Q & A with Harry Rinker: Reglor Lamp, Star Globe Water Gun, Goebel Hummel Figurine
QUESTION: I own a 1950s end table lamp made by Reglor of California. The plaster base of the lamp features a darkly tanned, flowing-haired bathing beauty dressed in a pink bikini resting on a stone ledge in a light-gray mountain setting. A waterfall is visible beneath the left side of the bathing beauty’s body. A pool of water from the waterfall comprises much of the base. The top of the mountain has a floral motif. There are three additional pink highlights—the first beneath the bathing beauty’s feet, the second in her hair, and the third beneath her left hand. The shade is shaped like a Chinese coolie hat. What is the value of my lamp?
– CR, Cement City
ANSWER: “I would love to own that” was the first thought that came into my mind when I saw the pictures of the lamp that accompanied your letter. The lamp is sexy. Besides making a major period statement (definitely 1950s), the lamp is an eye stopper, a conversation piece.
City Salvage of Minneapolis, a firm specializing in the sale of architectural objects, devotes a page on its Web site to Reglor of California.
Bernie Stein, a returning World War II veteran, and his wife Rena, an amateur sculptor, established Reglor of California in 1947. Bernie cast his wife’s statues as lamp bases. The name “Reglor” captures the first to letters of Rena’s name and the first three letters of Gloria, Rena’s cousin.
Reglor was located behind the Stein’s home in Montebello, Ca. At the peak of production, the firm employed more than 150 people. Oscar Vega, also known as Chops, assisted Rena in creating designs. During the company’s first 14 years, shades also were made at the Montebello factory.
Lamps were often produced as gender pairs (a man and a woman), but not always. Each lamp had a name, for example “Matador.” More than 100 different lamp base forms were developed. An 80-color palette resulted in many variations of the same form. Your lamp is indicative of Reglor’s two-tone dancer decorative motif. While most lamps are stamped “Reglor / © / of Calif” on the bottom, only a few have an added date notation.
Reglor lamps were marketed worldwide, appearing primarily for sale in department stores and designer outlets. The company did make exclusives for clients, such as FedCo stores.
Competitors immediately began copying Reglor designs. Bernie and Rena Stein sued. In 1953, their case appeared before the United States Supreme Court. When the decision was rendered in 1954, the Steins won a hollow technical victory. Other companies continued to copy their designs, and the Steins were powerless to stop them.
In the 1960s, Reglor expanded its product line to include centerpieces and wall hangings. Designs became more mainstream. When a fire destroyed the Montebello plant in 1975, the company ceased operations.
Reglor lamps are eagerly sought after by Modernist collectors, 1950s decade collectors, and individuals who love things fun and funky. Judging from the photographs, your lamp and shade appear to be in very good to fine condition, a major plus in the marketplace.
Reglor lamps appear regularly for sale on eBay and are found on a number of private direct sale Internet sites. The average retail price is between $225 and $275 per lamp. Lamps offered as a matching pair sell at a 20 to 25 percent premium.
QUESTION: I have a very rare antique ray gun. I was recently offered $3,500 for it and am not sure what to do. When I researched it on the Net, I found an eBay listing, #30050704914, for the exact same gun. I am trying to determine the real value for my gun. Can you help?
– ES, via e-mail
ANSWER: When I checked out the eBay listing, I learned your ray gun is a water/squirt pistol. Surprise, surprise! Every time I think I have experienced my last surprise in the business, another occurs
The eBay listing contains this description: “The elusive ‘Star Globe Water Gun’ is one of the rarest and most sought after collectible ray gun toys in the world. This item will only be offered for a limited time, if not sold it will not be offered for sale again in the near future. Unlike many other highly collectible ray guns, this one is the only one of it’s (sic.) kind offered on eBay or any other auction site in the past 15 to 20 years. The piece does not periodically show up. It is truly the pinnacle collector’s piece.”
[AUTHOR’S ASIDE: What is the probability that two examples of this “rare” piece surface in the same week? I am scratching my head.]
The eBay description continues: “The Star Globe Water Gun is a most unusual toy. Made in Japan probably in the 1950s. When the trigger is pulled, not only does water squirt out of the barrel but the globe of the world in the center of the gun spins around. Festooned with stars, planets, and the unlikely parachute. This highly collectible gun is seen rarely if at all, anywhere. Legend has it that 5 of these toys were brought in to the United States by a Japanese traveler a number of years ago. We have not seen one offered in the past 10 years. This is a very rare opportunity for a collector to own one of the rarest and most sought after pieces. The gun is in excellent condition and was part of an estate collection. This is a ray gun collectors Christmas present.”
[AUTHOR’S ASIDE: If I was grading this description in one of my English composition classes, I would flunk the writer. Most of the opening sentences of the second paragraph are plagiarized directly from a description found on toyguns.com. Borrowing information and not citing/crediting sources by Internet users has raised a host of intellectual property rights. Although the eBay seller changed a few words, it is not enough to avoid a plagiarism charge. I recently learned that Antique Explorer, a British trade publication, ran a “Rinker on Collectibles” column in its October/November 2003 edition. The magazine did not obtain the keystrokes from Rinker Enterprises. My suspicion is that the article was taken from my Web site.]
The first principle that I teach in my authentication course is to assume every object is a fake—guilty until proven innocent; the French system of justice. The same rule applies to information found in the antiques and collectibles field. Do not believe anything until you have confirmed it multiple times.
I question every claim made by the eBay seller. Where is the proof? Copying information from another Web site without confirmation is not proof. Hearsay is not proof.
My advice to ES is simple. If someone is willing to pay $3,500, kiss the hand, take the money, go to church, and thank God. ES has the money. The new owner has the gun.
The gun listed on eBay did not sell. If the seller is serious, he will not offer it again “in the near future,” which according to his interpretation could be as early as next week. “In the future” is a relative phrase. Its meaning depends on who is doing the defining. Further, the eBay seller only has 12 feedback postings, hardly a count that instills confidence.
The one method to test the market is to offer the gun for sale at auction. If the gun’s worth is in the thousands, Heritage Auction Galleries of Dallas is the firm I would trust to attract the bidders pool needed to drive the price upward. But beware. When an object is sold at auction, its value is what it brings when the hammer falls—the true market test.
Do I believe your Star Globe water gun is worth $3,500? “Not by the hair of my chinny chin chin,” as the little pig said.
QUESTION: While aware that Hummel figurines have declined in value, what has not, my mother has an unusual piece which I suspect may have been a store display. It is marked on the bottom in red “Expressions of Youth,” in blue “Goebel/Germany 1991/[stylized bee hallmark], and “Teaz” is handwritten in black near the right side. “1957” is embossed in the bottom. The 14-inch figurine has a predominately white glossy glaze. The lips, eyes, and brows are colored. A subtle brown ombré on the feet extends outward toward the base. Any insight would be greatly appreciated.
– KLM, via e-mail
ANSWER: When I first received your e-mail, I assumed you had a Goebel figurine but not a Hummel. A Goebel is any figurine made by F & W Goebel Company. Hummel figurines were made by Goebel. Therefore, all Hummel figurines are Goebels. But, Goebel made thousands of figurines that were not based on the M. I. Hummel designs. The Web page found at Online Collectibles notes: “There is no established market for the 40,000 Goebel items and therefore no market values. There are a few exceptions, such as the Charlot BYJ Redheads and Blonds, Friar Tucks, very little information on the Co-Boy Figurines, and some secondary market prices for the Shakers.”
The good news is that your figurine is based on an I. M. Hummel drawing. “The Expressions of Youth” was a series of seven figurines featuring an unpainted white glaze. They are : HUM 2/1, Little Fiddler, 7 ½ inches; HUM 7/1, Merry Wanderer, 7 in.; HUM 13/V, Meditation, 13 ½ in.; HUM 15; HUM 16/11 Hear Ye, Hear Ye, 7 ½ in.; HUM 21/11, Heavenly Angel, 8 ¾ in.; HUM 47/11, Goose Girl, 7 ½ in.; and HUM 89/11, Little Cellist, 8 in. Based on size, it is safe to assume your mother owns a copy of HUM 13/V, Meditation.
When produced, “Expression of Youth” figurines were in open production. The figurines have been temporarily withdrawn.
There is a problem with your description. If 1991 is the date when the figurine was reproduced, the mark cannot be a stylized bee. It has to be one of the later bee marks. What follows is predicated on the assumption that it is.
I found a book value of between $1,000 and $1,200 for your figurine. Before you start jumping for joy, read on. My standard rule of thumb is to reduce all Hummerl book values by two-thirds to three-quarters. This creates a “street” value of around $300. An example with a requested opening bid of $489 was listed on eBay in early January 2011. When I checked last, it had received no bids. An optimistic online dealer, a candidate for my dreamer of the month award, has an example listed for $1,500 with a sale price of $1,200. Those buyers who do not comparison shop often get stung.
To say the Goebel Hummel market is soft is an understatement. It is a disaster with no signs of immediate relief. To make matters worse, I am not convinced the Hummel decline has reached bottom, a development that has happened in many collecting categories.
Rinker Enterprises and Harry L. Rinker are on the Internet. Check out his Web site.
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“Sell, Keep Or Toss? How To Downsize A Home, Settle An Estate, And Appraise Personal Property” (House of Collectibles, an imprint of the Random House Information Group), Harry’s latest book, is available at your favorite bookstore and via Harry’s Web site: http://www.harryrinker.com.
Harry L. Rinker welcomes questions from readers about collectibles, those mass-produced items from the 20th century. Selected queries will be answered on this site. Harry cannot provide personal answers. Photos and other material submitted cannot be returned. Send your questions to: Rinker on Collectibles, 5955 Mill Pond Court SE, Kentwood, MI 49512. You can e-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Only e-mails containing a full name and mailing address will be considered. Please indicate that these are questions for WorthPoint.
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