Q & A with Harry Rinker: Silver-Plated Tea Set, Cox Model Planes, Bud Abbot Signature

QUESTION: I am 88 years old and facing a decision about what to do with my mother’s silver-plated tea service. None of the kids want it. The set consists of an 18-inch by 12-inch tray, teapot, cream pitcher and covered sugar dish. Marks on the bottom include “Pairpoint,” W M Mounts,” “0319,” “E.P.N.S.,” and the letter “P” in a diamond. The tray has an engraved design and beading somewhat similar to that on the pitcher and other containers. I do not want it but feel it is more than a garage sale item. What is your advice?

– BA, Ariz., via e-mail

ANSWER: You are not alone. This is a universal problem. Children and grandchildren have little interest in things that need polishing or cannot be placed in a dishwasher.

Because your tea service is “electroplated nickel silver,” it has no metallic melt value. Can the surface still be polished to the point where no blemishes or defects can be seen? If the answer is yes, there is a modicum of hope. If the answer is no, a garage sale is the final step before sending it to the landfill.

If the service can hold a polish, it has reuse value. List it on Craigslist. Success in selling depends entirely on the asking price. Remembering the kids do not want it and any money is better than no money, ask around $50. Take any offer reasonable or otherwise that materializes.

Consider donating the tea set to a charitable auction held by a 501(c)3 [non-profit] organization in your community. The IRS does not require a donation acknowledgment letter for gifts valued under $500.

If you have a sense of humor and are not concerned about upsetting people, you have a wedding gift for a grandchild or distant family member. Include a history of the service and tell the new owner how thrilled you are to pass it along to someone who will cherish it as much as you did.

The “0319” is Pairpoint’s pattern number for the service. To make certain my advice was correct, I did a Google search of “Pairpoint +0319.” I found a three-piece service that sold at auction for $15. Another set offered for auction had a starting bid of $70 and an estimate of $140 to $160. I was not able to determine the final hammer price. A five-piece set containing number “0319” is offered on Ruby Lane for $160.

Finally, while I would like to soapbox and deliver a “shame on you” speech to your children, I will not. When my mother died, I did not keep her silver-plated tea service because I had no desire to polish it. I made the decision in 1977 and have no regrets to this day.


QUESTION: I recently acquired six (6) Showcase Cox Miniatures – 3001 Curtis Hawk, 3002 Grumman F3F-3, 3003 Boeing F4B-4, 3004 Boeing P-26A, 3005 The Spirit of St. Louis and 3006 Winnie May. The scale is 1/100. The planes are plastic and in their period packaging. In addition, I acquired one Bachmann mini-plane. Do these planes hold any interest for collectors?

– AH, via e-mail

ANSWER: When I think of Cox Models, my thoughts turned to miniature model internal combustion engines and tethered airplanes and cars. I sometimes forget that toy manufacturers constantly add to their product line to keep abreast of market trends.

Roy Cox founded The L. M. Cox Manufacturing Company, Inc., in 1945. A wooden pop gun was his first product. As metals became available for domestic manufacture after the Second World War, Cox began marketing a cast-aluminum, tethered midget racer featuring a Cameron Brothers 0.15 engine. Cox moved from Placentia to Santa Ana, California in 1963. HO scale model trains and a line of rockets became part of the company’s product line. When Cox retired in 1969, he sold his company to Leisure Dynamics, a hobby conglomerate.

Showcase Cox Miniatures date from the late 1960s or early 1970s. At first, I was concerned these were manufactured by different companies. However, images of packaged examples on the Internet clearly show the Cox logo.

The 1/100 scale models featured authentic insignias, moveable control surfaces, and propellers that spin. The back of the packaging contained data and other information relating to the aircraft. The interior surface of the base cardboard tray of the window box contained a landscape or aerial scene. These fragile planes were designed for display rather than play.

Bachmann mini-planes also date from the 1970s. They were plastic and made in Hong Kong, most likely the origin of the Showcase Cox Miniatures as well. It is not clear if the Bachmann mini-planes preceded or copied the Showcase Cox Miniatures.

The low cost of the Showcase Cox Miniatures and the Bachmann mini-planes made them popular collectibles of their era. Since the packaging enhanced the plane’s display appeal, many planes were never removed from their box. More than 75 percent of the examples found for sale on the Internet remain in their period box.

Examples of Showcase Cox Miniatures in their period box in very good or better condition retail between $10 and $12. Examples occasionally sell for less on eBay. Bachmann mini-planes usually bring $5 to $8.


QUESTION: I have an old silver certificate that belonged to my great Aunt Lydia. It is autographed on the back: “To Lydia / Your Pal / Bud Abbott.” She must have encountered Abbot at an event and had him sign it. What is it worth?

– DM, via e-mail

ANSWER: Authentication is a critical issue when dealing with autographs. Fraudulent autographs are rampant. Although you have no proof to support your theory of origin, the fact that the bill was folded and retained as a keepsake provides a provenance to support the possibility the signature is authentic. Using the photographs attached to your e-mail to determine the age of the bill and its aging characteristics, I am assuming the Abbott signature is authentic.

Your question is intriguing because it raises the issue of multiple values. First, your one-dollar bill is from the 1899 series and contains the Parker-Burke signature combination. The 1899-style large size bill lasted until 1923. “The Standard Catalog of United States Paper Money, 28th Edition” (Krause Publications, 2009), edited by George S. Cuhaj, books an example in fine condition at $175. Your bill is heavily used and has multiple folds and creases. I grade it between fair and good condition. It is worth more than its $1 face value; $25 and $35 is a conservative estimate.

Second, the signature alone has value. Bud Abbott (Oct. 2, 1896 to April 24, 1974) was born into a circus family. His father Harry was an advance man and his mother Rae was a bareback rider for Barnum and Bailey. After marrying Betty Smith, a burlesque dancer and comedienne in 1918, Abbott and his wife created Broadway Flashes and toured on the Gus Sun Vaudeville Circuit. Abbot did not meet Lou Costello until the early 1930s.

While it is quite possible that your Aunt Lydia had an older bill in her pocketbook when she encountered Bud Abbot, if is far more likely that Abbott signed the bill prior to his association with Lou Costello. If the signature dates from Abbott’s pre-Abbott and Costello career, its value increases.

You own a “clipped” signature. Normally, the term refers to a signature clipped (cut) from a document or signed on a blank sheet of paper. While your bill is not a blank sheet, collectors treat it as such.

Bud Abbott, as well as Lou Costello, was an extremely generous signer. Each understood the value of fans, even early in their careers. Hence, their signatures abound in the marketplace.

A conservative value for your Bud Abbott autographed bill is around $500. This value can be enhanced by obtaining a black and white photograph of Bud Abbott during his early vaudeville days and having the bill and photo dual-mounted in an acid free mat and placed in an attractive frame. Once done, the perceived value will double. When buying framed autograph material in a gallery, half or more of the price results from this type of enhancement.


QUESTION: I have a bamboo walking cane. The top lifts off. Inside is a device that pulls out and can be used to measure the height of a horse in hands and inches. What is its value?

– LN, Fenelton, Pa.

ANSWER: You own a gadget cane. Gadget canes came with a variety of inserts, such as flasks (one of my favorites when the flasks contain fine bourbon), pistols or swords, flags and seats. All the horse-measuring gadget canes that I have handled in my career are English or Continental in origin.

Cowan’s Auctions sold a bamboo gadget cane with a measuring device, a perfect match for the cane in the picture that accompanied your letter, for $499.38 at its July 31, 2010 Continental Fine and Decorative Art auction. This cane’s measuring stick also contained a bubble level. Burchard Galleries sold a horse measuring gadget cane at its April 6, 2011 auction for $175. A realistic value for your example is between $250 and $300.

In case my readers are wondering, a hand is the equivalent of four inches.


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 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. 2011

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