QUESTION: I bought a pair of framed prints featuring images of San Francisco cable cars at a flea market for $5. The sign on the front of one car reads “OFarrell / Jones / & Hyde / Streets.” and the other “Presidio Ave. / California / & Market / Streets.” The artist is Frank Serratoni. The prints were a mess, and the frame and matting was coming apart. I have since restored them, and they are beautiful. A sticker on the back said they were framed at The City of Paris. What is their value now?
– CE, Santa Clara, Ca.
ANSWER: Francisco (Frank) Giovanni Serratoni (1906-1970) grew up in Detroit and attended school at the Detroit Society of Arts & Crafts, now The Center for Creative Studies. He moved to Chicago, attending some classes at the Chicago Art Institute. He moved to San Francisco in the late 1940s, where he began issuing silk screen prints of San Francisco scenes. When the colors faded, he did a series of 12 lithograph prints which he hand-colored. He sold these prints at a variety of outlets, including Paul Elders Book Store and the City of Paris Department Store (located on Union Square from 1850 to 1976) in San Francisco and a frame shop in Oakland. His artwork still hangs in San Francisco’s Fairmont Hotel.
There is a secondary market for his watercolor prints, but value differs regionally. In California, Serratoni prints sell between $85 and $150, depending on subject matter. The cable car prints retail between $100 and $125. Outside the immediate San Francisco Bay Area, the prints lose one-third to one-half their value, although eBay “Buy It Now” sellers ask San Francisco prices.
A modern reproduction of Serratoni’s “San Francisco Trolley” (the cable car with “Presidio Ave. / California / & Market / Streets) is available for $145. While I think it is crazy that someone would pay more for a reproduction than a period example, I understand that immediate gratification often provides greater satisfaction than the hunt.
QUESTION: I have four yearbooks of Ronald Reagan’s high school years in Dixon, Ill.. What is their value?
– TS, New Rochelle, Ill.
ANSWER: Ronald Reagan, the son of Nelle and John (“Jack”) Reagan, was born on Feb. 6, 1911, in Tampico, Ill. He received his nickname “Dutch” early in life, the result of his father referring to him as “a fat little Dutchman.” The Reagan family moved to 816 Hennepin Avenue, Dixon, Ill., in December 1920. John, along with H. C. Pitney, opened the Fashion Boot Shop on March 19, 1921. In September 1924, Ronald Reagan entered the North Side High School. In November 1926, the family moved to 226 Lincoln Way. Reagan graduated from North Dixon High School in 1928.
The top row of Page 29 of the 1928 “Dixonian” features pictures of Dorothy Randall and Donald (the name misspelled) Reagan. The information reads: “‘Dutch’ ‘Life is just one grand sweet song, so start the music.’ Pres, N.S. Student Body 4; Pres. 2; Play 3,4; Dram. Club 3,4, Pres. 4; Fresh-Soph. Drama Club 1,2, Pres. 2; Football 3,4; Annual Staff; Hi-Y 3,4, Vice-Pres. 4; Art 1-2; Lit. Contest 2; Track 2,3.” The yearbook’s theme featured a movie studio format.
The Web site factoidz.com notes an William Felchner’s article entitled “Ten Valuable Celebrity High School Yearbooks:” “All high school yearbooks have value. But yearbooks picturing a future celebrity—whether it be a movie star, singer, professional athlete, politician, famous author, etc., are especially prized, with some vintage examples selling for thousands of dollars.”
Felchner’s Top 10 high school yearbook list includes those for James Dean, Buddy Holly, John F. Kennedy, Mickey Mantle, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Ronald Reagan, Robert Redford, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., and John Wayne. Felchner counted 10 photographs of Reagan in the 1928 “Dixonian.” He values the yearbook between $1,500 and $2,500. Brandon Ross’s article “Celebrity Yearbook Values” in a 2002 edition of “Southeastern Antiquing and Collecting Magazine” valued the 1928 “Dixonian” at $2,500.
As I tell anyone who asks me to evaluate political material, “a tough sell, in this case, to a Democrat.” Value is relative. An Internet dealer has a 1928 “Dixonian” listed at $5,500 with a notation that the price is “firm.” I assume double number prices, such as $55 (in this case add two zeros) are designed to allow a 10 percent discount and still provide the seller with the price he wanted in the first place. Hence, I deduct the “added” 10 percent and negotiate down from the reduced price.
Where between $1,500 and $5,500 does the value rest? $2,000 to $2,500 is a realistic value. However, you have yearbooks from Reagan’s four years in high school, 1923-24 to 1927-1928. The set value will be determined by how many times Reagan’s name and/or photograph appears in the previous three volumes. Without knowing the exact count, a value between $4,000 and $4,500 appears conservative.
QUESTION: I own three of the five Elvis Presley Sun 45 rpm records. The first features “That’s All Right” and “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” the second “Milkcow Blues Boogie” and “You’re A Heartbreaker,” and the third “Baby Let’s Play House” and “I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone.” The one has a sleeve, but I do not know if it is period. I played them heavily. What is their value?
– V, Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
ANSWER: Elvis Presley recorded his first record at the Memphis Recording Service at the Sun Record Company in the summer of 1953—a two-sided disc containing “My Happiness” and “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin,” which he gave to his mother as a birthday present. In late May 1954, Sam Phillips called Elvis and asked him to return to Sun to record some additional songs. Winfield “Scotty” Moore, on the electric guitar, and Bill Black on slap bass eventually joined Presley. A studio session on July 5, 1954, was not going well until Elivs started kidding around with an upbeat version of Arthur Crudup’s “That’s All Right (Mamma).” Four additional songs were recorded, including Bill Monroe’s “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” which was upgraded to a fast version in 4/4 time.
On July 8, 1954, disc jockey Dewey Phillips previewed “That’s All Right” on WHBQ’s “Red, Hot and Blue” show. Sun officially released “That’s All Right”/“Blue Moon of Kentucky” on July 19, 1954. Elvis, Scotty and Bill started performing together. Turned down by the “Grand Old Opry,” Elvis and his band appear for the first time on KWKH’s (Shreveport, La.) “Louisiana Hayride,” carried on 190 radio stations, on Oct. 16, 1954. Arthur Godfrey’s “Talent Scouts” also turned Elvis down.
Elvis, Scotty and Bill continued to record at Sun, releasing a total of five singles between July 1953 and November 1955, at which time Phillips sold Elvis’s contract to RCA Victor for $40,000.
TRIVIA QUIZ: What was Elvis’s first recording for RCA?
Collector interest in Elvis’ early Sun Records is very high. You own Sun records 209, 215 and 217. A mint, unplayed copy of Sun 209 sold for $10,000. Condition is the key. A mint copy only realized $1,800. The nearly six times value jump between mint and mint unplayed is not unusual. Value increases exponentially as the condition grade rises.
Presley Sun records in very good condition sell between $400 and $500. Heavily played examples bring around $250.
Have a record expert condition grade your records. The closest record show of which I am aware near you takes place at Merchant Square Mall in Allentown.
QUESTION: Where can I possibly sell a two-row button Hohner 2815 accordion with case and what would it bring?
– DY, Altoona, Pa., via e-mail
ANSWER: Hohner still makes this model accordion. The eBay guide to “Hohner Button Accordions” states: “Hohner HA-2815 ‘Pokerwork’ – The two-row Hohner 2815 accordion offers a two-voice tremolo tuning and traditional styling. This Vienna-style accordion’s genuine wood body is enhanced by real leather hand and bellows straps. The 2815 is Hohner’s loudest 2 reed accordion; the Pokerwork carries well over a dance floor. What types of music is this accordion suited for? This accordion is perfect for English Country Dance, Morris Dance, Sea Chantys (sic.) or American Folk music. Be sure to add a Hohner 10x case to protect this instrument.” The instrument sells new on the Internet between $650 and $1,150 dollars with $950 being the standard asking price on most sites.
Your instrument only has reuse value. You win if you receive any offer more than 50-percent of the retail price of a new instrument. My recommendation is consider any offer more than $300.
Selling options include (1) placing a classified advertisement in your local newspaper, (2) approaching a local music store that sells instruments and asking if they would be willing to buy it [which I doubt] or sell it for you on consignment [expect to pay 50 percent of the selling price]; (3) offer it for sale on eBay and be happy with whatever it brings; or, (4) give it to a local auctioneer [an option with which I would be much more comfortable if you were in Minnesota or Wisconsin, as opposed to Altoona]. The keys to selling the accordion are to put aside any personal/sentimental attachment and remember that any money is better than no money.
TRIVIA QUIZ ANSWER: “Heartbreak Hotel.”
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