Q & A with Harry Rinker: Joe Namath Football Passer Toy

A Joe Namath Football Passer, which stands 23 inches tall, is battery operated.

The box for the Joe Namath Football Passer, like most toys, adds to the total value.

QUESTION: I recently rediscovered my Joe Namath Passer, a plastic toy standing approximately two feet tall and which could “pass” a plastic football across the room. I am having trouble finding information about the toy and its value. Can you help?

– J, Janesville, Wis.

ANSWER: Your Joe Namath Football Passer, which stands 23 inches tall, is battery operated. Namath is dressed in his Jets white home uniform with the number “12” on the jersey. Mego licensed and manufactured the toy. The box lid pictures the toy and the following information: “Joe Namath / FOOTBALL / PASSER / MEGO / throws / a pass / up to / 15 ft./ FULLY / AUTOMATIC / LETS YOU CATCH / THE PASSES OF / THE NATION’S ACE / QUARTERBACK.”

David Abrams founded Mego Corporation in the early 1950s to manufacture dime store toys. After Martin Abram, David’s son, assumed control of the company in 1971, Mego started to obtain licenses to manufacture toys from popular comic books, movies, and television shows. Its 1972 Marvel and National Periodicals license (DC Comics) led to the creation of a line of 8-inch comic book action figures with interchangeable parts. Mego introduced the famed blister pack when Kresge (K-Mart) ask for packaging that could work with peg board. In 1974, Mego introduced a line of exclusive action figures for Montgomery Ward, now among the most desirable of the action figures among collectors. Mego’s Action Jackson line was designed to compete with Hasbro’s G.I. Joe and its short-lived line of Maddie Mod to challenge Barbie.

In 1976, David Abrams rejected an offer to license the “Star Wars” manufacturing rights, a miscalculation. In 1982, Mego filed for bankruptcy. The company re-emerged as Abrams Gentile Entertainment, LLC, in 1983. EMCE Toys brand, founded by Paul “Dr. Mego” Clark and Joe Sena, and working in cooperation with Marty Abrams, offers reproductions of some of the Mego accessory parts. “Mego Meet” is an annual convention held each year in Wheeling, West Virginia.

Joseph William (“Broadway Joe / Joe Willie) Namath played football for the American Football League’s New York Jets from 1965-69 and for the National Football League’s New York Jets from 1970-76, leading the New York Jets to victory in Super Bowl III in January of 1969. The Mego Joe Namath Football Passer was most likely issued in late 1969 or 1970. Mego offered a Broadway Joe Namath Mod-About Town Wardrobe consisting of a black jumpsuit, yellow mesh shirt and pants, yellow mesh socks and brown shoes for its 12-inch Joe Namath action figure. The copyright is 1970, the date I favor for your Football Passer.

Lloyd Ralston Gallery sold a working Mego Joe Namath Passer in its period box (in C7 condition) for $30 on Aug. 14, 2010. There were only two bid. An Internet buyer opened the bidding at $20. A floor bidder bought it for $30. Given the prices I found for other Joe Namath toy related memorabilia, $30 for an example in a fair to good box (Ralston over graded it) seems low. Even if you only have the figure and not the box, $20 to $30 appears low.

Market value is determined by supply and demand. Given the lack of bidding interest, albeit the Ralston auction sale is only one instance, demand appears minimal. Is it possible the new generation of football collectors cares little about Joe Namath and his accomplishments? It is a sad moment if the answer is yes.

This Art Nouveau hand mirror is most likely part of a late Victorian lady’s dresser vanity set.

The mirror is silver plate. The “S” and “P” in “W. S. P. CO” represent silver plate. The mark “W. S. P. CO.” could be an undocumented mark for the Wilcox Silver Plate Company, located in Meriden, Conn.

QUESTION: Ten years ago, I received an ornate, hand-held, dresser mirror from a friend. The mirror is marked “W. S. P. CO.” I do not know if the mirror is silver or silver plate. The mirror is 10 inches long and weighs 12.6 oz. I would like to know more about the mirror, such as the year it was made and its value.

– M.V., Decatur, Ill.

ANSWER: Your Art Nouveau hand mirror is most likely part of a late Victorian lady’s dresser vanity set. Vanity sets were a popular women’s gift starting in the second half of the 19th century and ending around 1960. The number of pieces in a set varied from two to 10. Many sets came in elaborate traveling boxes. Some readers will remember the role played by a dresser vanity set in the 1948 movie “I Remember Mama,” starring Irene Dunne and Barbara Bel Geddes.

A Victorian-era vanity set could include a mirror, hair brush, comb, cosmetic bottles, hair receiver, perfume dispenser, clothes brush, jewelry box and/or tray, tray and nail buffer and other pedicure items. In addition to silver and silver plate, sets were manufactured in celluloid, ceramic and tortoise shell.

Your mirror is silver plate. The “S” and “P” in “W. S. P. CO” represent silver plate. Attempts to attribute the mark to a specific firm have failed. I did find numerous listings for other dresser vanity pieces marked “W. S. P. CO.” The consensus among writers is that this is an undocumented mark for the Wilcox Silver Plate Company, located in Meriden, Conn. Wilcox became part of the International Silver Company in 1898. International Silver continued to use the Wilcox brand name after the acquisition.

The speculation is that Wilcox made these items for large mail order catalog houses such as Daniel Low, Marshal Field, Montgomery Ward, Sears, Roebuck Company and others. I have approximately a dozen late 19th- and early 20th-century department store mail order catalogs packed away. I remember seeing similar mirrors and dresser vanity sets with the mirror advertised for sale.

This type of Art Nouveau dresser mirror remained in production for several decades. Unless you have strong family provenance of an anniversary, birthday, or wedding gift, its origin could be as early as the 1890s or as late as the end of the 1910s.

Be careful when cleaning your mirror. The plating is very light. Too many cleanings will expose the base metal. Use quality silver polishing products such as those made by Hagerty. Rinse the mirror thoroughly after cleaning to make certain all polish is removed to avoid pitting. Do not over clean the mirror. The mirror was designed to allow tarnish to remain in the crevices to accent the relief design. My suggestion is to obtain a pair of Hagerty silversmith’s gloves and clean the mirror by rubbing it.

If your silver plated dresser mirror can be polished and no base metal is visible, it has a value between $25 and $35. If there are noticeable areas where the polish has worn off, the mirror has little value.

QUESTION: I acquired a plastic box with a relief motif of a deer on its lid. Inside the box is a Hickok crest. Does the box have any value?

– K, Reading, Pa.

ANSWER: Your question produced a trip down memory lane. American males experienced a French cuff craze in the mid- to late 1950s. Hickok cuff links and other accessories were a popular product line in men’s stores and the men’s section in department stores at the time.

S. Rae Hickok, a great nephew of Wild Bill Hickok, founded Hickok Jewelry, a plating business, located in Rochester, New York, in 1909. When he died in 1945, his son Raymond P. Hickok became the company president. Through his efforts, the company, now known as Hickok Manufacturing Company, expanded to become a leading manufacturer of men’s belts, cuff links, suspenders, tie clasps, wallets and other men’s accessories. In 1950, Raymond Hickok and his brother Alan created the Hickok belt, a diamond-studded gold and leather trophy belt annually awarded to the nation’s outstanding athlete. Winners included Ben Hogan, Rocky Marciano, Mickey Mantle and Arnold Palmer. Hickok Manufacturing developed the prototypes for the safety seat belt for automobiles. Tandy purchased the company in 1971.

Your box most likely housed cuff links or a matching tie clasp and cuff links set. It was retained by it owner because it served as a convenient storage box for rings, loose change, and other items. Its value is minimal—$2 to $4.

QUESTION: My son and I attended the 2003 McDonald’s All American Game. The game was held in Gund Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. LeBron James, who played for St. Vincent-Saint Mary High School, won the Most Valuable Player Award. My son has a collection of memorabilia from that game, including a program signed by many of the players, including LeBron James, and some individually signed LeBron James items. I made a point of taking my son’s picture standing beside LeBron James as proof the signatures are authentic. What is the collection worth?

– L, Altoona, Pa.

ANSWER: After the Miami Heat won its second straight NBA title, there is little question that LeBron James has developed into one of the most dominant basketball players of his era. He is headed for the National Basketball Hall of Fame.

Like many sports personalities, LeBron James is working with professional sports marketing firms to sell signed memorabilia ranging from basketballs to jerseys. The asking prices range from the middle hundreds to low thousands. Although touted as investments, the secondary market is not sustaining the purchase prices.

I was not able to find any references to how willing James is to sign fan autographs. My suspicion is that he is extremely reluctant, realizing that all too frequently these fan autographs wind up for sale on eBay and at other auction sites.

While not one of a kind, you son’s collection is “early” James and scarcer than his NBA material. However, scarce is not always better. Value is in James memorabilia associated with the NBA star, not the high school star. At the moment, the value of your son’s collection is as much curiosity as financial. This will not always be the case. Once LeBron James finishes his career and is elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame, interest in the earlier material will grow.

Your son’s collection has a value between $1,000 and $1,250. Its value will increase in the years ahead. Although the value of James memorabilia is in the midst of a celebrity bounce due to the Heat winning its second NBA championship, resist the urge to sell. Popularity is not always the prime value driver.

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.

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