Q & A with Harry Rinker: He-Man Poster, Micro Altimeter, L. Jambor Print

QUESTION: I have a 32-inch-by-23-inch Masters of the Universe poster. Two notations on the bottom read: “Mattel 1984 Hawthorne, Ca.” and “Mattel 1984 Filmation.” Some of the characters pictured on the poster are He-Man, Jitsu, Man of Arms, Orko and Roton. The colors remain strong. The poster is in excellent condition and is framed. Is there any interest in an item like this?

– JB, Bethlehem, PA, via e-mail

ANSWER: Mattel launched its Masters of the Universe (MOTU)—also referred to as He-Man—action figures in the fall of 1981. Some sources cite early 1982 as the start date. Donald F. Glut is responsible for the storyline. Although Roger Sweet claims credit as the designer of He-Man and the other action figures, Mattel refuses to acknowledge his contribution. Minicomics chronicling the history of each character accompanied each action figure. Minicomics from the first series are highly desirable.

Collectors divide MOTU material into five groups: (1) the Mineternia era, items issued before the cartoon series; (2) licensed product associated with the early cartoon series “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” (1983-1985) and “She-Ra: Princes of Power” (1985); (3) The Powers of Grayskull licensed material; (4) memorabilia associated with the 1987 movie; and (5) products associated with the 2002 He-Man re-launch. DC Comics published traditional comic books in support of the cartoon series.

“He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” blazed new territory in the Saturday morning cartoon world. First, although He-Man, a muscular superhero, was limited in the use of his sword for maiming and killing, he was allowed to hit the other characters. Second, the cartoon’s primary purpose was to support Mattel’s toy line, considered a taboo by many in the television industry at the time. The cartoons were also one of the first series produced for syndication, as opposed to being funded by a network.

The MOTU story is convoluted, changing somewhat arbitrarily from cartoon series to cartoon series and comic book to comic book. Inconsistencies did not seem to bother MOTU fans.

Mark Bellomo’s “Totally Tubular ’80s Toys” (KP [Krause Publications], 2010) reports the Mattel MOTU toy line endured “for six full series of release: 69 total action figures, 12 vehicles, 16 creatures, 6 playsets, and 16 accessories.” Obviously, there were paper items such as your poster that did not make Mark’s list.

Orko, a magician who shares He-Man’s secret, did not appear until the “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” cartoon series. The 1984 date and Filmation credit line further confirm that your poster relates to this cartoon.

America became collectibles conscious in 1980. Collectors began buying new material and hoarding it, speculating that prices would escalate in the years and decades ahead. The treasure trove of saved material is so rich that supply usually exceeds demand.

This is the case for your poster. Several copies appear for sale on eBay each month. Recently, one copy sold for $6.05 and another for $9.99. Add $5 more for shipping and handling. Several examples offered for sale failed to attract a bit.

There is a bittersweet truth in the answer to your question. There is demand. The only problem is that the amount collectors and others are willing to pay is minimal.


TRIVIA QUIZ: What did Prince Adam say to transform himself into He-Man, “The Most Powerful Man in the Universe”?


QUESTION: I own a Micro altimeter. It is six inches in diameter and five inches tall. The instructions indicated it is accurate up to 5,000 feet above and 300 feet below sea level. What is its value?

– B, Jackson, MS

ANSWER: Although you do not indicate who made your altimeter, my research indicates that it is most likely made by American Paulin System. The company, located in Cottonwood, Ariz., continues to make surveying altimeters. A new Micro Altimeter lists at $1,065 and a Terra Altimeter at $980.

I cite these numbers because your altimeter has more reuse than collectible value. “Cheaper than new” is a hallmark catch phrase in today’s antiques and collectibles business. Normally, the resale ratio is between 10 to 20 cents of the retail price. This suggests a secondary market resale price between $100 and $200.

A vintage—meaning 1950s or 1960s in this instance—American Paulin altimeter sold on eBay for $135.39 plus shipping and handling. A second example failed to meet its reserve at $52.77. The seller had a Buy-It-Now price of $400.

In researching the secondary market value of your altimeter, I found an eBay listing for a 1950 print advertisement for an American Paulin System “New Surveying Micro Altimeter.” The illustration in the print advertisement matches your description. The seller is asking $10 plus $2.95 for shipping.

Your altimeter falls within the scientific instrument collecting category. I occasionally encounter scientific instrument dealers at antiques shows. While I do not remember seeing any altimeters in their booths, it is because I was not looking. In order to see something, you have to look for it is a truism in the antiques and collectibles trade.

Think conservatively. The value of your altimeter is between $85 and $100.


QUESTION: I found an oil painting in a cubbyhole in my attic. It features three women in Colonial-era garb. One is playing the piano, the second holds a violin, and the third has a sheet of music in her hand. The painting is signed “L. Jambor.” I researched Jambor online. He was born in Hungary and immigrated to the United States. He spent time in Florida, other Southern states and New York. He painted a series of 26 Art Deco style murals for The New Yorker hotel. He also was a book illustrator, doing the drawings that appeared in the 1947 edition of Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women.” Is this painting worth anything?

– RG, Bethlehem, PA, via e-mail

ANSWER: You own a print, not the period painting. The three pictures that accompanied your e-mail provided enough information for me to reach this decision.

The image is a typical 1920s Colonial household scene. The setting varied from the living room to the kitchen with its walk-in fireplace. Wallace Nutting and his contemporaries produced photograph images that mimicked these calendar and wall prints.

The detail of the signature shows a thick varnish was applied to the print to create the impression of brush strokes, a typical 1920s-30s practice. There is no correlation between the varnish brush strokes and the brush strokes of the period painting. Printing on textured surfaces to simulate canvas also was common during this period.

Whenever someone finds something in the attic, there usually is a good reason for it being there. In the case of your print, its image went out of fashion. Chances are the print was placed in the attic in the 1950s or at the latest in the 1960s.

The print does retain its period painted gold frame. Its primary value is decorative rather than collectible. In the North, its secondary market retail value is between $35 and $45. In the South, the value increases to $65 to $75. The theme has more appeal in this region.


QUESTION: My grandmother sold Avon back in the 1920s. I have her sales catalog. Is it worth anything?

– HT, via e-mail

ANSWER: If it is right, it is worth a small fortune. Alas, something is amiss.

David McConnell founded the California Perfume Company in 1886. The company was incorporated on Jan. 28, 1915. The company continued to sell its products using the California Perfume Company name throughout the 1920s. The first commercial use of Avon occurred on Sept. 1, 1929. The company filed for a trademark on June 3, 1932. The California Perfume Company became Avon Products, Inc. in Oct. 1939.

Although the Avon collector base has shrunk considerably, there remains a dedicated group of hardcore collectors. An early 1930s Avon product catalog would easily bring one hundred dollars or more

Based on my research, a 1920s catalog is an impossibility. If your catalog has a 1920s copyright, please make a photocopy of the cover and title page and send them to me. Experience has taught me that the impossible is sometimes possible.


TRIVIA QUIZ ANSWER: “By the power of Grayskull! I have power!”


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.

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