QUESTION: In 2005, while cleaning my automobile business service garage, I dropped a frame housing an old Commonwealth of Pennsylvania automobile inspection broadside. As I picked up the pieces, I noticed there was something behind the top document. The item was the NAACP Charter for the Reading, Pennsylvania Chapter.
The charter measures 14 by 20 inches and reads: “Charter to the members of the Reading, Pa. Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Greetings: Your application for admission to the NAACP has been passed upon by the board of Directors of the Association at its meeting on July the fourteenth, 1919, and granted, and this charter is issued to you. Your organization is now enrolled as a Branch of the Association, under the name of the Reading, Pa. Branch. This Charter is granted on the condition that your organization will endeavor to the best of its ability to cooperate with the NAACP in the furtherance of the Association’s object, namely: ‘To uplift the colored men and women of this country by securing to them the full employment of their rights as citizens, justice in all courts, and equality of opportunity everywhere.’….” It is signed by Mary White Covington (Chairman of the Board) and John R. Shillady (Secretary).
I contacted the Reading Branch of the NAACP, whose records indicated the chapter started in 1921. The Reading Eagle, the local paper, ran a front page story about my find on June 18, 2005.
Mary Covington, a white woman, was one of the co-founders of the NAACP. She wrote several books such as “Half a Man” (1911), “Status of the Negro in the United States” (1913), “Socialism and the Feminist Movement” (1914) and “The Upward Path” (1919). She retired as a member of the NAACP board in 1947. The NAACP website indicates there were more than 300 chapters in existence in 1919.
While I would love to have this NAACP Chapter charter find a place in a museum, my wife and I are short of funds. I want to sell it for a fair price. What do you recommend?
– L.M., Reading, Pa., via e-mail
ANSWER: This document belongs in a museum. While not one of kind, my suspicion is that few are in private hands.
Before doing anything, you might want to consult with an attorney to make certain you have a clear ownership title. I doubt if the Reading NAACP Chapter reported its disappearance to the police. Possession is nine-tenths of the law is a maxim, not a legal principle. Given the hundreds of similar documents I have seen sold in the antiques and collectibles trade over the years, my assumption is that your ownership rights are solid.
You might consider approaching the Reading NAACP Chapter to see what interest, if any, they might have in buying back this piece of their history. Do not be surprised if pressure is put upon you to return it without compensation.
The Smithsonian is in the process of acquiring exhibition material for its National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). Contact a curator at the museum and ask if they would be interested in purchasing the document. If interested, the curator will expect you to set the initial asking price.
A valid selling price is one that is agreeable to the seller as well as the buyer. I spent more than an hour without success trying to find a comparable that sold at auction or elsewhere in the trade. My head, not necessarily reliable, tells me that $100 is too low and $1,000 is too high. The obvious question is: where is the right price between these two numbers? Since there are no fixed prices in the antiques and collectibles field, the answer lies with you as much as with the buyer.
There is also the auction option. Try Sanford Alderfer Auctions & Appraisals in Hatfield, Pa., Heritage Auctions in Dallas, Texas, and Swann Auction Galleries in New York City. If interested in offering your document for sale, each will provide you with a potential estimate of what the auction company thinks the document will bring. Do not forget to deduct the auction’s commission and other costs when calculating what you might receive.
Finally, I protect the identity of those who write to me. In this instance, if one or more of my readers has an interest in acquiring this document, he/they are welcome to e-mail me at email@example.com. I will forward the expression of interest to the owner. The decision for further contact rests solely with the owner.
QUESTION: I own a 1961 Casey Jones pedal car. It is in rough shape. Three of the wheels and one of the axles is missing. It needs a complete restoration. Should I throw it out, restore it or try to find a buyer as it stands?
– J., Hobart, Ind.
ANSWER: The Garton Toy Company of Sheboygan, Wis., made your “Casey Jones: The Cannonball Express.” A 1961 advertisement notes: “The Casey Jones Cannonball Express is pedal driven with ball bearing axle support, has 9” wheels with 1” tires, completely equipped with bell, smoke stack, and cow catcher. Finished in red with black cab, yellow tires.” The original cost ranged from $19.95 to $21.95.
The old Garton Toy Factory Riverside plant, located at 830 North Water Street, Sheboygan, has been converted to luxury apartments. The apartment website contains this history: “The Garton Toy Company, founded in Sheboygan in 1879, is remembered for the production of the pedal car along with sleds, tricycles, coaster wagons, croquet sets and toy cradles. Of all the toy pedal cars produced, they are best known for the creation of the ‘Kidillac’ and the ‘Hot Rod.’ The company’s production reached a broad market throughout the country through national catalog sales and distribution centers….During the 1960s, Garton Toy Company introduced several new toy products including the Casey Jones Locomotive, Air Force Jeeps, Tin-Lizzies, Spin-A-Roos, a surrey, a camper and sedans to the toy market. To become more efficient and to modernize, they decided to build a new plant and relocate four miles north of Sheboygan.”
Although some homemade and commercially produced pedal cars date from the turn of the 20th century, the pedal car’s Golden Age was the late 1940s through the mid-1960s. A partial list of manufacturers includes AMF, Garton, Murray, and Steelcraft. The arrival of Marx Big Wheel tricycle in the early1970s marked the death knell for the steel-bodied pedal car. Garton was one of the victims, ceasing operations in 1974.
The 1990s through 2005 were the Golden Age of pedal car collecting. Individuals assembled collections numbering in the hundreds. Several pedal cars broke the $2,000 barrier; a 1960 Giordani Racer sold for $4,000 and a 1942 Shark Attack Plane brought $2,100, for example.
Pedal car collectors mimic their antique and classic car collector cousins. They want their pedal cars to appear assembly-line new. A search of the internet reveals several firms specializing in restoration. Restoration costs in the middle to high hundreds. In many cases, little to nothing is left of the initial factory production.
My recommendation is that you sell you Casey Jones locomotive for parts. The restoration cost will exceed its final secondary market value. My research revealed several partially restored examples for sale around $300. I did find a fully restored example priced at just over $1,000 but feel this seller is unduly optimistic.
QUESTION: I have a copy of Elvis Presley’s Moody Blue album and the Memphis newspaper announcing his death in August 1977. What is their value?
– V., Sedalia, Mo.
ANSWER: Moody Blue was Elvis’s final studio album. The album contained a combination of Graceland studio recordings and songs from Elvis’s April 24 and 26, 1977 concerts at Ann Arbor, Mich.. RCA released “Moody Blue” in December 1976 as a single. It became a hit prior to the album’s release. “She Thinks I Still Care Way Down,” one of the songs on the album became a hit after Elvis’s death. RCA pressed the album on blue vinyl.
The website MusicTrack is a great source for comparing asking prices from dealers around the world for CD and vinyl albums. Listings for sellers of the Moody Blue album came from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, as well as the United States. Prices asked ranged from $8 to $15. A few listings were higher; but, having the ability to compare, who would pay them?
Examples of the Wednesday, Aug. 17, 1977, editions of the two Memphis papers—the Memphis Press Scimitar and The Commercial Appeal—announcing the death of Elvis are a glut on the market. One might think no subscriber threw out the paper and collectors flocked to Memphis to strip the newsstands clean. Most websites featuring answers to this question suggest a value between $5 and $15.
What I love about eBay’s Buy-It-Now sellers is the eternal optimism by some that a fool is born every minute. I found one dealer asking $14.95 for a copy of the Memphis Press-Scimitar, while others posted prices in the low hundreds.
QUESTION: I have a bottle of JJ&S / Liqueur / Dublin Whiskey.” The bottle still is sealed although some whiskey has been lost through evaporation. What is its value?
– J. McH., Reading, Pa., via e-mail
ANSWER: The JJ&S identifies whiskey made by John Jameson & Son. Your bottle dates from the 1950s or 1960s and was bottled for import.
As often happens, there is bad news and good news. First, there is no revenue stamp. Hence, it was not sold initially in America. If it was, the seller was running liquor across the border without paying the duty. Second, the bottle has not been opened. It is illegal in the 50 states to sell liquor without a license. Third, it is a blended whiskey, not as collectible as are single and double malt whiskeys.
This is enough bad news. It is time for the good. First, unlike wine, whiskey does not turn bad over time. You have the option of opening the bottle and downing its contents. Second, no one is going to arrest you for selling one bottle for decorative (cough, cough) purposes. The bottle’s primary value is as a conversation piece. Third, you might consider the first option because the decorative value of the bottle is less than $15. If you select this option, do so responsibly and share with friends.
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