It’s time for the quarterly roundup of the Top 10 Worthopedia searches—and this quarter there were more than 5.5 million hits. Amazingly enough, tons of people continue to search for Hennessy cognac, Paul Frank T-shirts and naked Indian girl refrigerator magnets. I’ll spare you from reading about all that again. But for the rest of you with some real imagination, here’s the good stuff. And remember, an item featured on an episode on “Pawn Stars,” an article in The New York Times or an odd eBay listing can all spark a frenzied search on the Worthopedia. That’s why the Top 10 list is so varied and interesting.
Celebrity memorabilia is always hot, and this pair of shoes sold in April 2011 for an astounding $1,495. They were worn in the 1980 Robin Williams film by Paul Dooley (who played Popeye’s friend Wimpy) and that prompted a massive search for similar footwear. Collectors were especially looking for the illusive shoes worn by Shelley Duvall (who portrayed Olive Oyl).
X-300 Space Cruiser and Space Port:
X-300 Space Cruiser and Space Port
The X-300 Space Cruiser was made in the 1950s by Pyro Plastics and paired with a tin hanger (or space port) made by the T. Cohn Superior toy company. The space port had a spring-activated launcher that was very hard on the rocket ship. The X-300 is often missing its clear plastic cockpit cover and pilot, because both of them usually flew off and landed behind the sofa. This very rare, complete combination (that sold for $869 in July 2011) even has the spacemen made by Premier Products.
Roulette Cigarette Dispenser:
Roulette Cigarette Dispenser
The iconic roulette cigarette dispenser on Dan Draper’s desk in the television show “Mad Men” is undoubtedly what sparked interest in this Mid-Century Modern accessory. The top of the copper ball spins for a mini game of roulette and then comes off to reveal a storage area for cigarettes. The Worthopedia shows several examples of this 50-year-old collectible selling in a range from $25 to $92.
Hummel figurines are some of the world’s most beloved collectibles. They began in 1935, designed by the talented young nun Maria Innocentia (Berta) Hummel and produced by the German porcelain company owned by Franz Goebel. Sister Maria Hummel died in 1946 when she was only 37 years old, but Goebel artisans continued production of the figures, still named in her honor. Today, the ones that are attributed to Hummel’s original drawings are the most valuable. This Bulgarian boy was produced as part of a 1940 series based on Hummel’s sketches of children from other countries dressed in their native costumes. That series is very rare and brings some of the highest prices among Hummel collections. This one sold for $12,000 in February 2011.
Wearing a sweaty latex mask that fits over your whole head doesn’t sound like much fun. But if you want to be a velociraptor, you have to make some sacrifices. And pay. This one sold for $500 in June 2011.
World War II Airplane View Master Reels:
World War II Airplane View Master Reel
The View-Master was first introduced at the 1939 World’s Fair as a novelty—a click-and-go method for easy viewing of three-dimensional scenes. The company originally produced vistas of national parks and other attractions, but View-Master reached new heights of production during World War II when it manufactured millions of training reels to aid in aircraft and ship identification. Perhaps due to the proliferation of summer air shows, lots of military collectors have been searching for the various airplane study reels. This lot sold for $308 in July 2011.
Kamenstein Motion Tea Kettle:
Kamenstein Motion Tea Kettle
As the water heats up in the Kamenstein tea kettle, the steam-driven rocket ships circle around the outside. First produced in the late 1990s, Kamenstein also offered versions with a carnival carousel of rotating horses, bees circling around a beehive and train engines with spinning wheels. This stainless steel example sold on the secondary market for $150 in 2010.
Young and Sons Transit:
Young and Sons Transit
The transit was probably the most important surveying instrument in the United States during the 19th century—some even say it helped tame the Wild West. William Young is credited with inventing the instrument (which is often cited as a more rugged and adaptable version of the British theodolite) with a compass and telescopic sight for establishing angles. It was first introduced in 1832 and is now a popular example of Americana. Dozens of transits can be found on the Worthopedia in bronze, brass and wood—many with very handsome patinas. The ones with original Young and Sons paper labels can bring high prices. This one sold for $1,125 in 2007.
Nautical Binnacle Oil Lantern:
Nautical Binnacle Oil Lantern
It must have been a good summer for collectors of vintage locational equipment, because the binnacle oil lantern also made the search list. A binnacle was a 19th century non-magnetic brass stand, about 3 feet high, that was used for mounting a nautical compass. The accompanying brass lantern was also non-magnetic and was used for illuminating the binnacle during nighttime navigation at sea. The lantern had thick trapezoidal glass windows that pointed light directly downward onto the compass. This one dates to the 1880s and sold for $91 in May 2008.
Russian Special Forces Survival Knife:
Russian Special Forces Survival Knife
The Russian Army Special Forces (Spetsnaz) were first created during the Cold War to carry out reconnaissance activities. Today, they are an extremely elite group with specialized training and missions. In fact, many believe they are the best of their kind in any military in the world. Their survival knife is designed for just that—survival. It has built-in fishing hooks, fishing line, lead sinkers, windproof matches, safety pins, thread, sewing needles and parachute cord. It also holds a compass, harpoon, sharpening stone and wire cutter. The heavy Spetsnaz presence in Afghanistan has been reported in the news and naturally sparked a search for their knife. This one sold for $218 in 2007.
Liz Holderman is a Worthologist who specializes in collectible books.
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