Q & A with Harry Rinker: Rin Tin Tin, Cola-Cola Poster, Collector Plates
QUESTION: I own a wood plaque featuring a hand-carved image of Rin Tin Tin that measures approximately 7 inches by 3 ½ inches. Rin Tin Tin looks more like a wolf than a German shepherd, one of the n’s in his name is carved backward, and “Andenken,” “Wien D. P. Camp,” and initials—possibly those of the carver—also appear on the plaque. I assume it was made in the months/years immediately following World War II in a displaced persons camp located near Vienna. I would like more information about it.
– KT, Adamstown, PA, via e-mail
ANSWER: Mention Rin Tin Tin and the first image that comes to my mind is “The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin,” a 166-episode television show that aired on ABC between Oct. 15, 1954 and May 8, 1959. The show starred Lee Aeker as Rusty and James Brown as Lt. Ripley “Rip” Masters. “The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin” was ABC’s answer to CBS’s “Lassie.”
Rin Tin Tin’s history begins near the end of World War I. Lee Duncan, an American serviceman, found a litter of shell-shocked five-day old German shepherd pups in a bombed-out dog kennel in Lorraine, France on Sept. 15, 1918. Betty des Flandres was the mother, Fritz de la Chasse Royale was the father. Duncan adopted a male and female, naming them Rintintin and Nanette after children’s puppets.
Duncan received permission to bring the dogs to the United States. Nanette became ill during the ocean voyage and died shortly after arrival. In February 1922, following an unsanctioned two-day Shepherd Dog Club of America show, Charles Jones made a film of Rin Tin Tin, which he then sold to the Novograph Picture Company. The company offered Duncan $350 to shoot a second film. Duncan’s initial attempts to locate a studio to star Rin Tin Tin in feature films failed. Eventually, he encountered a Warner Brothers crew trying to shoot a scene with a very uncooperative wolf. Duncan convinced them to use Rin Tin Tin instead. When Rin Tin Tin died on August 10, 1932, he had appeared in 26 pictures. At his peak, he received 10,000 fan letters a week. Rin Tin Tin silent films, such as “Where the North Begins” (1923), “Shadows of the North” (1923), “Clash of the Wolves” (1925), “A Dog of the Regiment” (1927), and “Tiger Rose” (1929) received worldwide distribution, including Germany.
TRIVA QUIZ: Rin Tin Tin is reputed to have died in the arms of what famous Hollywood actress? (answer below)
Duncan toured during the 1930s with Rin Tin Tin Junior. During World War II, he and Rin Tin Tin III worked with the U.S. Army at Camp Hahn to train German shepherds for wartime use. After the war, Duncan worked to untrain the dogs and return them to civilian life. The Rin Tin Tin bloodline survives today thanks to the efforts of Lee Duncan, Jannettia Brodsgaard Propps and Daphne Hereford.
The Russians captured Vienna in a fierce battle in the first half of April 1945. Following the war, Austria was declared a “neutral” country. Displaced person camps were created in Austria, Great Britain and West Germany for WWII refugees, primarily from Eastern Europe, and many of whom were Jewish.
I have handled dozens of prisoner-of war-artifacts, some dating as early as the Napoleonic War, during my career. My favorites are from the WWII German POW camps that were scattered along the West Coast and throughout the Southwestern and Midwest U.S.
POWs and displaced persons had plenty of leisure time. Many traded handmade products, paintings and artwork for cigarettes, food and other supplies. Chances of identifying the carver of your plaque are miniscule. Based on your description, the individual was talented. Hence, your plaque is not the only one that he made. How it came to the United States is and likely will remain a mystery.
There are multiple buyers for your plaque. Its value to a German shepherd or a WWII displaced person artwork collector is between $35 and $45. Add another 10 to 15 dollars if sold to a folk-art collector. A Rin Tin Tin collector would pay $50 or more, but only if facing strong competition from another collector.
QUESTION: We own a 1910 Coca-Cola advertising poster showing a young lady wearing a duster and sitting at the wheel of a car with a bottle of Coca-Cola in her right hand. “Drink the Best” is printed across the top. Printed in the lower left corner is a diamond-shaped advertisement for Goldelle Ginger Ale, another Coca-Cola product. Our research only uncovered reproductions. We believe our example is period, coming out of a box of belongings bought near Kutztown, Pa. It is beautiful, but is it worth keeping, especially if it is a reproduction?
– D&RO, Anderson, CA, via e-mail
ANSWER: Early 20th-century Coca-Cola posters were lithographs, i.e., printed by layering one color on top of another. Using a five- to ten-power loupe, examine the image. If it breaks into dots, it is a reproduction. If the colors are solid, it is a lithograph, albeit not necessarily period. The lithograph printing process is still used today.
The colors need to be extremely bright. Early lithograph dyes retain their period colors. If there is mellowing, it must be very slight. The lines between colors need to be sharp and distinct. If the lines are fuzzy (one color blending into another) or there is an overall softness to the print, this is a negative.
I checked the reproductions, most of which dated from the 1970s and 1980s. While I found the image, I did not find an exact reproduction of your poster. This is a good sign. The image on your poster first appeared as a postcard sometime between 1911 and 1913. Again, the postcards did not contain the “Drink the Best” slogan. Collectors refer to the image as the Duster/Motor Girl.
I researched the slogan “Drink the Best.” The phrase was part of a longer slogan in 1913. However, I did not find the exact phrase listed on any Coca-Cola advertising slogan website or home page. This is troubling. In the good news department, I did not find it on any of the reproductions, either. I found a few references to Godelle Ginger Ale, but would have been happier had I found more.
An article in “Antiques and the Arts” reporting on Randy Inman’s Oct. 12-14, 2001 auction notes:
“a very rare 1913 soft drink ad jointly promoting Coca-Cola and Goldelle Ginger Ale took $7,700, a fine result for a paper roll-down sign.”
This example was in fine condition. The photographs attached to your e-mail indicate your example has water stains, especially noticeable along the bottom portion of the left and right edges. As a result, it is in fair condition at best.
I e-mailed the photograph of your poster William Bateman and Randy Schaeffer, two Coca-Cola collectors who live near Kutztown. Bill responded: “It appears to be period, but of course, damaged significantly. As you know condition means a lot in today’s market. We have one of the Duster Girl posters without the ginger ale marking in near perfect shape. Allan Petretti puts posters in mint condition from that time period from $4,000 to $7,000. With the damage, I could cut that number by half or more.”
Assuming it stands the test I have given you and turns out to be period, it certainly is worth keeping. Given its value, consider taking it to a paper conservator to see if you can have the water stains lessened. Make certain the paper conservator is a member of American Institute of Conservators. Ask to see credentials and examples of work completed.
QUESTION: Is it safe to eat off collector plates? I relish the idea of eating off these tacky items.
– BM, via e-mail
ANSWER: Collector plates, also known as collection edition plates, were manufactured for display purposes. I do not recall in advertising or the literature that accompanied them the suggestion that they also had a functional use as dinnerware.
Here are three considerations before adopting a “why not” approach. First, they may not be dishwasher safe. Manufacturers expected them to be dusted not washed. Second, modern knife blades, especially those with serrated edges, may damage the glaze. Third, the glaze most likely has a high lead content, albeit I have no proof.
Your proposal has a sense of practicality and humor. After all, a plate is a plate is a plate. Functionally, there is no reason why you cannot use them for eating purposes. The thought of cutting a medium rare steak resting on top of Vivien Leigh or another “Gone with the Wind” series collector plate has appeal.
When confronted with a collector plate at an appraisal clinic, my stock questions is: “Do you like to play Frisbee?” Now I will start saying: “If all else fails, you always can eat off of it.”
QUESTION: I have my aunt’s collection of old plaster food productions, ranging from meats, such as steaks and bacon, to milk bottles and cartoons of eggs. They are at least 50 years old. I have no idea how she acquired them, but suspect they were used as display items for some food related businesses. What are they worth?
– PS, via e-mail
ANSWER: You have fake (faux) food props, a business which is alive, well and thriving. Do a Google “fake food props” search.
Fake food props are used in interior design displays, film, television, theater, trade shows, restaurants, stores and dozens of other areas. Just Dough It! offers artificial food that “looks good enough to eat” in categories such as breads and cheeses, breakfast foods and beverages, cakes, cupcakes and tarts, Christmas specials, cookies and donuts, fruits and vegetables, ice cream, popcorn, specials, spills and novelties, tea and others beverages, and wine, beers and mixed drinks.
Your examples are primitive compared to modern day examples. Yet, their very crudeness makes them fun. Value for individual pieces will range from $4-$5 to $12-$15, the higher values for those pieces with the greatest conversation/fun value.
TRIVIA QUIZ ANSWER: Jean Harlow.
Rinker Enterprises and Harry L. Rinker are on the Internet. Check out his Web site.
You can listen and participate in “WHATCHA GOT?,” Harry’s antiques-and-collectibles radio call-in show 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 letters 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, 5093 Vera Cruz Road, Emmaus, PA 18049. You also can e-mail your questions to email@example.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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