. It's rectangular, with a lithographed winter scene on the front and a covered tray on the bottom for used matches. What is the history of these wall-hung match-holders, and what is mine worth?

Match-holders like yours were made to hang on a wall near the kitchen stove. They were common household items from the 1920s to the '40s. A wall-hung match-holder held a standard-size box of wooden matches, needed to light gas stoves and ovens. Match-holders for the table and match-safes carried in a pocket were first made in the 1820s, after sulfur matches were introduced. Many early holders were ceramic or cast iron and had elaborate designs. A 20th-century tin holder, without advertising, sells for $10 to $30. If the lithographed picture were an ad, it could sell for hundreds of dollars.

Does my 11-inch Hamm's Bear beer decanter have any value? It is in the shape of a bear, with a lift-off head. The bear is holding a Hamm's label. The bottom is marked "Made in Brazil, Hamm's Bwg., 1972." There is another word that looks like "Ermarte."

The word is "Ceramarte," the name of the Brazilian company that made your decanter. They were shipped in master cases of six, not in individual boxes. Your decanter would sell for about $85 to collectors of beer steins and decanters.


Toothpaste and a toothbrush can be used to quickly clean a piece of silver jewelry.

Current prices are recorded from antiques shows, flea markets, sales and auctions throughout the United States. Prices vary in different locations because of local economic conditions.¢ Adlai Stevenson and John Sparkman cloth-and-plastic political garter, red and white polka-dots with blue trim, white donkey figure, 1952 U.S. presidential campaign, $75.¢ Advertising fan, Moxie soft drink, girl wearing Moxie Man necklace, 1923, $85.¢ Sheet-metal weathervane, American Indian in feathered headdress, bow and arrow, ready-to-shoot stance, brown and black, c. 1900, 12 x 17 1/2 inches, $310.¢ English carved ivory Tau-handled cane, handle is head of man wearing nightcap, set with glass eyes, base has carved flat leaves, 1840, 35 3/8 inches, $365.¢ Ginny skier doll, hard plastic, blond wig, painted lashes, dark-blue eyes, red-and-blue ski outfit, wooden ski poles, Vogue Doll Co., 7 inches, $550.¢ Frankart candleholder, bronze, sitting nudes with arms folded, marked, 1928, 4 3/4 inches, pair, $600.¢ French Provincial side chairs, cherry wood, wheat pattern, chapeau de gendarme crest, spindle inset backrest, rush seat, set of 6, $825.¢ Switchboard-operator toy, operator moves her head and hands plugging in phone jack, switchboard lights up, battery operated, Linemar, 1950s, 8 inches, $1,450.¢ Mercury-glass sphere on pedestal, snap pontil, single piece of blown glass, mercury finish, baluster-form base, 1880, 15 x 22 inches, $1,495.

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