Q & A with Harry Rinker: Thimble-Drome Airplane, Rushton Plush Bunny Rabbit

QUESTION: I own a Thimble-Drome TD-1 airplane, with Thimble-Drome “Space-Bug” engine. It came partially assembled. The engine is still in its period packaging. Promotion literature inside the box indicates the airplane is the “very finest ready-to-fly airplane that can be purchased anywhere.” I also have the operating and care instructions. The box was shipped from Santa Ana, California. I also own a Thimble-Drome “Water Wizard” speed boat described as a “Hydroplane Racer with Instant Starting Thimble-Drome .049 Engine.” This toy is new and in its period box. What is the value of my toys and where can I sell them?

– CB, via e-mail

Harry RinkerANSWER: Roy Cox, a machinist living in Placentia, California, founded the L. M. Cox Manufacturing Co., Inc., in 1945. Cox, who received his mechanical training hanging around his father’s bicycle shop, first made wooden pop guns. Within a few years, he expanded production to include a tethered cast-aluminum midget racer powered by a .15 Cameron Brothers engine. By the mid-1950s, the Cox line included miniature tethered airplanes, boats, cars and racers powered by internal combustions engines. The engines were able to achieve speeds of up to 100 miles per hour.

Cox retired from the company in 1969, selling to Leisure Dynamics, a hobby conglomerate. When Leisure Dynamics faced bankruptcy in 1983, William Selzer, the engineer who designed the “Baby Bee” .049 air engine, and a second investor bought the company, renaming it Cox Hobbies. When Estes Industries purchased Cox Hobbies in 1996, Estes moved Cox’s manufacturing operations from California to Colorado.

While the information you provided appears complete, it is not. You failed to identify the model kit number. Cox introduced the TD-1, its first ready-to-fly plane, in June 1953. Model #400 came fully assembled and ready to fly. It sold for $19.95. Model #450, a build-it-yourself kit which included the engine, retailed for $15.95. Model #475, a build-it-yourself kit without the motor, cost $9.95. All three kits featured planes with aluminum wings. Body color schemes included blue, red and yellow. Between 1956 and 1959, the Model #401 “Skymaster” had a white body with color stripes on the tail and aluminum wings. It was powered by a .049 Space Bug engine.

The Water Wizard, Cox’s first speed boat, was made between 1956 and 1959. It was powered by a .040 Babe Bee engine. Again, the Water Wizard was available fully assembled (Model #5000) or in kit form (Model #A17 or Model #A18). It was available in two color schemes—yellow with red checkerboard or red with black checkerboard.

There is a dedicated group of collectors for Cox vehicles, especially those made prior to the 1970s. You own some of the earliest models made, a very desirable position in which to find yourself.

Each month eBay listings contain around 250 Cox items, approximately one-tenth of the listing are from the early period. Recently an early .049 Space Bug engine sold for $150.

Conservatively, your Thimble Drome TD-1 airplane and Water Wizard speed boat kits are worth a minimum of $250 each. Additional value above this amount depends on model type and condition.

Given the strong values on eBay, this is an obvious sales source. If there is a model airplane club in your community, check it out. Many members love to fly earlier models. Finally, in this age of private treaty sales, chances are I will receive an e-mail from a reader who is ready to step forth as a willing buyer.


QUESTION: When my brother and I were young, we received identical plush toy bunny rabbits. The face was rubber and cute in appearance. I think Rushton was the manufacturer. I still have my bunny rabbit, but my brother’s rabbit disappeared. I would like to find one and surprise him with it as a gift.

– LVG, Danbury, Con., via e-mail

ANSWER: Mary Rushton, an Atlanta resident, founded The Rushton Company in 1917. Her daughter Wight Rushton designed many of the company’s products. The company ceased operations in 1983.

Rushton produced several lines of toys. Atlantaantiquegallery.com notes: “The At-Play toys were one of the most collectible lines produced by Rushton. The toys are made of the finest rayon & plush material, stuffed with clean top grade cotton, eyes were sewed in and did not pull out, and hand embroidered noses, felt tongues & large satin bows.

“Rushton’s Star Creation toy line were (sic.) painted, rubbed faced animals and dolls. They were made from the 1950’s – 1960’s. It was one of their most popular toy lines.”

I also found several listings for wooden toys.

Rushton made several varieties of “Star Creation” bunny rabbits. There also were body color variations within each style. The good news is that you still have your bunny rabbit to use as a comparison. When doing the comparison, make certain that every details from face design to height checks out as identical.

My research found there were dozens of Rushton lookalike bunny rabbits. If the identification tag is missing on your bunny rabbit, it is not safe to assume it is a Rushton. Many parents bought lookalikes, knowing their children would not be able to tell the difference, because they were cheaper.

An eBay advanced search for “Rushton + bunny” produced more than a dozen listings of Rushton and Rushton lookalike rabbits. While you may not find an identical copy of your bunny rabbit listed this week, you will eventually.

If your research indicates that Rushton did make your bunny rabbit, do not buy one missing its identification tag or in less than very good condition. Wait until a quality example appears.

While the standard closing price for a Rushton bunny rabbit in very good condition is between $30 and $35, plus shipping, some examples sell for more. Advice to be patient and wait until you find an example at a modest price is likely to go unheeded. Once you have found the rabbit you want, bid to win. As a one-time buyer, you may skew the final price, but this is a small price to pay against the time and effort you will have to expend in order to save a few dollars. Good luck with your hunt.


QUESTION: Twenty years ago, when I lived in Michigan, I purchased postcards featuring images of early 20th-century logging camps and operations, taken by traveling photographers. The scenes show loggers at work and at ease. Some pictures include their pets and hunting trophies. I have since moved to Virginia and want to sell these postcards. What are they worth and where can I get the best price?

– RM, Glen Allen, Va., via e-mail

ANSWER: The first thing you need to do is divide the cards between real photo postcards and commercially printed images. Traveling photographers often used post card paper to print their images. These postcards were printed in low numbers compared to the commercially printed postcards.

Divide each of these two piles into two additional piles: (1) identified and (2) unidentified scenes. Separate out the cards with images that prominently feature a pet. Animal postcard images are “hot” at the moment.

Ask A WorthologistMany of the images, if not all, are located in northern Midwest states. As with many regional collectibles, their highest value is in the area of their origin. One can count the number of logger postcard collectors in Virginia on one hand, maybe even one finger.

Postcards sell well on eBay. Spend a few weeks researching how similar cards are offered (individually or in lots) and prices realized. Consider selling postcards with crossover value, value to someone other than a collector of logger postcards, individually.

Also, obtain a copy of “Barr’s Postcard News.” This periodical contains dealer advertisements and information about regional postcard clubs. If you have a pictorial list of your cards, send it to the regional clubs and inquire if a member might be willing to make an offer on the collection.

As with any collection, you need to be concerned about having the collection “cherry picked,” meaning a buyer purchases the best cards and leaves you stuck with the poorer, more difficult to sell cards. This is why a collection or lot approach works best. The buyer has to bid/pay enough to get the card he wants by also buying the lesser cards.


QUESTION: I purchased a copy of John Henry Bartlett’s “Spice and Speeches,” published by M. A. Donohue & Co. of Chicago and New York in 1926, for 50 cents at a local book fair. The book measures 4 ½ inches x 6 ½ inches. The title is in a gold-lined rectangle on the cover. What is its value?

– LK, Hannibal, Mo.

ANSWER: Abebooks.com, my favorite source for the secondary market value of books, lists two copies of “Spice and Speeches,” one for $10 and the other for $24.53. Obviously, neither sold or they would not still be listed.

The small number of listings and low price indicate that the demand for this title is minimal. Realistically, the 50 cents you paid was a fair price. A bookseller would price the book between $5 and $10 and accept any reasonable counteroffer

This is a case where reading the book has far more value than its resale.


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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