Q & A with Harry Rinker: World War Two-Era USO Entertainer-Signed Dollar Bill
A one dollar bill is autographed by Cesar Romero found in the Worthopedia. The value of a signed bill, even if there are several signatures, is for that of the most famous.
Ball served on board a ship with Romero (seen in this close-up) It sold for $25 in 2011 on eBay.
QUESTION: I have a bill that my father carried through his World War II service in Africa, Italy and Germany. The bill contains autographs obtained backstage from members of U.S.O. touring groups. Signatures include Louise Allbritton, June Allyson, Mary Brian, Eddie Cantor, Harry James, George Raft, Dinah Shore, and one name I cannot make out. The bill is in good condition. What is its value?
– S.T., Janesville, Wis., via e-mail
ANSWER: When individuals encounter someone famous and decide they will ask for an autograph, their wallet is one of the first places they look to find a piece of paper. As a result, dollar bills signed by every type of celebrity are common.
Collecting autographs of movie starts was extremely popular in the 1930s, wartime and the two decades that followed. Hollywood studios received weekly requests for star autographs. Many returned examples had the star signature printed as part of the photograph or were secretarial signed.
President Franklin Roosevelt was instrumental in creating the United Service Organization, a volunteer nonprofit designed to provide a link between those in military service and the general public. More than 3,000 communities created USO centers during the Second World War. The Hollywood Canteen, located at 1451 Cahuenga Boulevard in Hollywood, operated between Oct. 3, 1941, and Nov. 22, 1945.
More than 428,521 USO Camp Shows took place between 1941 and 1947. At its peak, the number of daily performances exceeded 700. More than 7,000 entertainers traveled around the world to entertain the troops. In 2001, the History Channel released a video of its special “Soldiers in Greasepaint: The History of the U.S.O.”
USO entertainer-signed bills are only one form of signed bills associated with World War II. In my travels, I encountered bills signed by bomber and flight crews and infantry squads.
The lure of research is one of the reasons I write “Rinker on Collectibles.” I did not recognize Louise Allbritton (July 3, 1920 to Feb. 15, 1979), a Universal B movie star who was married to reporter Charles Collingwood. An internet bio talks about her role in Parachute Nurse (1942), a Columbia picture referred to as a “stinker.” Sounds like something I should see.
The value of any multiple signed celebrity item rests primarily with the value of the autograph of the most collectible signer. An accurate value is not determined by adding up the independent value of all the signatures. The question then becomes which is the most valuable signature—George Raft, Harry James or Dinah Shore. All were reasonably generous with their signature.
Since you did not include an illustration with your e-mail, it is hard for me to assess the quality of the signatures and the bill. “Good” condition means evidence of folds and heavy wear. Assuming your father carried it through several war theaters, this may be an accurate description. You also failed to indicate if the signatures were on one side or both sides of the bill. Since only one side can be viewed at a time, this impacts value.
Given the above, I recommend a conservative approach. The secondary market value for your bill is between $75 and $100.
QUESTION: I found what I think is a mixing bowl. It is marked on the bottom “HALLS / SUPERIOR/ QUALITY KITCHENWARE / MADE IN / U.S.A.” The outside has a decal silhouette of two people sitting at a table. I have been told it may be worth money. What do you think?
– D.K., via e-mail
ANSWER: Your bowl is part of Hall’s Silhouette line introduced in the mid-1930s. The decal pictures two men in colonial dress, smoking pipes and engaged in a conversation in a tavern.
Silhouette decals are found on Hall’s D-style dinner ware and numerous kitchenware pieces. The size of the decals varied on the same form, creating variations within the pattern. Harker and Taylor, Smith and Taylor also used the same decal on some of their dinnerware and accessory pieces. Harker produced some forms such as a pie lifter that was not part of the Hall line.
Robert Hall established the Hall China Company in East Liverpool, Ohio in 1903. When he died a year later, his son Robert Taggart Hall took over the business. Initially, the company produced functional utilitarian wares such as chamber pots and pitchers. Robert Taggart Hall spent almost a decade perfecting a glaze recipe that fused the glaze to the ceramic in one firing rather than two. When the company’s business declined following World War I, the company switched to the production of teapots. In the mid-1920s, Hall China made the ceramic premiums for the Jewel Tea Company. A focus on refrigerator ceramics occurred in the 1930s.
This bowl is part of Hall’s Silhouette line introduced in the mid-1930s.
The marked on the bottom “HALLS / SUPERIOR/ QUALITY KITCHENWARE / MADE IN / U.S.A.”
The Hall China Company continues in business. Catherine S. Vodrey’s “A Centennial History of the Hall China Company” was published in 2003.
Although it is possible to assemble a complete dinner service and kitchen accessory collection of Hall’s Silhouette, collector interest is minimal, a situation reflected in the secondary market value of pieces. Your medium size mixing bowl is worth between $12 and $15… “some” money, but not much.
QUESTION: I have a scrimshaw hunt scene, flat bone pin that belonged to my Aunt Zinas. The design is signed by Wilbur Walluk. What is its value?
– B, St. Helena, Ore, via e-mail
ANSWER: Wilbur Walluk (1928-1968) was a member of the Inupiaq group of Inuit who lived in the village of Shishmaref (Qiqiqtaq). The village is located about 30 miles north of Nome.
Although Walluk is known among collectors of Eskimo art, I was not able to locate a detailed biography on the Internet. The website www.ahgupuk.com, which houses pictures of artwork by Alaskan artists, contains more than a dozen images of Wilbur Walluk’s drawings, prints, scrimshaw and tray art, including material from the private collection of Walluk’s daughter LaVonne.
On Oct. 11, 2011, a Wilbur Walluk ox bone antique knife set featuring eight knives with carved hunting scenes sold on eBay for $200.47 plus $10 shipping. Worthpoint.com contains listings for (1) a Wilbur Walluk 5 3/8-inch-long cribbage board with a hunt scene which sold on eBay for $227.50 on Dec. 16, 2008 and (2) a 2-inch by 1 ½-inch oval brooch/pin depicting a moose and bear in the woods that closed on eBay for $49.99 on Dec. 14, 2007. I also found internet sales for a drawing ($147) and several scrimshaw handled kitchen utensils.
Given the above and your failure to provide detailed information (size and condition) about the pin, my best guesstimate is between $45 and $60. Although there is collector interest in Walluk’s work, the value ranges that I found suggest collectors are paying only modest prices.
QUESTION: I have a copy of “LaFontaine’s Fables,” published by J. M. Dent & Sons in London in 1952. It is Volume 191 in the Everyman’s Library Series. What can you tell me about my book and its value?
– K, Newport, Ore.
ANSWER: In 1905, Joseph Malaby Dent, a London Publisher, initiated a project to create a 1,000-volume library of the world’s classic literature that was affordable to everyone, from students and members of the working class to scholars and the cultural elite. Dent took his initial inspiration from William Morris and his Kelmscott Press.
Boswell’s “Life of Johnson” was the first title in the Everyman Library series. The series was subdivided by genres: Biography, Classical, Essays, Fiction, For Young People, History, Poetry and Drama, Oratory, Reference, Romance, Science, Theology & Philosophy, and Travel. By 1975, the Everyman’s Library included 994 titles in 1,239 volumes.
New title publications ended in the 1970s. David Campbell Publishers purchased the hardcover rights in 1991. Random House Group in the United Kingdom and Alfred A. Knopf (a Random House subsidiary) in the United States re-launched the series. In 2002, United States Random House gained control of the series. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, which acquired J. M. Dent & Sons in 1988, was acquired by Orion Publishing Group in 1991. Orion publishes the Everyman Library titles in paperback in the UK under the J. M. Dent imprint and in the U.S. under the Charles E. Tuttle Co. imprint.
Researching the Everyman Library edition of “LaFontaine’s Fables” on abebooks.com, most of the copies being offered for sale are by English booksellers. As a result, the listings under $10 appear inexpensive until an examination of the shipping costs. Shipping costs range from $11 to $25, more than the list price of the book
A realistic secondary market value for a copy in the United States is between $5 and $8.
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