Values in a Pickle

This Heinz Pickle String Holder sold for $5000 in 2016.

In the antique and collectibles world, values are in a constant state of flux, subject to the whims of the public. Many items that were extremely hot during the “Collectibles Mad” days of the late 1980’s are having trouble finding buyers at anywhere near their old values. But oddly enough some, for whatever reason, appear to defy all odds and still sell at prices that boggle the mind. Most of these items have retained their value because they cross several groups of collectors, meaning there is continued demand from several sectors that tend to help maintain values, or at least slow the downward value.

I often run into this phenomenon when doing due diligence on an appraisal. There are often items, which at first glance make you wonder why anyone would want them, or they are so obscure you are sure there is no collectors group large enough to support much demand for them. There could also be an item for which values have collapsed so much it appears the cost of an appraisal would be more than the piece is currently worth. It is, as it used to be said,  “a bit of a pickle” for both collectors and appraisers.

I ran into this situation not long ago with a request for an appraisal of a late 19th Century advertising piece, a market that has seen drops in value for many once high-flying items. As is usual in this business, researching an item often leads one through a field of related pieces that catch your eye and divert your attention, hence the object of this article, ” Heinz Pickle” items.

At the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, Heinz gave away thousands of pickle fobs. This one sold for $34 in 2016.

The Heinz company and its advertising have been a familiar part of the landscape since the 1893 World’s Columbia Exposition in Chicago, where founder H.J. Heinz gave away thousands of “pickle” watch fobs at their display. It was their logo “57 Varieties” that H.J. Heinz came up with in 1896 that really caught the public attention. The logo was inspired by a shoe company’s sign offering “21 Styles of Shoes” that Heinz saw while riding an elevated train in New York. Even though his company now had over 60 items, for some reason the number “57” stuck in his mind as more memorable than 60. The slogan was soon used everywhere the company could put it.

The Heinz 57 collectible pictured at the top of the article is one of the more unusual pieces, a “Heinz Pickle String Holder.” It is a scarce piece that features two lithographed figural pickle signs riveted together, the string holder mounted in the center. Not much to look at, is it? Value? The last one I have a record for (October 2016) sold for $5000.00. This particular one sold for over $2000 in 2014.

This Marklin Heinz Pickle train car sold for over $1300 in 2015.

The string holder sign is not the only Heinz related item that’s retained a high value.  A cross market type piece of the type I mentioned earlier also has retained high value– model train cars displaying Heinz products. According to our Worthopedia, 1930’s examples like this one, by the well known German toy maker maker “Marklin,” have sold for over $20,000.00 in recent years. Very few of them, even in poor condition, sell under $1500.00. 

Some 1960’s examples by the American model train maker “Lionel,” such as the model #6475, have sold for over $1500.00. The Lionel Heinz car in the photo below sold for $850.

This Lionel Heinz 57 train car sold for $850 in 2017.

The Heinz signs have held their values as well. The sign below sold for over $900 in 2014.

An enamel Heinz 57 sign sold for $936.38 in 2014.

So, keep an eye out for Heinz collectibles, the others will be green with envy.


Mike Wilcox, of Wilcox & Hall Appraisers, is a Worthologist who specializes in Art Nouveau and the Arts and Craft movement. He can be reached through his website Antique-Appraise.com.

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