Q & A with Harry Rinker: Gerber Baby Lithograph, Narumi China, Swiss Link Bracelet

QUESTION: In cleaning out the house, I found an old Gerber Baby lithography dated 1931. It is in excellent condition and measures 8 ½ inches by 11 inches. Does it have any value?

– BS, E-mail Question

ANSWER: Frank Daniel Gerber and his son Daniel Frank Gerber owned and operated the Fremont Canning Company, located in Fremont, Mich., specializing in the canning of fruits and vegetables. In 1927 Daniel’s wife Dorothy was hand-straining foods to feed to Sally, their 7-month-old baby. She asked Daniel to do the straining at the company’s plant. Frank and Daniel realized the end product had commercial value. After several months of testing, Fremont Canning introduced its first Gerber baby food in 1928.

Harry RinkerPrior to the launch, the Gerbers invited artists to submit artwork for a Gerber baby for use in the company’s promotion. The company received hundreds of works in a variety of mediums from oil to pen and ink. Dorothy Hope Smith (1895-1955), who specialized in children’s paintings and sketches, submitted what she felt was an unfinished charcoal sketch of four-month old Ann Turner of Westport, Conn. Smith’s sketch—which she offered to finish if accepted—of Turner with tousled hair, bright eyes and round, pursed lips was selected. The company liked the image as submitted. Smith was paid $300 and did not receive royalties. In 1951, Gerber paid Ann Turner Cook a one-time cash settlement of $5,000 for the rights to use her image.

That first year, 590,000 cans of Gerber baby food was sold. Smith’s Gerber baby image became the official trademark in 1931. The image has appeared on all Gerber packing and advertising. The Fremont Canning Company became Gerber Products in 1941. In 1996 a new label was introduced.

[Author’s Asides: All rumors that the Gerber baby was a sketch of Humphrey Bogart or Elizabeth Taylor are false. Gerber did not reveal the name of the baby at the family’s request. Ann Turner Cook, a retired English teacher and mystery novelist (“Micanopy in Shadow,” “Homossa Shadows” and “Shadow over Cedar Key”) living in Florida, eventually revealed her identity. Dorothy Hope Smith also did illustrations for Putnam children’s books and advertising images for Ivory Snow and Lux.]

Gerber issued several lithograph editions of Dorothy Hope Smith’s Gerber Baby sketch. The most common is a 1930 black and white lithograph numbered S4-71. It measures approximately 8 inches by 10 inches. The initials “DHS,” which appear in the baby’s left shoulder area, are part of the lithography. The quality of the lithography is such that when famed, many individuals confuse it for a charcoal sketch. Unframed images sell in the $25 to $35 range.

I found one dealer offering what appears to be a hand-colored version of the black and white image for $175. The seller also suggested the sketch was a period piece actually done by Smith. First, it is unlikely that Smith would have done duplicate images that are exact matches for the printed lithograph image. Second, black and white images are often color enhanced to increase their value. Caveat emptor—let the buyer beware.

Finally, I also discovered a listing for a larger size lithograph image that measures 24 inches by 30 inches. However, there was no date or value information.


QUESTION: I have 12 to 14 place settings of Narumi China dinnerware in Shasta Pine (Pattern #5012). There are many accessories pieces—for example bowls and platters—in various sizes. There also is a tureen. I remember the dinnerware being used at Easter and Christmas. What is my dinnerware worth?

– KF, via e-mail

ANSWER: Narumi China Corporation, a manufacturer of bone china and plates for electromagnetic cooking, is a member of the Aichi-Brand Group. Its bone china products include dinnerware, giftware, hotel and restaurant china, and infant china.

The company traces its origin back to Imperial Seito, a china manufacturer, founded in 1911. The company later changed its name to Nagoya Seito. In 1938, Nagoya Seito built a plant in Narumi, which was acquired by Sumitomo Metal in 1943. Dinnerware was first made in 1946. The company became Narumi China Corporation in 1950. In 1965, Narumi first imported “bone” china to the U.S. market. In 2010, it is the second largest tableware manufacturer in Japan.

Narumi’s Shasta Pine pattern appeared on two body colors—white and cream. Judging from the number of examples that I found on china replacement Web sites, the pattern was extremely popular.

Valuing dinnerware is tricky. There are essentially four values for each form: (1) the price charged by replacement services; (2) the price charged by dealers; (3) the price brought at auction; and (4) the price obtained on Internet auctions such as eBay. Replacements, Ltd. lists a cup and saucer in cream at $19.99. Don’s Antiques in Brighton, Ill., lists the cup and saucer in cream at $20. China Lane offers the cup and saucer at $16.50. The same cup and saucer sold on eBay for $3.99. Five-piece place settings sell on eBay between $32.50 and $40.

The value in any dinnerware service rests in its serving pieces. The secondary market retail value of your dinnerware service is between $750 and $900. Depending on the auction, it would realize between $450 and $500.

My recommendation, as it is to everyone who owns dinnerware services, is to use it to create memories. If you do this, you create the possibility one of your children or grandchildren will want it. If you are not going to use it, then sell it. Use the money to buy something you will.


QUESTION: I inherited a link bracelet that belonged to a relative who served in the U.S. Armed Forces in Europe in the early 1950s. A rectangular label on the bracelet is marked: “Made in Switzerland / Plaque Orl / 20 Microns / AGGA / Geneve.” What is it worth?

– J, Belvidere, N.J.

ANSWER: “Plaque Orl” indicates that your bracelet is gold plated. As a result, it has no metal melt value. Value rests solely upon a collector or other buyer’s interest in wearing it.

Ask A WorthologistI found a listing that suggested the link system was called a “panther link,” but I could not confirm this from another source. All the examples I located contained five rows of links.

The values spread over a wide range. A dealer listed a 7 /12-inch-long by 15/16-inches-wide example in very good condition for $125. A similar example in fine condition closed on eBay on Jan. 17, 2010 at $50. Did a dealer buy the eBay examples for inventory? It is possible.

Although some will argue to the contrary, the secondary market value of many objects is determined by what they bring on eBay. Of course, it is essential that multiples of the object be sold and the market constantly retested before a reliable secondary market value becomes reliable.

Given the above, the value of your 1950s link bracelet is between $40 and $50—proof, once again, that when buying commonly found objects, it pays to comparison shop.


QUESTION: I brought a horse and jockey decorative piece at an antiques show in Michigan a few years ago. At that time, it was used as part of a weathervane. On the left side of the green bar to which the horse is attached is what appears to be “© c. ferie 1982.” Because it has been out in the weather, it has some rust on it. I was told by an antiques appraiser that its value is between $1,000 and $1,500. Do you agree?

– LM, Lansing, Ill.

ANSWER: No, I do not. After studying the pictures that accompanied your letter and the information you provide, the horse and sulky with jockey weathervane appears to be a modern reproduction that has been artificially aged.

If the 1982 is a copyright (the © symbol) date, which I am assuming it is, it confirms the relatively recent origin of the piece. The quality of workmanship and the design of the horse also suggest this.

Admittedly, almost 30 years has passed since the weathervane was made. However, historic weathervane collectors want 18th, 19th and very early 20th century examples. Any mass-produced piece, which you weathervane is, made after 1920 has limited secondary market value.

In researching your piece, I found an example offered for sale at auction for $40. The $1,000 figure is way too high. My recommendation is to think $150 to $200 tops.


Rinker Enterprises and Harry L. Rinker are on the Internet. Check out his 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: http://www.harryrinker.com.

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. Photos and other material submitted cannot be returned. Send your questions to: Rinker on Collectibles, 22 Stillwater Circle, Brookfield, CT 06804. 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. 2010

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