Q & A with Harry Rinker: Bissell Sweeper, Sherwin Williams Chameleon, Ms. Giddee Yup

QUESTION: I own the Bissell’s “Bisco Matic” Brush Action Vanity carpet sweeper my parents had when I was growing up. A blue metal case covers the two sweeping brushes. Can you provide a brief history and value?

– SB, Shillington, Pa., via e-mail


ANSWER: When Ana Bissell, who, with her husband Melville, owned Bissell and Sons, a small crockery shop in Grand Rapids, Mich., had trouble sweeping the floor when the workday ended, she asked her mechanically inclined husband to design a carpet sweeper to solve the problem. Bissell patented his sweeper in 1876, building his first manufacturing plant in Grand Rapids in 1883. When Melville died in 1889, Anna assumed control of the company, reputedly the first female CEO in American history.

Anna added new products to the company’s line, such as multi-purpose carpet formula shampoos and commercial grade sweepers and expanded business worldwide. As a result of its acquisition of Woolite Carpet and Upholstery, Bissell remains one of the leading American producers of sweepers, carpet supplies and related products.

Although I was not able to find the date when Bissell first introduced its “Bisco-Matic” and Vintage branding, I did find examples dating back to the 1930s for sale on the secondary market. Bissell still makes a Vintage model carpet sweeper today.

The color and lettering style on your sweeper suggests 1950s or early 1960s. Reuse is the primary secondary market for these sweepers. Older Bissell carpet sweepers sell in the $1 to $5 range at garage sales. Wooden body examples, used primarily for conversational/decoration purposes, are priced between $25 to $35 at flea markets and antiques malls.


QUESTION: I have statuette of the Sherwin Williams chameleon logo. What is its history and value?

– CA, via e-mail

ANSWER: Henry A. Sherwin, a Vermont native, moved to Cleveland in 1860. In July 1866 he invested $2,000 in Truman Dunham & Company, an importer and distributor of home decorating supplies including paints, varnishes and related materials. In 1870 Sherwin, along with Alanson T. Osborn and Edward P. Williams, formed Sherwin & Williams, a partnership, and assumed control of Truman Dunham & Company’s retail operations. By 1873, Sherwin & Williams was manufacturing oil colors, paint and putty. Two years later, the company introduced ready-mixed paint. In 1882, Osborn struck a deal whereby he gained control of the retail operation while Sherwin and Williams assumed full ownership of the manufacturing and wholesale operations. [For a detailed Sherwin Williams history, visit the company’s web site.

During a trip to China, Sereno Fenn, the first company treasurer, was captivated by the color-changing chameleons. Upon returning to America, he shared his observations with Henry Sherwin. Sherwin was intrigued. In 1885, Sherwin introduced the chameleon on a painter’s palette as the company’s official logo. Jake, one of three chameleons from India kept by the company, often posed for advertising photographs. The Chameleon, the company’s newsletter, was introduced in 1897.

In the early 1890s, George W. Ford, the company’s one-man advertising department, drew the first pencil sketches for what would become the Sherwin Williams “Cover the Earth” logo. The sketch underwent numerous revisions. Ford and Henry Sherwin had reservations about the logo. The first test occurred in 1893 when the “Cover the Earth” logo was used on a poster promoting the company’s Worcester, Mass. store It was well received. The company replaced the chameleon and palette logo with the “Cover the Earth” logo in 1905.

TRIVIA QUESTION: When most individuals think of the “Cover the Earth” logo, they picture the paint pouring over the North Pole. It is not. Over what point on the earth is it pouring?

While the safe assumption is that your chameleon statuette dates between 1885 and 1905, it can be later. As seen from the newsletter title, Sherwin William kept the chameleon concept/image alive long after its “official” status ended.

In researching this question, I found two listings for an early 1900s, cast-iron, three-dimensional chameleon doorstop in the WorthPoint Worthopedia. Both listings attributed the doorstop to Sherwin Williams, one seller noting: “The Company had these cast iron chameleons created to give away and sell for advertising. They were put out in different sizes, some imprinted with the company name, some with long curling tails, some with shorter, stubbier tails, some with stripes, some with spots. They were painted in a variety of striking Sherwin-Williams color choices.” However, neither doorstop had the Sherwin Williams imprint. The prices realized for the two doorstops were $116 (greenish-gray body) and $279 (dirty yellow body).

I also discovered a metal paperweight (6 inches by 4 inches, oval base) of a chameleon sitting on top of an artist’s palette. The oval base reads: “SHERWIN WILLIAMS CO. PAINT / COLOR MAKERS / CLEVELAND, CHICAGO, NEW YORK, MONTREAL, AND BOSTON. Its value with strong period paint is in the $250 to $300 range.

I was not able to find any listings for a statuette. Since no image accompanied your e-mail, I answered based on the assumption you have either the doorstop or paperweight.


QUESTION: I own Ms. Giddee Yup, one of Mattel’s Gorgeous Creatures. It is still in its window box. The doll is 7½ inches high. What is its value?

– JD, Modesto, Ca., via e-mail

ANSWER: In 1979, Mattel issued a series of four Gorgeous Creatures—Cow Belle (dark brown hair and blue gown), Heavenly Hippo (red hair with yellow jump suit and transparent skirt), Ms. Giddee Yup (blond curls and silver dress), and Princess Pig (blond hair, magenta colored gown). These dolls featured animal heads on female bodies. They prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that beauty is truly in the eyes of the beholder.

The Gorgeous Creatures could be posed thanks to movable arms and legs. Each came with boyfriend’s picture in a frame, gown, hanky, hat, shoes and stole. The body design allowed girls to mix and match the clothes.

Each doll had a theme. Princess Pig’s theme was “At the Restaurant,” the box noting that Princess Pig loves snacks. Ms. Giddee Yup was dressed for a night at the opera.

For whatever reason (good taste obviously played a role), the Gorgeous Creatures dolls lasted only one sales season. Given the fact that most survive in their window boxes, few young girls who received them as gifts were tempted to play with them.

Examples without the window box sell between $4 and $6. Examples in the window box bring $12 to $15.

For those who argue that the 1970s was a period of exceptionally bad taste, these dolls ended the decade on a high note.


QUESTION: My husband is a retired carpenter/cabinetmaker. He wants to sell his vast collection of hand tools, some dating from the late 1800s. How do you recommend that he do this?

– T, Reading, Pa., via e-mail

ANSWER: Much depends on the quality of the tools in your husband’s collection. If he bought the tools primarily for use, seek out a local auctioneer who has a reputation for getting good tool prices. Buyers purchase the majority of tools as well as other items sold at auction for use.

If he is like most collectors, your husband bought his tools from a relatively small number of auctioneers and dealers. He can approach one or more of these individuals to review dispersal options. However, he must avoid allowing a dealer to cherry-pick (selectively buy) from the collection. The collection should be sold as a unit.

If your husband’s tool collection was assembled for collecting purposes, the middle- and high-end material should be sent to a specialized tool auctioneer. The balance can be sold locally. Although this advice seems counter to the previous paragraph, it is not. Collections require a different sales approach than objects whose value is primarily re-use.

Two tool auctioneers whose sales I track are Clarence Blanchard, president of Antique & Collectibles Tools and who owns Fine Tool Journal and Brown Auction Services (27 Fickett Road, Pownal, ME 04069) and Martin J. Donnelly (PO Box 281, Bath, New York 14810). In a recent conversation with Martin, he noted that antique tools did not experience major price decreases over the last five years as did many other collecting categories. Further, many antique tool collections assembled by Baby Boomer collectors are now entering the marketplace.

Blanchard and Donnelly sell primarily in New England and the Middle Atlantic States, tool collecting hotbeds. While there are tool collectors scattered throughout the United States, Canada and abroad, there are regional concentrations. Selling well often involves not only selecting the right sales source but location as well.

TRIVIA QUESTION ANSWER: Cleveland, Ohio, the center of the paint universe.


Rinker Enterprises and Harry L. Rinker are on the Internet. Check out Harry’s Web site..

You can listen and participate in Harry’s antiques-and-collectibles radio call-in show “Whatcha Got?” on Sunday mornings between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Eastern Time. It streams live on the Genesis Communications Network.

“Sell, Keep Or Toss? How To Downsize A Home, Settle An Estate, And Appraise Personal Property” (House of Collectibles, an imprint of the Random House Information Group), Harry’s latest book, is available at your favorite bookstore and via Harry’s Web site..

Harry L. Rinker welcomes questions from readers about collectibles, those mass-produced items from the 20th century. Selected queries will be answered on this site. Harry cannot provide personal answers. Send your questions to: Rinker on Collectibles, 5955 Mill Pond Court SE, Kentwood, MI 49512. You can e-mail your questions to harrylrinker@aol.com. Only e-mails containing a full name and mailing address will be considered. Please indicate that these are questions for WorthPoint.

Copyright © Rinker Enterprises, Inc. 2011

WorthPoint—Discover Your Hidden Wealth

(Visited 3 times, 1 visits today)