• who is Harry? 
  • what is Rinker Enterprises? 
  • Harry's appearance schedule 
  • Harry's books 
  • issues Harry feels strongly about 
  • reproductions from the past
  • where can I read Harry? 
  • Harry's recent columns 
  • where can I hear Harry? 
  • The Institute
  • Harry's recommended links 
  • Harry's Palace
  • Harry's want lists
  • Harry's travelogue
  • e-mail Harry 
  • Home Page 
  • press photos


    Column #1085 Copyright © Rinker Enterprises, Inc. 2006 

    Questions and Answers


    QUESTION:  We have a Wonder rocking horse which we purchased along with a Wonder car seat, feeding chair, and table in 1958 when our first child was born.  Only the rocking horse remains.  One of the four springs is slightly strained, otherwise the rocking horse is in very good condition.  Does it have any value? – A & D T, E-mail Question

    ANSWER:  The spring rocking horse arrived on the scene in the late 1940s.  The spring rocking horse consists of a plastic horse attached by four springs to a wood or metal frame that provides stability and prevents the horse from toppling or tipping over.  Many models allowed the spring location to be adjusted upward as the child grows taller.

    Wonder Products Company of Collierville, Tennessee, a manufacturer of wooden rocking horses in the 1940s, is credited with creating the first spring rocking horse.  Wonder rocking horses had molded plastic bodies suspended by four strong springs from a tubular metal frame.

    The success of the Wonder rocking horse quickly drew imitators.  In 1949 Rich Toys introduced its own line of plastic spring suspension rocking horses.  Sales volume showed continual growth through 1952.  Rich Toys’ success caught the attention of the Wonder Products Company who filed a patent infringement suit against Rich Toys.  The lawsuit stretched out over several years.  In August 1957, Wonder Products’ patent rights were sustained, forcing Rich Toys to reach a settlement that included a damage payment and a licensing royalty agreement of 10% of the jobber price to Wonder Products for all suspension rocking horses made by Rich Toys.  In 1959 the royalty payment was lowered to 5%.

    In 1964 Wilson Sporting Goods Company purchased Wonder Products Company, primarily for its custom-molding equipment.  Within a short period of time, Wilson’s Wonder Products plant was producing custom-molded parts for baseball and football protective equipment, e.g., shin guards for baseball catchers and face masks for football helmets.  Wonder Products also continued to make spring rocking horses throughout the 1960s and into the early 1970s.

    Wonder Products produced a wide variety of spring rocking horses.  One model featured a removable saddle.  A 1967 Wonder Products Christmas advertisement provides illustrations of seventeen different models of Wonder horses.

    Secondary market values for Wonder Products spring rocking horses vary considerably.  I found examples on eBay with opening prices below $15.00 that failed to attract a bidder.  On the other hand, a very early example with a wood, not plastic, horse sold for $200.00 on eBay, albeit there was only one bidder.  The bidder obviously wanted it bad enough to pay the asking price.  Wonder Products spring rocking horses appear regular on craigslist.org with asking prices ranging from $25.00 to $50.00.

    If there are collectors for spring rocking horses, their number is small.  Hence, the vast majority of spring rocking horses sold on the secondary market are sold for their reuse rather than collectible value.  The value of your 1958 Wonder rocking horse is between $20.00 and $25.00.  If it is heavily used or shows any signs of rust, it is a candidate for the landfill.

    QUESTION:  In the late 1970s and early 1980s, I acquired a complete set of pewter Crown & Rose Christmas bells commemorating the twelve days of Christmas.  I paid between $50.00 and $89.00 for each bell.  The last bell was issued in 1989.  Do they have any value? – G, Lansdale, PA

    ANSWER:  The Crown & Rose “The 12 Days of Christmas” bell series was manufactured by Engelfields, a pewter manufacturer located on Cheshire Street in the Bethnal Green area of the East End of London.  The bell series was part of the limited/collector edition craze that swept across America in the 1970s and early 1980s.

    Engelfields traces its history back to a pewter company founded by Thomas Sattergood in the early part of the eighteenth century.  William James Englefield took over the company in 1904.  In 1988, the company produced over 90 different products including tankards, Englefields most popular products, and “The 12 Days of Christmas” bell series.  According to company literature, only 7,500 examples of each bell were made.  The Crown & Rose name is derived from Engelfields’ touchmark.

    The bell series was sold primarily in the United States.  According to a  December 1, 1988 New York Times article, Englefields pewter products were available in the United States at: Fortunoff’s in New York; Kurchmeyer & Cohn in Evansville, Indiana; Mystic Pewter Shop in Mystic, Connecticut; Pewter Chalice in Annapolis, Maryland; Pewter Cupboard in Doylestown, Pennsylvania; Pine and Pewter Shop in Hatfield, Pennsylvania; and Woodward & Lothrop in Washington, D.C.

    Currently, the secondary market is flooded with 1970s and 1980s limited/collector edition items.  Supply far exceeds demand.  The best market indicator is prices realized on eBay.  Note the emphasis on prices realized, i.e., actual sales.  Prices asked are often nothing more than fantasy prices.  For example, a “Buy It Now” seller is offering the third and ninth bell in the series for $48.99 plus $8.99 shipping.  Why pay this, when most examples sell for less than $15.00 plus shipping?  The tenth bell in the series went unsold at $19.00 plus $5.50 shipping.  All these examples were in their period packaging.

    Currently, there is an example of the first (eBay #150181967255) and the second (eBay #150181969523) bell up for sale.  The asking open bid is $9.99.  When I checked a few minutes ago, there were no bidders.  The auctions close November 18, 2007.  Once completed, call up the numbers and see how the bells did.

    The secondary market value of complete sets of the Engelfields’ “The 12 Days of Christmas” bell series is between $150.00 and $175.00, roughly $10.00 to $15.00 per bell.  As an investment, your bell series turned out to have a very sour ring.

    QUESTION:  I have an unusual art piece for which I would like to know its value.  It is a wood burning of an Indian girl, signed S. A. Stiller and dated “Oct. 13, 1907.” – SG, E-mail Question

    ANSWER:  You own an example of pyrography.  Pyrography, which literally means “writing with fire,” is the art of decorating gourds, leather, wood and other materials with a heated object such as a poker.  Pyrography is called pokerwork in Australia.  I have an example in my collection which I bought during a visit there.  Pyrography’s common name is wood burning.

    Wood burning, a.k.a., pyrography, kits were extremely popular children’s toys in the late 1930s through the early 1960s.  I remember playing with an example that was handed down from my mother’s brother.  William Boyd (Hopalong Cassidy) was one of several television cowboy stars who licensed wood burning sets in the 1950s.

    Pyrography enjoyed a period of popularity that began in the 1890s and extended throughout the first decade of the twentieth century.   The development of an electric pyrographic hot-wire wood etching machine allowed for the mass-production of pyrographic art work.  The Flemish Art Company of Hoboken, New Jersey, was one of the leading manufacturers.

    Beech, birch, and sycamore were the most common hardwoods used for pyrography.  Tonal differences were achieved by the pressure applied to the poker and varying the poker tip shape.  Some pyrography pieces were colored, ranging from a light tinting to the use of very bold colors.

    Amateur pyrographers created their own designs or purchased kits.  The “Indian maiden” theme was a popular one.  Many amateur pyrographers used a variable-temperature, benzene-fueled tool.  The craft was promoted by ladies magazines of the era.

    Unfortunately, you did not provide me with the shape or dimensions of your pyrography piece.  Circular shapes, ranging from eight to twelve inches in diameter, were quite popular as were rectangular shapes.  Failure to attach a picture to your e-mail also makes it difficult to judge the artistic quality of the piece, a major value consideration.

    Hence, my value is based on an average size piece, i.e., 10in diameter or 8in by 10in rectangle, for good to average pyrography.  Given this, your piece has a value of between $35.00 and $45.00.  If you are able to identify who “S. A. Stiller” is, it will add another twenty-five percent to the value.

    QUESTION:  I have a children’s Golden record issued by Simon and Schuster that features “The Pokey Little Puppy” on one side and “The Naughty Duck” on the other.  The songs are sung by Irene Wicker, “The Singing Lady” accompanied by Gilbert Mack.  Mitchell Miller and Orchestra supplied the music.  What is my record worth? –RY, Newcomerstown, OH

    ANSWER:  Your question allows me to tout Peter Muldavian’s The Complete Guide to Vintage Children’s Records: Identification & Value Guide (Collector Books, 2007). It contains detailed histories of all the companies that issued children’s records and a comprehensive list of records issued.

    Muldavian notes: “Golden Records was the brainchild of an S & S research associate named Arthur Shimkin.  In 1946, he came up with the concept of Golden Records while doing market research.”  Your record, Number 5, was one of the first twelve issued.  Muldavian continues: “Golden Records #1--#12 were test issues.  Fifty thousand of each were pressed….Eventually about one-half were returned by the retailers as unsold.  By comparison, the rest of the list had 60,000-80,000 pressings for each record.  One hundred and twenty-three thousand retail outlets were selling LGRs at one point.  By March 1965, the right to market LGRS was sold off.  Up to that point, more than 200 million had been sold.”

    Muldavian values your record at $5.00 in good to very good condition and $10.00 in excellent to mint condition.

    Harry L. Rinker welcomes questions from readers about collectibles, those mass-produced items from the twentieth century.  Selected letters will be answered in this column.  Harry cannot provide personal answers.  Photos and other material submitted cannot be returned.  Send your questions to: Rinker on Collectibles, 5093 Vera Cruz Road, Emmaus, PA 18049.  You also can e-mail your questions to harrylrinker@aol.com. Only e-mails containing a full name and mailing address will be considered.

    You can listen and participate in WHATCHA GOT?, Harry’s antiques and collectibles radio call-in show, on Sunday mornings between 8:00 AM and 10:00 AM Eastern Time.  If you cannot find it on a station in your area, WHATCHA GOT? streams live on the Internet at www.goldenbroadcasters.com.

    HOW TO THINK LIKE A COLLECTOR (Emmis Books, 2005: $14.95), Harry’s new book, is available at your favorite bookstore and via www.harryrinker.com.

    back to top back to columns page