Q & A with Harry Rinker: ‘Blank’ Sled, Vintage Book, Barbara Ota Dolls
QUESTION: I recently acquired a PENGUIN sled. It is old—the wood, metal, and paint show quite a bit of aging. The stencil of the PENGUIN logo is fading, and there is some rust on the metal parts. There are numbers painted on the underside of the wood slats, either “688 B” or “688 R.” There may have been other numbers, but I am not able to make them out. What information can you provide?
– ER, Jacksonville, Fla., via e-mail
ANSWER: I also struck out trying to research this sled on the Internet. Believing strongly that human is often far better than electronic intelligence (something the CIA seems loath to learn), I contacted Joan Palicia, author of “Great Sleds & Wagons,” published by Schiffer Books in 2009.
Joan also did not recognize the name. She informed me, however, that many companies made “blank” sleds under contract for hardware wholesalers, department stores, or mail catalog merchants. “If you can send me a picture of the sled, I am certain I can tell you who made it,” she said. I forwarded the three pictures of the sled attached to your e-mail.
Within less than an hour, Joan e-mailed that your sled was made by Garton, one of the largest manufacturers of blank sleds. Your sled is Garton’s Comet #9060 model, patented on August 31, 1937, but not manufactured until the mid to late 1950s.
Eusebius B. Garton produced his first mass-produced wooden coaster wagon in 1887. The line quickly expanded to express wagons, parlor swings, toy chairs and sleds. Garton created The Garton Toy Company, located in Sheboygan, Wis., in 1889.
Clarence Garston, Eusebius’s son, became president of the company in 1915. In 1916, Garton produced its first steerable sleds, the Eskimo, Dreadnaught and Torpedo Racer. Garton acquired the Globe Company in 1937 and Pratt Mfg. Company in 1952. Garton also gained control of Kalamazoo, another leading sled manufacturer, in the 1950s. Monitor Corporation acquired Garton in 1973 and ceased operations in 1975. The former Garton Sheboygan plant has been converted into residential apartments.
An article by Bob Brooke entitled “A Short History of Sleds and Sledding in America” that appeared in “AntiqueWeek” noted: “The Garton Toy Company marketed its sled with the Garton Trademark, but many retailers contracted with Garton to put their own designs and brand names over the Garton frame. For instance, the Coast to Coast Apollo Sled, The Gambles Sled, and Ace Hardware Sled were none other than The Garton Eskimo, Royal Racer, and the classiest of all, the Silver Streak. Garton produced 8,500 sleds a week annually from June to Thanksgiving which was approximately 15 percent of its overall business.”
Richards & Conover Hardware Company of Kansas City, Missouri, was one of the largest sellers of Garton blank sleds. Established in the last quarter of the 19th century, I found catalog evidence the company was still in business in 1955. However, I was not able to establish a direct link between Richards & Conover and your PENGUIN sled.
The value of your sled is between $25 and $35.
QUESTION: I purchased a copy of “Crest and Chasm of the Continent,” published by the Williamson-Haffner Engraving Company and copyrighted 1905, at an auction in Tennessee in spring 2009. The book, with its 24 color plates, is in near excellent to excellent condition. The book also has its period shipping sleeve, although it is heavily worn on the edges. In researching the Internet, I found a wide variety of prices. What is my book worth?
– BP, Turtle Lake, Wis., via e-mail
ANSWER: What you paid for it at auction is the most obvious answer. Worth is a momentary phenomenon. Sale establishes an object’s worth at a specific moment in time. A change in circumstances alters value.
[Author’s Aside: Although willing to share where and when something was bought, individuals almost never tell me what they paid. I wish they would.
A listener of WHATCHA GOT?, my nationally syndicated antiques and collectibles radio show, called to inquire about the value of a Chinese opium scale he had purchased at auction. Prior to his call, he e-mailed me a picture. “What did you pay?” I asked. He said be bought it for $350. I am rarely lost for words, but this was one of those moments. It did not appear to be worth anywhere near this amount. The listener indicated the bidding was brisk, and he felt lucky to have won it. I told him that as long as he was satisfied with what he paid, the price was valid from his perspective. However, I advised him to be more familiar with the value of things on which he planned to bid in the future.
Human nature being what it is, what “Rinker on Collectibles” readers really want me to tell them is that they got a bargain, a “real steal.” What they do not want me to say is: “You may have set a world’s price record.” Individuals are embarrassed when I inform them they paid entirely too much, hence the primary reason for their unwillingness to share what they paid.]
The Web site abebooks.com is the first place to which I turn when researching the value of old books. Desiring to see why BP was confused, I did a search for “Crest and Chasm of the Continent” and found 12 listings. After reviewing the listings, I identified several reasons for BP’s confusion.
It is hard to make apple to apple comparisons in the antiques and collectibles field. At the same time, “close but no cigar” is not acceptable. The good news is that there appears to have been only one printing of the book, thus eliminating the issue of multiple printings and editions.
All the books listed were in fair to good condition. There were no copies in near excellent to excellent condition. My suspicion is that BP has over estimated the condition of the copy he purchased. Book collectors are tough graders. Their condition standards are very high. As a result what looks excellent to a non-collector is good to very good at best to a book collector.
Four of the copies were offered by foreign booksellers—two from Australia and one each from Germany and Italy. Shipping costs exceeded $25. One Australian dealer offered the book for $9.39 plus $25 shipping. Eliminate the foreign listings from any evaluation.
It is becoming increasingly more common for booksellers to offer a book at a low value and recoup part of the missing profits by jacking up the shipping costs. The United States Postal Services media rate is affordable. Any shipping charge above $4 for a standard size hardback is excessive.
American sellers are asking between $20 and $50 for copies in good to very good condition. These numbers indicate a limited buyers’ market for this title. Most buyers will cut the book apart, mat the color prints, and sell them separately. The decorative value approach will triple to quadruple what the book is worth as a bound title. Also, the one thing that all books listed for sale on the Internet have in common is that they have not sold. Values asked are negotiable.
The color plates are scenic views in Colorado. The book’s maximum value is in the Southwest.
If BP paid $25 for his copy at auction, he did fine. If he paid $50, he bought at top dollar. If BP paid more than $50, he may well have set a new price record. This often happens when an individual is victimized by auction fever.
QUESTION: I own a limited-edition doll designed by Barbara Ota. Although I found numerous Barbara Ota dolls listed on the Internet, I could not find one that identically matched the numbers on the back of the head of my doll. How can I determine the value of my doll?
– D, Evansville, Ill.
ANSWER: Barbara Ota was active in the Doll Artisan Guild (D.A.G.) in the early to mid-1990s. The non-profit D.A.G. was founded to support those individuals crafting porcelain dolls. The D.A.G. conducts doll-making classes, publishes a magazine, holds conventions, and awards several prizes. The Millie is awarded for the best reproduction of an antique doll. If an artisan wins the award for a second time, she receives a Gold Rosette. Barbara Ota was awarded a Gold Rosette in October 1996 at the D.A.G. convention in San Mateo, Calif.
My attempts to find detailed biographical information about Barbara Ota met with failure. I did find several of her dolls listed under “Premier Artist,” but all attempts to find information about this company failed as well.
Her dolls were not cheap when sold. Selling prices ranged from $150 to $175, with editions numbering between 1,000 and 1,500. An Ota doll offered for sale on eBay for $99 indicated that it sold new initially for $450 in 1996. Each new head designed by Ota was given a name. Lindsay and Rebecca are two examples.
While I cannot provide any supporting evidence for what follows, I suspect Ota dolls were offered for sale by one or more of the home shopping channels. However, I found no listings that talked about a certificate of authenticity, a fact that suggests they may not have been sold in this venue.
In any case, the secondary resale market for Barbara Ota dolls, as for so many home shopping channel artisan dolls, appears to be between 10 and 20 percent of their initial purchase cost. Auction prices realized suggest a value between $30 and $35, not good news for those who bought Ota dolls as investments.
Rinker Enterprises and Harry L. Rinker are on the Internet. Check out his Web site.
You can listen and participate in Harry’s antiques-and-collectibles radio call-in show “Whatcha Got?” on Sunday mornings between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Eastern Time. It streams live on the Genesis Communications Network.
“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, 22 Stillwater Circle, Brookfield, CT 06804. 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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