Q & A with Harry Rinker: Tin Soldiers, M1 Helmet, Semaphore Light, ‘Family Circle’

QUESTION: I have five lead figures that my mother acquired from her grandfather when living in Macedonia around 1950. Her grandfather was born before 1890s, so the figures have to be quite old. Four figures appear to be English soldiers and one a princess dressed in a dress. Some are three-dimensional and others are flat. All are marked “Scholtz” on one side of the base with a number and letters on the other side, e.g., one is marked “sm643”. They are all in nearly perfect condition. What information can you provide about the figures and their value?

–AB, Livonia, MI, via e-mail

ANSWER: Berliner Zinnfiguren manufactured your figures. Werner Scholtz (1904-1976) founded the company in 1934—“Werner Scholtz, Fachgeschäft für Historishe Zinnsoldaten (historical tin soldiers)”— and his first shop, was located in Berlin-Charlottenburg. In 1937 the company relocated to Potsdamer Platz in Berlin and was renamed “Werner Scholtz, Herstellung Historischer Zinnfiguren (manufacturer of historical figures).” Bombs destroyed the shop in 1944 and again in 1945. The company was re-established in 1950. In 1968 it moved to its present location in Knesebeckstrasse in Berlin-Charlottenburg. When Werner Scholtz died in 1976, his son Hans-Günther Scholtz assumed control.

The Berliner Zinnfiguren web site notes: “We have designed, developed and produced approximately 1,000 different series of tin figures with themes ranging from prehistoric times to the present.” The firm also sells books dealing with military and social history.

I e-mailed the company and learned that “sm643” is still in production and lists as “Prussian Soldier, 1750.” Contact the company to identify your other figures.

I did not find a strong secondary American market for Scholtz flat or three-dimensional figures. The three-dimensional figures are worth more than the flats. My best guess is your flats are worth between $2 and $4 each, and the three-dimensional figures between $5 and $7 each.



QUESTION: While out garage sailing, I came across a metal helmet. The owner said he received it from an uncle who was in World War II. I always am skeptical about family stories. The helmet has good patina, and the wear appears right. If it is a reproduction, it is a very good one. At $45 I took a chance. I did an Internet search on Google and found www.toppots.net, a site devoted to the M1 helmet, which is what I believe I have. The site contained an extensive authentication checklist with pictures. The helmet came through with flying colors. It appears to date between 1941 and 1943 and has its liner, interior webbing, and netting. What is its value?

– IA, Toronto, Canada, via e-mail

ANSWER: Question all stories, whether provided by a family member or dealer, when buying an antique or collectible. Make the object prove to you that it is right.

The M1 helmet replaced the M1917A1 Steel helmet in 1942. Two million U.S. M-1 helmets were made during World War II, and another million were made between 1966 and 1967 for the Vietnam War. The M1 helmet was phased out in the 1980s in favor of the PASGT helmet.

The M1 helmet was a one-size-fits-all helmet. It consisted of two parts: (1) the pot or outer steel shell and (2) the liner containing the suspension system that could be adjusted to fit the soldier’s head.

Since you found your helmet in Canada, I decided to research the use of the helmet by the Canadian Armed Services. The Canadian Armed Services did not use the American M1 helmet during World War II. However, it was used by the Canadian Army from 1960 to 1997. Are you certain you have the earlier World War II model?

M1 helmets are readily available. World War II examples command a higher price than those from post-World War II and the Vietnam War. Restoration is common, especially among re-enactors.

John Graf, whose blog appears on www.militarytrader.com, earlier this year identified 14 hot militaria collecting trends, one of which was U.S. WWI and WWII painted helmets: “During WWI, steel helmets were issued without any sort of insignia. However, soldiers with too much time—and a bit of paint—created their decorations, often copying the camouflage patterns they saw on German steel helmets. By World War II, helmets were still issued without insignia, however many units specified painting instructions that troops followed. Painted helmets from either war are prime collectibles but again, exercise caution—the prices these helmets fetch provide incentive to unscrupulous modern-day painters.” While your helmet does not have a unit or other painted decoration, I wanted readers to be aware of this added value consideration. As more and more WWII veterans are dying, their gear is finding its way into the auction, flea market, and garage sale venues.

You spent your $45 wisely. The secondary market retail value of your helmet as it stands is between $175 and $225.


QUESTION: My basement contains many collector items that are gathering dust. One in particular appears to be a World War I naval semaphore light. A round cylinder with a reflector in the back is attached to a u-shaped cradle that attaches to a rod with a box. When the lid of the box is lifted, there is a signal key. The device contains a metal plate that reads: MANUFACTURED BY / THE/ NATIONAL X-RAY REFLECTOR CO. / CHICAGO, U.S.A. / TYPE B / No. 4533 / CONTRACT NO. E.F.C. / REQ’PD 3995-E/ DATE AUG. 8, 1918. What is it worth?

– DH, Vera Cruz, PA, via e-mail

ANSWER: Augustus Darwin Curtis, born in Hawley, Pa., on October 14, 1865, moved to Chicago in 1900 and shortly thereafter established the Curtis-Leger Fixture Company for which he served as president and treasurer and the National X-Ray Reflector Company for which he served as president.. Arthur J. Morgan was the secretary for both companies. A July 5, 1912, obituary noted: “Mr. Morgan was known in electrical circles through his work during the past four years in connection with commercial and technical development of indirect lighting and show-window lighting.”

The National X-Ray Reflector Company became famous for the development of a style of light reflector that promised to create less tired eyes by reducing glare. By 1916 National X-Ray reflectors were touted as producing the highest type of illumination possible. The company provided reflective lighting for a wide variety of lighting uses including banks, buildings (interior and exterior), hospitals, movie theaters, offices, schools, stages, etc.

National X-Ray Reflector Company advertised extensively in “National Geographic.” The advertisement in the July 1915 issue notes: “The efficiency of clerks, stenographers, and other employees is increased by Eye Comfort Lighting, which greatly reduces the tendency to headache and nervousness due to improper lighting.”

National X-Ray Reflector Company must have received a government contract during World War I to manufacture a ship semaphore. Your semaphore has more curiosity than collector value, albeit it certainly is a conversation piece.

Judging from the photographs that accompanied your e-mail, it has been repainted several times and is missing the front cover. As it stands, its value is between $30 and $40.


QUESTION: I own some early issues of “Family Circle” dating form 1934, 1938, 1939, 1943 and the 1950s and 60s. I bought them because the company for which I worked advertised in them. Several early issues feature covers with images of Robert Montgomery (1934), Carole Lombard (1938), Maureen O’Sullivan (1938), Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. (1939), Margaret Lockwood (1939), Katharine Cornell (1943) and Mickey Rooney (1943). Do they have any value?

– GE, Ephrata, PA, via e-mail

ANSWER: “Family Circle” magazine began as a store-distributed magazine by Piggly Wiggly in 1932 and remained so until 1946. Eventually, it expanded its circulation to the checkout counter areas in other grocery stores. Cowles Magazines and Broadcasting bought “Family Circle” in 1962, selling it to The New York Times Company in 1972. The New York Times Company sold its woman’s magazine division to Gruner + Jarh in 1994, who sold “Family Circle” to Meredith Corporation in 2005. The magazine is now one of the famous “seven sisters” at Meredith, the others being “Better Homes and Gardens,” “Good Housekeeping,” “Ladies’ Home Journal,” “McCall’s,” “Redbook” and “Woman’s Day.”

Value for old copies rests with the cover art and full page, color advertising. Most copies sell in the fifty-cent to one-dollar range. The Carole Lombard cover is worth around $10 and the Mickey Rooney cover around $5. Demand for the other actors’ and actresses’ magazine covers is minimal. Few under the age of 50 know who Katharine Cornell and Margaret Lockwood were.


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 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. 2009

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