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    Column #947 Copyright © Rinker Enterprises, Inc. 2005 

    Questions and Answers

    QUESTION: I would like to sell off my Norman Rockwell plates.  I have the complete set of twelve plates of his Rediscovered Woman series that were issued between 1981 and 1983, the first three plates of his Mother’s Day series that were issued between 1982 and 1984, and two plates from his Lights series.  What is their present value?  I also have several Norman Rockwell figures.  While I do not want to sell them at this time, I would do so if their value was strong.  --  GM, Easton, PA

    ANSWER: I created Rinker’s Thirty Year Rule – “For the first thirty years of anything’s life, all its value is speculative” – as a means to separate the speculative secondary market for contemporary objects (desirables) from the established secondary market for collectibles.  Having tracked the market since the late 1960s and having a reference library with market data going back even further, I have tracked and researched dozens of speculative markets in contemporary material and the bursting of the bubbles that resulted to their demise.

    Further, the fact that an object survives for thirty years does not guarantee collecting interest by future generations.  Long-term collectibility is something that is earned.  It is not a right.  Today’s younger collectors are far more likely to reject their grandparents’ and parents’ favorite items than embrace them.  If there are no buyers, there is no value.

    The value of collector (limited edition) plates in 2005 is a pittance when compared to their new and secondary values in the late 1970s and early 1980s.  Through the mid-1980s, collector plates enjoyed one of the longest running speculative markets of any modern day collectible.  The bubble burst in the late 1980s.  Thanks to eBay, collector plates flooded into the market in the mid-1990s, causing the market to become even more depressed.  Today, when asked about the value of collector plates from the mid-1970s and 1980s, I tell people to calculate the current resale value between fifteen and twenty-five percent of the initial retail cost of the plates in their possession.  There are exceptions; very, very few exceptions.

    A great many buyers of collector edition plates bought them as investments rather than because they liked them.  This was a very big mistake.  Collector plates were mass-produced in large quantities.  It was inevitable that the secondary market eventually would flood.

    Many collectors also believed the long-term value of their plates would be enhanced if the plate had crossover potential.  For example, even though the secondary market for collector plates was weak, the Norman Rockwell image would keep these examples strong.  This was another mistake.

    Not only is the secondary collector plate market in the doldrums, so is the secondary Norman Rockwell market.  Both markets collapsed at about the same time, the late 1980s.  It appeared briefly as though the Norman Rockwell secondary market would experience a revival immediately following the arrival of the twenty-first century.  The optimism was gone in a matter of months.

    Those individual holding out hope that the collector plate and/or Norman Rockwell markets will recycle are well advised to forget such thoughts.  These secondary markets are dead and buried.  They will not arise from the grave.

    Your plates and figurines regularly appear for sale on eBay.  The plates sell for as low as $1.00 and as high as $10.00.  Recently a set of twelve Rockwell’s Rediscovered Women series plates without their boxes realized $26.29.  On a bad day, your figurines sell between $15.00 and $25.00.  Occasionally a miracle occurs and one, e.g., Triple Self Portrait, will bring just over $40.00.

    My advice is simple.  Sell now and get what you can.  Any money is better than no money.  The longer you wait, the less you are going to get.

    QUESTION: I have a set of toy dishes.  The only marking is “CHIQUITA TOY DISHES” on the lid of the box.  The box lid artwork has a Mexican theme with a man wearing a sombrero and playing a guitar while riding a donkey in the center of the border motif on the bottom of the lid.  There is straw in the box under the dishes.  The pieces are made from a clear, dark blue glass.  None of the dishes are chipped or scratched.  What are they worth?  --  E-Mail Question, Little Falls, MN

    ANSWER: The Akro Agate Company made your dishes.  Founded in 1911 and first located in Ohio, the company opened a large factory in Clarksburg, West Virginia, in 1914.  The Akro Agate Company is best known among collectors as a manufacturer of marbles.

    Increasing competition in the marble industry in the 1930s prompted Akro Agate to expand.  In 1936, following a major fire at the Westite factory, Akro Agate purchased many of Westite’s molds.  Akro Agate now boasted a large line of children’s dishes, floral wares, and household accessories.  The company also produced specialty glass containers for cosmetic firms, including the Mexicali cigarette jar (originally filled with Pick Wick bath salts) and a special line made for the Jean Vivaudaou Company, Inc.

    The Clarksburg Glass Company bought the factory in 1951.

    Gene Florence’s The Collector’s Encyclopedia of AKRO AGATE Glassware, Revised Edition (Collector Books, 1975, 1992 value update; 80 pages, $14.95) notes: “I have tried everything to convince myself that Akro did not make these crudely shaped child’s dishes known more commonly as ‘Chiquita,’ but I have been unable to do so.  Plant workers remember them and there are a lot of pieces that have been found in the Clarksburg, West Virginia, area.

    “The common color of Chiquita is the green…in the large 21 piece set, but the blue is frequently found also.  People seem to prefer the blue color; therefore, the price, because of demand, has grown to be greater than for green.  Other colors of Chiquita—lilac, turquoise, pastel blue—are much more rare but not as avidly sought.  Some collectors of Akro have never seen anything except the blue and green Chiquita.

    “All Chiquita, if it bears a mark, has a J. P. embossed on the bottom, because it was made for the J. Pressman Company of New York.  They must have given Akro a tremendous amount of business because if the Chiquita is not the most often found Akro, then it runs a close second.”

    In early February a 21-piece set of Jadeite (green) Chiquita Toy dishes in their period box was offered on eBay.  The bidding was exceptionally strong.  The lot closed at $177.50, but failed to meet the seller’s reserve.

    The overall market for children’s toy dish sets remains strong.  A fourteen-piece set of Akro Agate’s Miss America pattern children’s dishes sold for $282.00 on eBay.  A 29-piece green Depression Glass set closed at $105.29 on eBay.  Neither set had its period box.

    Realistically, the value of your set is between $175.00 and $185.00.

    QUESTION: I have a 16in x 20in signed head and shoulder portrait print of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  It is signed “To my good friend Grover C. Albright” who was a local Democrat and Montgomery County Commissioner.  Grover was my granddad.  Printed on the lower left is “Franklin Delano Roosevelt – 1932.”  What is its value?  --  DA, Souderton, PA

    ANSWER: If you had brought this print to one of my verbal appraisal clinics, the first question I would have asked was: “Did your grandfather actually see Roosevelt sign the print?”  If you had answered yes, I would have encouraged you to locate and photocopy a newspaper account of the event where the two of them were present and the signing took place.  I suspect your grandfather is no longer alive to prove his account of the story.

    All autographs need to be authenticated.  While it would be nice to assume FDR signed the print, I have difficulty imagining him signing such a print for every Democratic county commissioner in America that helped him during his 1932 presidential campaign.  Alas, I see far more secretarial- and staff-signed presidential items than I do pieces signed by the president.

    Fortunately, there is a reference book to presidential autographs authored by Charles Hamilton and published by the University of Oklahoma Press.  You need to obtain copy and compare your signature against those found in the book.

    Presidential signatures are worth more if signed by the person during his term as president.  Roosevelt did not take office until 1933.  Since your print is dated 1932, my guess is it was signed following the election but prior to the inauguration.  While it sounds as though I am splitting hairs, you need to look at this from a collector’s perspective.

    If the signature is validated, especially through a documented family story, its value is between $500.00 and $550.00.  If not, you have a great family treasure, but not great value.

    QUESTION: I have a Federal Reserve $2.00 bill with a stamped insignia (Whitehall, PA, April 13, 1976) and what appears to be a postage stamp in the bottom right corner of the bill.  Can you tell me what the postage stamp signifies and if the bill has any value?  --  JK, Allentown, PA

    ANSWER: The good news is that your bill is worth $2.00.  American currency and coinage never loses its face value.

    In 1976 the Federal Reserve issued a new two dollar note featuring an engraving of a portrait of President Jefferson on the front and the Signing of the Declaration of Independence on the back.

    Somehow a rumor was started that a bill from the first day of issue would be worth more than a bill issued later.  How do you prove that your bill was issued on the first day?  The answer is obvious.  You go to the post office, purchase a stamp, attach it to the bill, and have the postmaster cancel it.

    Who is the winner if this is done?  It is certainly not the collector who ruined the bill’s face by attaching the stamp and obtaining the cancellation mark.  The answer is the United States Postal Service which sold a wealth of stamps for which they had to deliver absolutely no service.

    Alas, they did not profit enough to prevent several increases in the price of postage since that date.

    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 rinkeron@fast.net.  Only e-mails containing a full name and mailing address will be considered.

    Home & Garden Television (HGTV) currently lists COLLECTOR INSPECTOR as on hiatus from January 1 through June 30, 2005.  Whether or not it returns as reruns in July depends entirely on HGTV.
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