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    Column #969 Copyright © Rinker Enterprises, Inc. 2005 

    Questions and Answers

    QUESTION:  I purchased a Hummel figurine for $4.00 at a yard sale.  It is a boy holding a horse and horn.  The bottom is marked “2391C,” “1967,” and “Goebel.”  What is it worth?  --  RM, Allentown, PA, E-mail Question

    ANSWER:  The correct identification number for your Hummel figurine, Boy with Horse,” is “239C.”  You misinterpreted the dash between the “9” and “C” as a number.

    In 1967 Goebel issued the “Children Trio,” three small children figurines – Girl with Nosegay (239A), Girl with Doll (239B), and Boy with Horse.  Gerhard Skrobek was the master sculptor.  Each figurine measures 3 1/2in high and has an incised 1967 copyright.

    The “Children Trio” were based on three earlier Hummel advent candleholder figurines – 115 (Girl with Nosegay), 116 (Girl with Fir Tree), and 117 (Boy with Horse).  Reinhold Unger modeled these figurines in 1939.

    It is difficult to date your piece based upon your mark description.  A “Goebel/W. Germany” mark was introduced in 1979.  A “Goebel/Germany” mark has been used prior to 1991.  In 1972 Goebel introduced a mark featuring “Goebel” with a stylized bee in a “V” between the letters “b” and “e.”  I am going to assume your piece was made after 1980.

    The book value for your figurine is around $50.00.  Before you start jumping with joy, there is something you need to understand.  Book values no longer reflect the true secondary market value of Hummel figurines.  My recommendation to individuals trying to determine the value of their Hummel collection is to use one-quarter of book, one-third if they are feeling optimistic.

    Unfortunately, the authors of the Hummel price guides are loath to adjust the values in their books to reflect the true current secondary market.  If they did, no one would buy their latest edition.  Hummel figurine owners find no solace in the fact that their collections have lost rather than gained value over the last several decades.  They prefer to ignore rather than face the truth.

    There are many reasons for the decline of the secondary market for Hummel figurines.  The first is an aging collector base.  The category is not attracting sufficient younger collectors to sustain itself.  The second is that Goebel has glutted the market with product, further compounding the problem through the introduction of collector club editions, limited editions, and exclusives.

    Finally, there is eBay.  EBay is flooded with Hummel figurines.  Supply far exceeds demand.  The result is that secondary market prices have plummeted.  Today, the eBay price is the right price.

    As you may know, Hummel collectors place a value on the age of the figurine, i.e., the older the date mark, the higher the value is assumed to be.  This makes absolutely no sense if you think about it.  The mold is the same.  The paint scheme is the same.  Given Goebel’s emphasis on quality control, everything about the figurine is the same except for the date mark.  Date mark value is nothing more than a marketing tool by secondary market dealers.  Once the idea was planted in the minds of collectors, it stuck.  Is it possible that none of these individuals has ever read the story of the Emperor’s new clothes?

    In the past thirty days, over forty Hummel figurines from the 239 series were offered for sale on eBay.  Two out of three sold.  Those dating from the post-1980 period realized between $10.00 and $18.00, those with the 1972-1980 mark sold between $20.00 and $25.00, and several with the 1967-1972 mark brought between $32.00 and $38.00.  The conclusion is that the more recent the mark, the greater the difference between the realistic secondary market price and book value.

    The great news is that you only paid $4.00 for your Hummel.  It is worth at least $10.00, a figure you could obtain easily by selling it on eBay.

    QUESTION: I own a 1950s CASE Vac pedal tractor.  What is its value?  -- BP, E-mail Question

    ANSWER: C. Lee Criswell and Clarence L. Criswell’s Criswell’s Pedal Tractor Guide: Covering Cast Aluminum Pedal Tractors from the 1940s through 1998 (Published by Criswell Press, PO Box 709, Lamar, SC 29069 in 1999) is the reference book I turn to for information about pedal farm tractors.  Your tractor was made by Eska.

    There are three variations of the Case Vac pedal tractor.  The first two versions were introduced in 1951.  Type 1 is identified by “from the back of the hood to the steering rod there is approx. 2 1/2" space.”  Type 2 has approximately 4 1/2in of space between the hood and steering rod.  Type 3 was introduced in 1952.  The Criswells’ note: “This Type 3 has a raised section under the axle housing that is cast in the frame.  Some later models came with the SS seat.”  An “SS” seat is identified as “stamped steel with two or three indents at center.”

    The 1990s was the golden age of pedal farm tractors.  There were hundreds (if not thousands) of collectors, most of whom were willing to spend the required funds to fully restore the tractors to “factory new” condition.  Many viewed these tractors as potential long-term investments.  The market has softened somewhat, especially in the low-end and middle sectors, in the first decade of the twentieth century.

    The Case Vac tractor was sold in a Case orange paint scheme.  The picture that accompanies your e-mail suggests your tractor may have been repainted at one time.

    Book value for a Case Vac in good condition is over $1,000.  Your tractor needs major restoration, e.g., the pedal treads are missing.  Because of this, I am going to be conservative and value your example around $500.00.

    I did a search on eBay to double check the value.  If I did not know better, I would swear you did not wait for my answer and listed your tractor for sale.  I found a repainted Eska Case Vac Type 3 pedal tractor, supposedly located in the Midwest, that sold for $800.00.  The body was painted white with black accents on the motor pipes.  In comparing the pictures you sent with those in the listing, I concluded your tractor showed far more paint wear.  Bidding was strong on the piece.  Thus, the value above is certainly conservative, but I am sticking to it.  Better you should be pleasantly surprised if you offer your tractor for sale than disappointed by not obtaining what you think you should.

    QUESTION: I own a tankard and mug set that I was told was made in Japan around 1910.  The tankard measures 12 1/2in tall, the mugs are 4 1/2in tall.  The body of the tankard and mug is cylindrical in shape and appears to be made up of rings of clay.  The background color is red.  The top of the tankard and mug as well as the top of their handles has a mottled black, brown, and green glaze.  Elephants in relief are attached to the sides.  There are no markings on the bottom.  To my untrained eye, they appear to be in mint condition.  I would greatly appreciate if you could identify my pottery and tell me its value.  --  MK, Bittendorf, IA

    ANSWER: One quick look at the pictures that accompanied your letter allowed me to immediately identify your tankard and mug set as Sumida Gawa.

    The following information is from Gloria and Robert Mascarelli’s Warman’s Oriental Antiques (Wallace-Homestead, 1992; long out-of-print but an excellent source for historical information about Oriental wares): “In the past, Sumina Ware has been erroneously called Banko ware, Korean ware, and Poo ware by collectors.  They were misinformed, however, as to its proper name and its place of origin.  Sumida pottery and porcelain wares were created not far from the city of Tokyo near the banks of the Sumida River by a potter named Inoue Ryosai I and his son Inoue Ryosai II around 1895.  The ware has come to be known as Sumida Gawa (Sumida River) ware.

    “Fine examples have beautiful flambé drip glazes usually adorning the tops and sides of the vases and bowls of all shapes, both classical and asymmetrical.  Areas free of flambé glaze reveal background colors of reddish orange, black, brown, and dark green, which over time, may peel away leaving the tan ceramic body exposed.  This background, most frequently found in the red, set the stage for the most outstanding feature of Sumida Gawa ware: the molding and/or application of modeled figures most often of children and monks or elders.  These figures are sometimes applied in full relief, giving a three-dimensional view of the subjects….

    “Signatures are normally incorporated on cartouches of various shapes and sizes that are applied to the body of the individual work of art.  Signatures also appear, at times, on the bottom of smaller pieces, but one will also come across works which do not have any maker’s marks.  We can only assume that some paper labels were used after 1900 in accordance with the McKinley Tariff Act, which required imports to include a country of origin.  Paper stickers that may have been marked ‘Made in Japan’ could have been removed or have fallen off, leaving the object unmarked.”

    The secondary market for Sumida Gawa depends on the area in which it is offered for sale.  The market is strongest in New York, San Francisco, and other large metropolitan areas, e.g., Dallas and Houston.  The market is weakest in rural areas.

    In Iowa where you are located, your tankard set would be valued around $750.00.  The value will double and possibly triple in the strong markets indicated above.

    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.

    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

    Harry currently is working on POP NATION, a new television show that focuses on objects made after 1960 and premiers on the Discovery Channel on Saturday, October 1, 2005.  To learn more about the show, see www.discovery.com/popnation.
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