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The Collector’s Minute: Revivals and the Value of Collectibles

by Mike Wilcox (05/25/10).

An “Oliver Twist” biscuit tin made in the 1960s. Collectibles such as this one—connected to a story that is often made into several movies, plays or TV miniseries—may have several lives, as each revival builds new interest.

An “Oliver Twist” biscuit tin made in the 1960s. Collectibles such as this one—connected to a story that is often made into several movies, plays or TV miniseries—may have several lives, as each revival builds new interest.

In the collectibles business, you’ll often hear the mantra, “Everything old is new again,” particularly when there has been revival of a famous book into a movie or miniseries on TV. Manufacturers are quick to take advantage of this phenomenon and churn out products that depict characters from the story on everything. So much to the point now that the product rights have already been sold well in advance of a movie release date, as manufacturers know that the attention span of the general public gets shorter with every passing year, fads that used to last for a couple of years now run for a mere matter of weeks.

Some items benefit from the multiple remakes of a popular story produced by Hollywood, Broadway and the London stage. Such is the case in the piece above—an “Oliver Twist” biscuit tin made in the 1960s. The tin depicts scenes from Charles Dickens’ (1812-1870) famous novel about street urchins and living conditions in early 19th-century London.

Tins like this one were produced following the early 1960s smash musical titled “Oliver!” The production premiered in the London West End in 1960, enjoying a long run, a successful Broadway production in 1964 and further tours and revivals. At each point, demand for Oliver collectible peaked and manufacturers obliged, producing everything from Royal Doulton jugs to tea towels. In 1968, when “Oliver!” was made into a film, it broke box office records and again revived demand for Oliver Twist items, this time lasting for about two years.

Since the book was originally published, it has spawned 11 films and four miniseries. Like all things, though, there is a limit for revivals. When the story of Oliver Twist was revived again in a 1982 version starring Richard Charles as Oliver and George C. Scott as Fagin, there was some uptick in value for the earlier 1960s pieces, but this time around, demand quickly fell off. Later, films such as the 2005 film version of Oliver Twist—starring Barney Clark as Oliver and Ben Kingsley as Fagin—didn’t give much of a bump at all to the Dickens’ collectible market and values have flat lined ever since.

In today’s market, the early 1960s Oliver Twist biscuit tins now often sell for less than $20.

Mike Wilcox, of Wilcox & Hall Appraisers, is a Worthologist who specializes in Art Nouveau and the Arts and Craft movement.

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