QUESTION: I own a Mr. Zip lunch kit (box plus thermos) in very fine or better condition. Although the lunch kit collecting craze has ended, I found a listing for over one hundred dollars on the Internet. Is my lunch kit really worth this much?
– G, Janesville, Wis
ANSWER: In the late 1950s, Howard Wilcox, a member of the staff of the Cunningham and Walsh advertising agency, developed a stick figure of a postman delivering a letter for a bank-by-mail advertising campaign. AT&T eventually acquired the rights to the character and donated them to the United States Post Office, now the United States Postal Service, to help promote the introduction of the five-digit Zip Code. The Post Office’s artist tweaked the figure by enhancing the limbs and torso and adding a mailbag.
The five-digit Zip Code and the two-letter state abbreviations were introduced on July 1, 1963. Commercial mailers quickly adopted the new Zip Codes, due in large part to a reduced mailing rate if the five-digit code was used. The responsibility of enticing the general public to adopt the new system fell to Mr. ZIP, “Zippy.” He appeared on the first U.S. Post Office sign in 1963. The five cent Sam Houston stamp issued on January 10, 1964, was the first sheet (more correctly, pane) to feature Mr. Zip on the selvage (non-stamp portion of the sheet.)
Victor Samuel Johnson founded the Mantle Lamp Company of America in 1908. It introduced the “Aladdin” lamp, a clean burning product, in 1912. In the late 1910s, the company diversified its product line by adding insulated cooking ware. Aladdin Industries was born in 1919. In the 1920s, Aladdin introduced bottles and lunch kits. In 1950, Aladdin manufactured the first character lunch box. It featured Hopalong Cassidy.
The Mr. Zip lunch kit was part of Aladdin’s 1969 line. In terms of determining value, beware of seeing only what you want to see as opposed to the full picture. An eternally optimistic eBay seller has a Mr. Zip lunch kit listed at a “Buy It Now” price of $119.99. Another eBay seller, obviously only half as optimistic as the first, has a second example in the same condition listed at a “Buy It Now” price of $48.95. However, there is a Mr. Zip lunch kit in the same condition as the first two examples currently being sold at no reserve. When I looked, the bidding has reached $10.49 with only two bids.
A realistic secondary market value for your Mr. Zip lunch kit is between $25 and $30.
QUESTION: About 20 years ago, I inherited a pair of Atlas of the World antique bookends. Each features a three-dimensional cockatoo with a painted red beak sitting on the upper left corner of the book. The bottom is marked “Pompeian Bronze.” What can you tell me about my bookends?
– CC, via e-mail
ANSWER: The Pompeian Bronze Works traces its history back to the Galvano Bronze Company, a New York City firm founded by Paul Mori around 1889. Galvano Bronze was one of the first American commercial companies to use bronze electroplating and electroforming. Its earliest products were architectural elements. The company introduced bookends into its product line in 1915.
In the early 1920s, the Galvano Bronze Company was sold to its employees and became The Pompeian Bronze Works. Peter Manfredi, an employee, filed 27 book and lamp design copyrights with the U.S. Library of Congress Copyright Office in 1921. The company continued using the bronze electroplating (bronze-clad) and electroforming using white-metal (often pewter) or spelter (zinc) to make ashtrays, bookends, and lamps. In addition to a bronze finish, the company painted some of its products. Scholars are not able to agree upon the end date for the company. It appears that some of the Pompeian Bronze Company molds were acquired by the Marion Bronze Company.
The website Eurika, I Found It notes in its “Fiction” section: “It’s bronze because it’s marked ‘Armor Bronze,’ ‘Pompeian Bronze,’ or “Marion Bronze,’ False. These pieces are zinc with copper coating, produced by the ‘Electroformed’ or “Galvano’ process.” The website suggests lightly tapping a suspected bronze piece with a pencil. If the sound is a thud, it is zinc. A faint dull ringing tone indicates brass. Bonze has a clear ring tone.
Your bookends—measuring 9¼ inches high, 5½ inches wide and 3¼ inches deep—have a a light French blue polychrome finish. They were manufactured in the early 1920s. The bookends are described as weighted bronze in Gerald P. McBride’s “A Collector’s Guide to Cast Metal Bookends” (Schiffer Publishing, 2000).
I found several Internet sale listings for your bookends. A pair in very good condition sold through on eBay on May 22, 2011 for $78.99 plus $11 shipping. There were five bids indicating interest from two or more bidders. In her Ruby Lane shop, Aunti-Qs of Morgan Hills, Calif., lists a pair with some bronze loss to the book page edges and minor polychrome paint loss on the front and back. The asking price is $280. On Auntique & Uncle Tony’s website, there is another pair in fine condition with a list price of $425.
Judging from the picture that accompanied your e-mail, your bookends appear to be in very good to fine condition. As always, I recommend thinking conservatively. Your bookends have a value between $150 and $200.
QUESTION: I own a Shakespeare Wondereel. The number “1920” on the reel is followed by the letters “GE.” What is its value?
– H, Millersburg, Pa.
ANSWER: William Shakespeare, Jr., an avid fisherman, developed a device for evenly rewinding fishing line back onto the reel. In 1897, he founded the William Shakespeare, Jr., Company in 1897 to manufacture his reel. The company name changed to The Shakespeare Company in 1915. The company introduced the Wondereel® with a backlash brake in 1939. Shakespeare retained the name, introducing dozens of design improvements and models in the decades that followed.
During the First and Second World Wars, Shakespeare went to war. In 1918, the company manufactured automobile carburetors and mortar fuses. Between 1941 and 1945, the company built controls for aircraft, jeeps and tanks.
In 1946, Shakespeare’s line production facility moved to Esterville, Iowa. Reel production remained in Kalamazoo, Mich. Shakespeare’s glass fiber Wonderod® was introduced in 1947. Line production shifted to Columbia, S.C. in 1956. In 1965, reel production was transferred to Fayetteville, Ark. The company’s headquarters moved from Kalamazoo to Fayetteville in 1970. Shakespeare acquired Pflueger® Company in 1966, and Southern Tackle Distributors in 1972. All operations were combined in South Carolina in 1982.
The company’s current website contains URLs that provide dating information for Shakespeare reels and rods. Shakespeare reels contained a two-letter dating code. “GE” stands for 1946.
Shakespeare made the Model 1920 Wondereel, the earliest version of the reel, in the hundreds of thousands, as it did many of the other variations of the Wondereel. As such, supply exceeds demand among collectors. A reel in working order without the box is worth between $12 and $16. The period box adds another five to ten dollars.
QUESTION: I have a record album containing 78 RPM records of speeches made by President Theodore Roosevelt. They appear to be in excellent condition. Are these records scarce and do they have any value?
– J, State College, Pa.
ANSWER: Although not the first U. S. presidents to be recorded on film, that honor belongs to Grover Cleveland and William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt was the first president filmed on a large scale. The Library of Congress holdings include 104 films recording Roosevelt’s participation in the Spanish-American War (1898) to his death in 1919.
In August of 1912, while running as the third-party Progressive (Bull Moose) candidate for the U.S. presidency, Roosevelt recorded four campaign speeches on cylinder recordings for the Edison Company. These were followed by five 78 RPM disk recordings for the Victory Talking Company. Speeches included: “The Progressive Covenant with the People,” “The Right of the People to Rule,” “The Farmer and the Businessman” and “Social and Industrial Justice.”
The Roosevelt 78 RPM records were released commercially. Their survival rate is high. As a result, secondary market value is between $3 and $5, provided the records only have minor scratching.
Value is affected by the fact that fewer and fewer individuals own equipment to play 78 RPM, 33 1/3 RPM and 45 RPM records. Although there is a collecting revival in the 1950s/1960 hi-fi stereo systems, the number of enthusiasts remains small.
YouTube has a four-minute clip of one of Theodore Roosevelt’s speeches. A Google search reveals other locations in addition to YouTube. A person interested in hearing Theodore Roosevelt’s voice has no need to buy the records.
Finally, the number of Theodore Roosevelt collectors is minimal. Most already own one or more of the recordings. The records’ collecting value is more curiosity than primary.
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