Q & A with Harry Rinker: Tobacco Broadside, Geissendorfer Print, Chesty Morgan Matchbook
QUESTION: I have a Granger Tobacco advertising broadside featuring a picture of Joe Gordon, who played second base for the New York Yankees. What is it worth?
– JC, Yuma, Ariz.
ANSWER: Granger Pipe Tobacco, a product of the Pinkerton Tobacco Company, is a mild to medium strength, very mild flavored Burley pipe tobacco. Reviewers compare it to Carter Hall, Prince Albert and Velvet. Other Pinkerton pipe blends include Southern Pride and Southern Pride Peach. Pinkerton Tobacco Company, now Swedish owned, is located in Owensboro, Ky., and is best known for Red Man, a chewing tobacco. Pinkerton promoted Red Man largely through advertisements painted on the side of barns. Baseball player Nap Lajoie was an early endorser of Red Man.
Joseph Lowell “Joe” Gordon (Feb. 18, 1915-April 14, 1978) was known as “Flash,” named after Flash Gordon of comic fame. He made his major league debut on April 18, 1938, for the New York Yankees. Gordon was the American League MVP in 1942 and a member of The Sporting News Major League All-Star Team nine times. His career with the Yankees ended in 1946. Gordon moved to the Cleveland Indians, where he played from 1947 to 1950. The Veterans Committee elected him to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2009.
The photograph of the Granger Tobacco advertising broadside that accompanied your letter shows Gordon receiving a tub of Granger from his wife Betty. The slogan reads: “Give Mild Cool Granger.” This was one of several Granger point-of-purchase broadsides featuring baseball players produced in the late 1930s and early 1940s. A broadside picturing Johnny Mize of the St. Louis Cardinals reads “A Milder and Cooler Smoke in a Drier Pipe” and one with an image of Joe “Ducky” Medwick of the St. Louis Cardinals states “keeps the pipe bowl cool and the stem clean and the smoker happy.”
I found two sale listings for the Granger Gordon advertising broadside—one in 2005 realizing $276 and another a few years later that closed at $393. Both broadsides were in near mint condition. As always, I recommend you think conservatively. The value of your poster is around $300.
QUESTION: I recently acquired six framed, hand-colored Ernst Geissendorfer signed prints of Rothenburg ob der Tauber. What is their value?
– MH, Kansas City, Mo., via e-mail
ANSWER: I often encounter framed souvenir hand-colored, signed prints of European cities and towns when I do appraisal clinics. While Paris views lead the pack, German town views are not far behind.
While showing some academic training, the artists are not among the elite. The views are nostalgic in theme and sold primarily for decorative purposes. The framing and matting is usually ordinary. The pre-1980 matting is almost always acidic. The cost to re-mat often exceeds the value of the print.
“Value is in the packaging and presentation” is a truism in the antiques and collectibles game. If you need proof, visit Art of the Print. The website lists “Ernst Geissendorfer’s original etching, ‘Rothenburg ob der Tauber’ . . . was created by the 20th-century German artist between 1950 and 1970. It is printed upon stiff wove paper and with full margins and is signed, titled and annotated, ‘Original Rad. (ierung)’—original etching—by the artist in pencil. This etching represents a fine, original example of the 20th-century landscape art created by Ernst Geissendorfer. ‘Rothenburg ob der Tauber’ depicts one of Germany’s most picturesque places. Situated in Bavaria on the Tauber River, Rothenburg is virtually unchanged since the Middle Ages. Medieval towers and walls of defence (sic.) still stand within the city.” The asking price is $295, a price which reflects the 8½-inch by 1l½-inch print matted in 100-precent archival material.
Whenever I see or hear “original,” alarm bells sound in my mind. Of course, it is original. Everything is original. If you see it, it is original. “Original,” along with “real” and “genuine” are among the most useless identification terms in the antiques and collectible business. The appearance of “original” three times in the description makes my hair stand on end.
The fun thing about the description is that overall, it is accurate. I do take exception to “fine” as well as original. “Ordinary” would have been a far better word choice, but I am not trying to sell/promote the piece.
Art of the Print provides a brief biography of Geissendorfer, indicating he studied in Nuremberg and managed a family art gallery in Rothenburg. There is no indication his work is in museum collections or was the subject of exhibitions outside Rothenburg.
The demand for generic, hand-colored, signed souvenir prints is minimal, especially among young collectors. I value them between $30 and $45, based on my opinion regarding the aesthetics of the artwork and quality of the matting and frame.
[Author’s Aside: I visited Rothenburg ob der Tauber in 1968 and have vague memories of buying a portfolio of souvenir prints. Chances are they are the Geissendorfer prints. Until the sale of The School (the former Vera Cruz [Pa.] Elementary School), I kept almost everything I acquired. Prior to researching this question, I would have put the portfolio on the “junk” pile when I found it. Now I have to think twice. At $50 a print, forget $295, the portfolio would be worth $300. At that price, I am a seller.]
QUESTION: I have a matchbook from the Pilgrim Burlesque in Boston, Mass. The cover features a topless photograph of the stripper Chesty Morgan. What is its value? Does anyone collect matchbooks anymore?
– KR, via e-mail
ANSWER: Matchbooks, more commonly referred to as matchcovers, are very collectible. Collectors are known as phillumenists. The Rathkamp Matchcover Society website contains detailed information about the hobby. There are several dozen regional clubs scattered throughout the United States and Canada. The “Want to Sell Your Covers” home page contains a wealth of information for individuals who encounter large collections in estates or other sources.
Pilgrim Burlesque was located in Boston’s famed Combat Zone, an adult entertainment district located on Washington Street between Boyston and Kneeland and extending up Stuart Street to Park Square. Jean Cole, a reporter for the Boston Record-American, named the area in a series of exposé articles in the 1960s. In addition to Pilgrim Burlesque, other strip clubs included “Club 66,” “Naked I,” “Teddy Bare Lounge” and “Two O’Clock Club.” The Pilgrim Burlesque became part of American political history in December 1974 when Wilber Mills, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and apparently under the influence of alcohol, appeared on stage with stripper Fanne Foxe, “The Argentine Firecracker.”
The website RetroCrush contains a link to the Dec. 13, 2009 article entitled “Whatever Happened to Chesty Morgan?” written by Jeff Kinkenberg of Florida’s “i>St. Petersburg Times. Lillian Stello was born in Poland. After living in the Warsaw Ghetto and losing her parents, she was sent to the British Mandate of Palestine. She lived in a series of orphanages and a kibbutz, eventually studying to become a nurse. Around age 20, she met and married Joseph Wilczkowski, an American. The couple moved to Brooklyn, where Wilczkowski had a butcher shop. Wilczkowski was killed in a robbery in 1965. At age 27, Lillian—faced with supporting her two children—began her career as a stripper.
Originally billed as Zsa Zsa, her physical endowments soon led to the stage name of Chesty Morgan. When she appeared in Boston, a reporter described her as an exotic dancer “with a front as imposing as the Fenway wall.” She appeared in two R-rated movies. At the peak of her career, she earned $6,000 a week.
A second marriage to Major League Baseball umpire Richard Stello ended in divorce in 1979. Her career ended in 1991. She is enshrined in the Burlesque Hall of Fame in Las Vegas, along with such greats as Betty Page, Gypsy Rose Lee and Mae West.
While not scarce, Chesty Morgan matchcovers have a certain “dirty old man” appeal. As a result, examples list between $15 and $20 on eBay and storefront Internet sites.
QUESTION: I own an Ansco Shur-Shot box camera. It appears to be in good condition, and I think it still works. What can you tell me about it?
– AG, Leaksville, Miss., via e-mail
ANSWER: The website Matt Dent Photo contains a detailed history of the AGFA Ansco Shur-Shot D6 camera. The Ansco Corporation, located in Binghamton, N.Y., introduced the Shur-Shot in 1932. The camera used 116 roll film, a type no longer made. The fixed lens was in focus from 2m to infinity. A special feature of the camera was its ability to switch from a square to rectangular picture format.
Old though it may be, the camera was produced in such quantity that it is a glut on the secondary market. In working order, “think it still works” is not the same as “does” in the antiques and collectibles trade, the camera sells between $5 and $10.
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