Comic characters are often used as models for toys, because they are already favorites of children. One group of toys was based on children’s books by Palmer Cox (1840-1924), an author who was born in Quebec, Canada, and lived in Panama and San Francisco as a railroad contractor and carpenter.
Around 1874, he began to study drawing and write and illustrate stories. Cox published his first Brownies in 1879. They didn’t become well-known until 1883, when they were printed in St. Nicholas Magazine. The Brownies were in many magazines, including Ladies’ Home Journal and a tobacco journal. Most Brownies were in books of humorous verse, comic strips, story books, and even on a cigar box label. The Kodak Brownie camera, introduced in 1900, was named after them.
There were many different Brownies, all men. Each Brownie has a personality and trade, and was dressed appropriately for his job. You can see Uncle Sam, a policeman, Chinese man, Irish man, sailor, Indian, and even a man in a top hat among the figures in the game of ten pins. Each figure is 12 inches high, made of lithographed paper over wood. The object of the game is to knock down the pins. But all Brownies liked to make mischief. They were all good, strong and jokers. They traveled and did good deeds, but only harmless tricks with no damage. It was lucky to have a Brownie in the house even though you can’t see him.
Brownies were so popular they were featured as paper dolls, trade cards, rubber stamps, card games, puzzles and cloth dolls made by Arnold Print Works. They were decorations on carpets, wallpaper, china, glassware and tableware. This boxed game of Brownie ten pins was estimated at $300 to $400 at a recent Bertoia auction and sold for $354, while a set in excellent condition would sell for $700 to $1,000.
Q: I’d like to know the value of a collection of presidential campaign buttons from 1896 to 1972. They’re attached to a cardboard sheet preprinted with the years and the names of the candidates. One sheet has buttons from the major political parties from 1896 to 1932, and the other sheet has buttons from 1936 to 1972. There are no preprinted candidates’ names under 1972, just a McGovern button. Whom can I contact to sell these?
A: The first mass-produced political buttons were celluloid pinback buttons made for the 1896 presidential campaigns of Republican candidate William McKinley and Democratic candidate Williams Jennings Bryan. You have a set of reproduction political buttons issued by Liberty Mint, a company in New York City, in 1972 before the candidates for president were nominated. Liberty Mint made two versions of this set, one with celluloid buttons and one with lithographed copies. Some authentic celluloid political buttons sell for thousands of dollars. Common buttons sell in lots for a few dollars. Most collectors don’t want reproduction buttons. Liberty Mint sets sell online for less than $25.
Q: I have a poster of an exhibit of Hollywood costumes in Japan in 1995. It has black and white design on a white background and reads “Cinema Fashion & Hollywood Designers” along one side. Everything else is written in Japanese. A note attached to the back says the costumes exhibited were temporarily removed from storage on the Hollywood lots.
A: The exhibit commemorated the 100th anniversary of the first commercial motion pictures. It took place in Tokyo in August 1995. Over 175 items relating to Hollywood were included in the exhibit. The value of an old poster is determined by the artist, subject, condition and rarity. Some posters sell for $10, some for a few hundred dollars, and a few for over $1,000. Try contacting an auction house that sells posters to see if your poster is one that is valuable.
Q: A reader (T.K.) sent us an interesting answer to a question we published a few months ago “Does the old liquor in an old mid-1800s whiskey bottle add to the value? Is it safe to drink? Is it legal to sell the whiskey in an old whiskey bottle if you are not licensed by your state?”
A: There are different rules about selling whiskey in the states. A long stay in a glass bottle should not change the whiskey the way storage in an oak barrel does, but if it is opened, it probably should not be served. But our reader says there are collectors who pay lots of money for old, unopened, full whiskey bottles. They are called “dusties,” and some collectors hunt for them in liquor stores. The writer knows someone who sold filled bottles of bourbon to a shop owner who sells “pours” to customers. Write us in care of this newspaper if you know more about this.
Terry and Kim Kovel answer readers’ questions sent to the column. Send a letter with one question describing the size, material (glass, pottery) and what you know about the item. Include only two pictures, the object and a close-up of any marks or damage. Be sure your name and return address are included. By sending a question, you give full permission for use in any Kovel product. Names, addresses or email addresses will not be published. We do not guarantee the return of photographs, but if a stamped envelope is included, we will try. Questions that are answered will appear in Kovels Publications. Write to Kovels, (Collectors Journal), King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Subscribe to Kovels On Antiques & Collectibles monthly print newsletter. For more than 60 years, Kovels has been the go-to source for anyone who buys, sells or collects antiques and collectibles. Kovels’ newsletter has 12 pages filled with news, information, photos and prices, plus monthly sale reports and expert advice about the world of collecting. Subscribe and save 45%, only $27 (regular price: $45) for 12 issues. Write to Kovels, P.O. Box 292758, Kettering, OH 45429-8758; call 800-829-9158; or subscribe online at Kovels.com.
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