Colorful ‘penny toys’ sparked kids’ imaginations

By Terry and Kim Kovel

Children have always wanted to imitate the activities of people they see. So, toys have been made for centuries that are dressed to look like friends and, if possible, let them pretend to cook, play or work like grown-ups.

In Germany, toy factories made small colorful tin toys from about 1880 to 1914 that could move and imitate a mother cooking or a boy roller skating. The price of the small toy was a penny, so they were named “penny toys” by today’s collectors.

About 175 antique penny toys were sold in an important Bertoia auction recently and prices were much higher than a penny. The lowest price was $180. The highest price was $11,400 for a walking camel with a well-dressed Arab rider. The top of the rider’s turban could be turned to make the clockwork toy move.

There were several toys showing a boy or a girl at school sitting at the traditional bench attached to a desk. The child’s arm moved and opened the top of the desk to show candy hidden inside. This schoolboy penny toy sold for $840. Toys today are much more complicated with electric motors or digital instructions, but kids still play school.

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Q. I’d like to sell an official Oakland Raiders helmet signed by Ken Stabler, Howie Long, Al Davis, George Blanda and a few others. I have photos of each player signing this helmet. The NFL Hall of Fame wanted it donated, but I’d rather sell it to a Raiders enthusiast. How can I reach out to that fan base and get a true estimate of value?

A. There are auction houses that specialize in selling sports memorabilia, and they get the highest prices. You can find them by searching online for “sports auctions” or “sports memorabilia auctions.” You can also search specifically for “Oakland Raiders memorabilia.” Past auctions list prices for items sold. You can call or write an email to some of these auction houses to see if they are interested in the helmet and what the seller’s premium and other charges might be.

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Q. My grandmother found a booklet filled with green stamps marked with the red letters S & H in a shield. She remembered pasting the stamps into the booklet for her mother to save. I think they came from the grocery store. What were they for? Why did she save them? They are at least 100 years old. Do they have value as a collectible today?

A. You have a book of S & H Green Stamps, one of the most famous promotion programs in America. It was started by Thomas Sperry and Shelly Hutchinson in 1896. You got one stamp for every 10 cents you spent when you bought groceries, gas or other products. The stamps could be redeemed for items that the stamp company offered through a catalog. The company became the largest of its sort in the United States until the 1970s, when stores complained that stamp promotions were costing the stores money, and prices on merchandise had to be raised. State governments tried to pass laws against stamp promotions, and the federal government tried to pass a law saying this type of promotion was illegal. It was approved by the Supreme Court in 1972. The S & H company was sold and is now interested in health and wellness, not kitchen pots or silverware. There are some interesting pieces of S & H memorabilia, like the large signs displayed in the stores, premium catalogs or the stamp books. There are also “giveaways” marked S & H and products from the catalogs with the S & H tag used for promotions. Prices range from under $10 for a key chain to over $1,000 for an electric store sign.

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Q. I bought an enamel and copper ashtray marked “Dane” and would like to know who made it.

A. This mark was used by Dane Burr (1926-2013), a studio potter, artist and instructor best known for his clay sculptures of whimsical animals and other figures. Burr was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and graduated from the Cleveland Institute of Art. Some of his pottery and paintings were exhibited at the May Show at the Cleveland Museum of Art in the 1950s. He also taught art at various locations. Burr and his wife moved to Waynesville, North Carolina, in 1995 and opened a studio and gallery there, where he continued to work. Your enameled ashtray is worth $50.

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Q. I inherited a large number of gum cards that belonged to my father when he was a boy. It includes Superman cards, “Horrors of War” and many other subjects. There are approximately 350 cards in good condition. Where is the best place to sell these?

A. Gum Inc. of Philadelphia published the first “Horrors of War” cards in 1938. They are one of the most popular (and controversial) card sets ever issued. The cards sold for 1 cent with a piece of bubble gum. Gum Inc. published the first Superman card set in 1940. Value of the cards depends on the condition, picture and rarity. Common cards in poor condition might sell for about a dollar. Other cards sell for a few hundred dollars at auctions that specialize in non-sports cards.

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TIP: If you move your antiques to a new home in a van, watch out for damage. Check the antiques as they are unloaded. Sweep the inside of the moving van and save any small pieces of veneer, wood or screws that might have fallen off your furniture.

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Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel answer questions sent to the column. By sending a letter with a question and a picture, you give full permission for use in the column or any other Kovel forum. Names, addresses or email addresses will not be published. We cannot guarantee the return of photographs, but if a stamped envelope is included, we will try. The amount of mail makes personal answers or appraisals impossible. Write to Kovels, (Name of this newspaper), King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803.

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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.

Clock, Petal style, green, blue, orange, composite, enamel, metal, style of George Nelson, 17 1/2 in. $75.

Delft Charger, pedestal, fern fronds, flowers, blue, white, 14 in. $280.

Elephant Match Safe, silver plate, cream tusks, trunk down, c. 1900, 2 1/4 x 1 1/2 in. $430.

Coat hook, fox head, wreath of leaves, black forest, Germany, c. 1900, 10 x 6 in. $460.

Lustres, cranberry, bohemian glass, scalloped edge bowls, cut glass prisms, enamel & gilt flowers, 14 in. pair. $680.

Rookwood vase, trees, bushes, vellum, blue, green, purple, Lorinda Epply, 9 1/2 in. $920.

Vase, gourd shaped, red & orange flowers, brown leaves, white ground, Zsolnay, 15 in. $1,100.

Inkwell, marble, classical cameos, Mt. Vesuvius watercolor, lobed, black, red, 4 3/4 x 3 in. $1,480.

Vanity, bird’s eye maple, walnut, three drawers, glass top, Art Deco, Gilbert Rhode for Herman Miller, 27 1/4 x 51 3/4 in. $2,080.

Majolica bowl, jardiniere, two tier, cherubs, shells, multicolor, Hugo Lonitz, c. 1880, 20 x 11 1/2 in. $3,000.

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(c) 2019 by Cowles Syndicate Inc.


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