Published: July 25, 2000
FT. WASHINGTON, PA. – Collectors are always looking for something “new” in the booths filled with old paper, books and advertising at Great Eastern shows. Part of the excitement is finding an unusual treasure among the more than 300-dealer offerings.
John Freas offered a circa 1890 undertaker’s sample display case, filled with more than 40 casket handles and insignias mounted to black felt in a shadow box. The decorative offerings included plaques reading “AT REST,” and “FATHER,” as well as Christian crosses, Masonic emblems and elaborate handles.
“No one that knows about salesmen’s samples has ever seen them,” Freas said. The catalog and glassed case were made by a Michigan manufacturer and priced at $3,000. Although this sample case may be a rarity, catalogs for caskets and hardware have been available for interested collectors. “The last catalog from a casket company I sold for $1,000 and I could have sold that several times over,” said Freas.
The undertaker’s sample case was relatively easy to identify but another canvas had hidden value. Bob Hoffman obtained a rolled-up piece of canvas that didn’t look like much at first. The owner of the old canvas was going to toss it out.
“She thought it was an old window shade, so she was going to throw it away,” said Hoffman. It was an 1818 illustrated rendition of the Declaration of Independence on canvas, with the original wooden boards. The 29 inch by 42 inch long artistic document was published by Benjamin Owen Tyler of Washington, D.C.
The first sales included a Charles Howard framed golf print, Puck and The Judge magazine covers from 1885, a Valentine picturing a telegraph, Hank Williams souvenir program, Moxie ad, Coca-Cola calendar and a Chew Me Up candy box from 1918.
“Our hottest piece is chewing gum,” said Charles Oliver. Die cut butterflies in pastel pink, blue and yellow with smiling children’s faces advertised the Kiss Me Gum Co. They were priced under $170. A Doehla Fine Arts birthday card once held a piece of Varsity gum by Bazooka. The card read, “It’s your birthday, by gum.” The empty wrapper had instructions to redeem for a college pennant or letters and numbers “to decorate your room.” One of the best gum collectibles was a rare 1938 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs chewing gum wrapper from Dietz Gum Co. of Chicago. The wrapper touted the “pure and delightful” gum and offered a mystic weather prophet ring as a premium for 10 wrappers and 10 cents. Originally one cent, the wrapper was priced just under $150.
Looking at the wrappers and packages that once contained delicious sweets could make anyone fondly recall their favorite candies. While the tasty confection in a glass locomotive may not be tasty anymore, a mint condition candy container with tin closure was a desirable find. The graphics by the American Art Sign Co. of Brooklyn pictured the engineer at the controls, and his helper ready to shovel coal in the fire. It was priced at $295. Other candy containers ranged from figural animals such as a brown rabbit or a pair of turkeys to red, white and blue top hats, suitable for the Fourth of July.
Patriotic paper collectibles available included fine lithographed eagles, flags, and uncut political button graphics. A pair of red, white and blue Teddy Roosevelt button pictures was priced at $125; an uncut sheet of Franklin Delano Roosevelt pin backs was $110. And you could find Uncle Sam on a variety of ephemera and advertising collectibles, including Union Leader Redi Cut Tobacco tins.
Dealers offered tobacco-related ephemera. “It’s a really strong market,” said Don Kay. He brought a rare 1884 cigar box lithograph from New York by Louis E. Neuman & Co. which pictures a “Crack Team” of elegantly dressed women taking aim at three men wearing bull’s-eyes as Cupid looks on. And a circa 1890 poster for Dixie Darlin Smoking Tobacco with a lovely red-haired women holding a box of the product is as educational as it is decorative. The tobacco box says Sir Walter Raleigh discovered tobacco and W.H. Snow perfected its cure.
Collectors could buy a metal thermometer from a Chicago butter creamery (under $150), a Log Cabin 31/2 inch high syrup tin ($85), or an empty box of Super Bulldog Salute fireworks from Vineland, N.J. It originally sold for $2 a gross; now it is $69. An ad declaring “Big News! Quints Get Their First Candy” showed the Dionne quintuplets opening bars of Baby Ruth ($185).
The bottom of an 81/2 inch long 1958 turquiose Edsel with white roof carried a message on the bottom of the scale model car. It read, “In the medium price field, the one that’s really new is the lowest price, too.” The toy car was marked $285 at the show.
For baby boomers and others seeking distinctive toys from the 1950s, the show offered a Zorro paint-by-number kit made by Hasbro in its original box, $245; a Howdy Doody marionette manufactured by Peter Puppet Playthings, original box, $385.
The fall Great Eastern Antique Book, Paper, Advertising and Memorabilia Show at the Allentown, Penn. fairgrounds is scheduled Saturday, October 7 and Sunday, October 8. This special weekend features different dealers each day for a total of more than 300 exhibitors in one great weekend. Hours are 9:30 am to 5 pm each day. For information, Joyce Heilman, manager, 215/529-7215 or write Great Eastern Productions, 23 S. 7th St., Quakertown, Penn. 18951.
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