Q & A with Harry Rinker: Coque d’Or Perfume Bottle, Coins’ Metal Worth, Tin Toy Airplane
QUESTION: I am curious about a perfume bottle that I have had for many years. It is dark blue (cobalt) glass. It has a central vertical, slightly bulbous, rectangular core flanked by a vertical wing-like oval on each side. The sides and half-dome top are gold lacquered. “Coque D’OR” is on one side and “Guerlain” on the back. The “BACCARAT / MADE IN FRANCE” circle mark is on the base. The bottle is full. The stopper is stuck in the bottle, which has protected the liquid. The small dome cap is loose but can be easily reattached. What can you tell me about my perfume bottle?
– DA, Ellensburg, Wash., via e-mail
ANSWER: Jacques Guerlain (1874-1963) created “Coque d’Or,” a leathery iris scent with an oak moss base, in 1937. Jean Michel Frank (1895-1941) designed the bottle produced by Baccarat.
Jacques Guerlain, a nephew of Aimé Guerlain, was a member of the third generation of perfumers that descended from Pierre-François-Pascal Guerlain, who founded Guerlain in 1826. Jacques was the third master perfumer for the company. Jacques created “Ambre,” his first perfume, when he was 16 years old. He formulated more than 400 different scents, many variations of a few basic scents and most forgotten, during his career. His most famous scents include: “Après L’Ondée” (1906), “Eau de Coq” (1894), “L’Heure Bleue” (1912), “Mitsouko” (1919), “Mouchoir de Monsieur” (1904), and “Shalimar” (1925).
Jacques Guerlain earned a reputation for being obsessed with completeness, detail and polish. Because many of the scents he created were launched almost immediately upon completion, he accepted failure gracefully. Today, Guerlain still produces perfumes featuring six of Jacques Guerlain’s scent formulas.
Jean Michel Frank, a minimalist French interior designer, served as a decorator for Guerlain, designing the interiors of several of the company’s boutiques. After traveling through Europe and meeting Stravinsky and Diaghilev, Frank taught students at the Paris Atelier in the early 1930s. Along with Chanaux, he opened his first shop in 1932. His clients included the Rockefellers and Guerlains. He left France for Argentina in the 1940s, eventually working his way to New York. In 1941, overcome by depression, he committed suicide by jumping from a window in a Manhattan apartment building.
An example of your bottle in its period box sold at Christie’s in Paris for $14,199 in late March 2011. This is the good news. The bad news is that examples without the box appear regularly for sale on eBay and at auction. WorthPoint’s Worthodedia records two examples selling on eBay, the first in November 2010 for $182.50 and the second in October 2008 for $154.02.
Based on my analysis of market prices, the value for your example is around $200.
QUESTION: Given the current high prices of copper, gold and silver, more and more individuals are selling U.S. coins for their melt value. I thought it was illegal to deface American currency. Is not melting coins defacing them? Can you clarify this?
– JH, Hellertown, Pa., via e-mail
ANSWER: What appears to be a simple question is somewhat complex. “Melt value” is a marketing concept used to set the secondary market value for objects made from gold or silver such as coins, flatware and decorative accessories. While melt value suggests the possibility of melting, if it occurs, it happens later.
The U.S. Code, Title 18, Part I, Chapter 17, § 331 Mutilation, diminution and falsification of coins reads:
“Whoever fraudulently alters, defaces, mutilates, impairs, diminishes, falsifies, scales, or lightens any of the coins coined at the mints of the United States, or any foreign coins which are by law made current or are in actual use or circulation as money within the United States; or
“Whoever fraudulently possesses, passes, utters, publishes or sells or attempts to pass, utter, publish, or sell, or bring into the United States, any such coin, knowing the same to be altered, defaced, mutilated, impaired, diminished, falsified, scaled, or lightened—
“Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.”
The key word is fraudulent. This law applies to individuals who alter the date, mint mark or in any other way change a U.S. coin. It does not apply to individuals who sell coins for melt value.
Selling coins for melt value and melting coins are two very different acts. If someone attempts to smelt a collection of American silver coins in a fondue pot on their kitchen stove or a pan on their outdoor barbeque, they should have their head examined.
First, the silver content of U.S. coins minted before the clad era is between 79 and 80 percent silver, a far cry from the 99.9 percent silver required for silver ingots. Second, an amateur home smelter does not possess the necessary equipment to remove the non-silver components. Any attempt to smelt at home does more harm than good.
The threat of a mass-melting of coins for their metal value raises concern about coin shortages. In 2006, the rise in the value of copper and zinc made pre-1982 pennies and nickels worth more than their face value based solely upon the melt value of the metal. Worried about supply and replacement costs, the U.S. Mint passed new rules making it illegal to melt pennies and nickels and to export them for such purposes. Previously, it was not illegal to melt coins.
While silver refiners have been melting coins for decades, the average individual does not own enough silver coinage to attract refiners’ attention. However, coin dealers and other consortiums, such as bulk buyers of silver flatware, can amass sufficient quantity to sell to refiners. This is why coin dealers and others buy silver coinage at “x” times face, “x” being reflected by the price of gold or silver at a specific moment in time.
An individual selling to a buyer and not a refiner is not breaking any laws. Responsibility ends once the gold or silver is sold. The new owner decides the material’s final destiny.
QUESTION: I purchased at auction a battery-powered tin airplane made in Japan by Line Mar Toys. The airplane is decorated with American Airlines colors and “Jet-Powered Electra Flagship” appears aft of the fuselage. The wing span is approximately 19 3/8 inches. The length of the fuselage is 17 ½ inches. The plane and battery compartment are in very good condition. What can you tell me about it?
– M, Reading, Pa., via e-mail
ANSWER: Line Mar was a manufacturing and import subsidiary of Louis Marx & Company. Louis Marx & Company made toys between 1919 and 1978. The company’s American plants were located in Erie and Girard, Pa., and Glen Dale, W.V.
Following World War II, Marx produced many of its mechanical and battery-operated toys in Japan as a means of reducing production costs. The product line included character toys such as The Flintstones and Popeye, space and robot toys, and transportation toys such as your airplane. Line Mar ceased operations in the 1960s.
American Airlines ordered 35 Lockheed Model 188 (the Electra) aircraft in June 1955. Eastern Airlines followed with an order for 40 planes in September. The planes entered service in January 1959. The Electra had four wing-mounted Allison 501-D13 engines. The passenger configuration ranged from 66 to 80 in a mixed-class arrangement and 98 in a high-density configuration.
American, Braniff, Eastern and Northwest were among the American airlines that used the Electra. Two crashes (September 1959 and March 1960) resulted in a major redesign of the engine mount. The airline industry lost confidence in the plane. Production ended in 196l after 170 plans had been built.
In addition to an American Airlines and Northwest Airlines battery-operated Electra toy, Line Mar made friction models of an American Airlines and National Airlines DC-7. While I confirmed the DC-7 friction planes came in a decorative period box, I was not able to determine if the same was true for the battery-operated examples. Value for your American Airlines Electra in working order and in very good condition is between $175 and $200.
QUESTION: I own two horse-drawn vehicles. Local Amish craftsmen restored the wheels. Where can I find information about their value?
– EO, Westport, Ind.
ANSWER: Auction catalogs with prices realized are the best sources of information. Two recommendations for cataloged auctions are: Martin Auctioneers (PO Box 99, New Holland, PA 17557) and Topeka Livestock Auctions (PO Box 279; Topeka, IN 46571).
Several sellers of antique horse-drawn vehicles have their own websites. Three examples are Frey Carriage Company, Petticoat Junction Horse and Carriage, and Shady Lane Wagons.
Remember two things. First, auction prices include the commission charged by the auctioneer and the buyer’s penalty. Second, asking prices are often different from actual selling prices.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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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