Q & A with Harry Rinker: Kerr & Co. Gold Belt Buckle, Howdy Doody Show Marionette

The front of the belt buckle.

QUESTION: I almost sold a belt buckle for a couple of bucks at my garage sale a few weeks ago until I took a better look at it. The front of the rectangular belt buckle has horizontal engraved lines with a central “E E H” monogram. The back has multiple markings. The top bar has a fasces (a single bit axe surrounded by rods held in place by straps) with three “x” marks in the center, “14 K,” “C 1440” and “A.T.” The bottom bar is marked “—KERR–.” The buckle design indicates it is for a web-type belt. The buckle weights 19 grams. I estimate its melt value around $450. William B. Kerr & Co. was in business from 1855 until 1927. Gorham purchased the company and brand name in 1906. I checked eBay, Esty, WorthPoint and a few other sites trying to find additional information about Kerr and my belt buckle. What help can you provide?

– SK, Richmond, Calif.

ANSWER: There is a Kerr & Co. Wikipedia page. The information notes that William B. Kerr Company, located in Newark, N.J., was a manufacturer of flatware, hollow-ware and jewelry. The “Styles” section of the page reads: “Kerr was known for elaborate and unique Art Nouveau pieces, most especially the American Beauty series, as well as many different patterns of flatware and hollowware for children featuring nursery rhymes and images.”

The Victoriana website reveals that William B. Kerr began as Kerr & Thiery and made “sterling silver and gold dresser ware,” and Gorham moved its operations to Providence, R.I., in 1927. Kerr’s American Beauty series is described as “fantastic Art Nouveau motif with flowers, classic Gibson Girl style women’s heads with upswept hair, detailed leaves, and scroll work.”

I checked the silver flatware guides in my reference library and found no Kerr & Co. patterns listed. Searching the Internet, I found numerous Kerr & Co. sterling silver accessories, ranging from match safes to a 10-piece dresser set, offered for sale.

The engraving and monogram designs on your belt buckle date it between 1900 and 1925. I found a sterling silver belt buckle with a similar back that sold on eBay on Nov. 1, 2013:

While there appears to be some collecting interest in William B. Kerr & Co. pieces, many eBay listings with “Buy It Now” prices remain unsold. Taking a conservative approach, the collector value above melt for your belt buckle is an additional 20 to 25 percent.

QUESTION: I own a “Howdy Doody” television show Princess Summer Fall Winter Spring marionette. It is in very good condition. It is housed in a plain cardboard box. Since it came from Sears, I am assuming this is the period box. What is my marionette worth?

– I, Myrtle Beach, S.C.

ANSWER:Howdy Doody,” a pioneering children’s television program, aired on the NBC network from Dec. 27, 1945 until Sept. 24, 1960. The show featured a combination of live actors and marionettes. Puppeteers Scott Rinker, Velma Wayne Dawson and Rufus Rose created the marionettes.

Two Native American characters appeared on the show. Chief Thunderdud, famous for his “Kowabonga!” greeting and leader of the Ooragnak (kangaroo spelled backwards) tribe, was one. The second was a marionette that magically came alive in 1952—Princess Summer Fall Winter Spring. The Princess was a member of the Tinka Tonka tribe.

Judy Tyler (Oct. 9, 1932-July 3, 1957), born Judith Mae Hess, portrayed Princess Summer Fall Winter Spring. The Find a Death website lists her appearance dates as 1952 to 1955. The Judy Tyler Wikipedia page lists her appearance dates as 1950 to 1953. Judy was a teenager when she appeared on “Howdy Doody.” She left to pursue a career on Broadway, staring in the Rogers and Hammerstein musical, “Pipe Dream of Life.”

TRIVIA QUIZ: Judy starred in a movie with a famous rock ’n’ roll legend. Upon learning of her death in a car accident, the rock and roll star never watched the movie again. What was the movie and who was the star?

A “Howdy Doody” television show Princess Summer Fall Winter Spring marionette.

Linda Marsh assumed the role of Princess Summer Fall Winter Spring from 1953 to 1957. The Princess did not appear during the final years of the show.

A critical element in pricing any collectible is to understand what constitutes the complete unit. In the case of Princess Summer Fall Winter Spring, the first consideration is the period box. The initial box, 16 inches by 3 inches by 5 inches, had a circus tent motif and featured the facial images of Howdy, Clarabell and Princess Summer Fall Winter Spring and the full image of Flub-A-Dub. The box is marked “© Bob Smith / Designed by Raye Copelan / Manufactured by Peter Puppet Playthings, Inc.” The second critical element is the metal link necklace with four cello charms, one each for summer, fall, winter and spring. If either of these is missing, the price is impacted negatively.

Hake’s Americana & Collectibles Auction sold a Princess Summer Fall Winter Spring marionette (excellent condition, necklace with two of cellos missing) and period box (good condition) on March 22, 2012 for $172.50. A Princess Summer Fall Winter Spring marionette that was missing the necklace and box and had an opening bid of $56.99 plus $14.95 shipping failed to sell on eBay in October 2013.

The generation that remembers Princess Summer Fall Winter Spring has begun its trek to the Happy Hunting Grounds. A Princess Summer Fall Winter Spring marionette in very good condition (no cracks to its head or other composition parts) but without its box and necklace is worth between $40 and $50.

QUESTION: I have a set of eight Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Valentine Day cards. The Snow White card is a mechanical action card. When the lever is pushed, a squirrel holding a card featuring a red heart pops out from behind Cinderella’s broom. The caption reads: “You are the / fairest in the land,/ If you’ll be mine – ’twill be just grand.” The card, measuring 5 7/8-inches high, is marked “© 1938 / W. D. ENT.” What is my Snow White Valentine card set worth?

– B, Bethlehem, Pa.

ANSWER: The Walt Disney animated film version of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” released by RKO, premiered on Dec. 21, 1937 and was released to theaters on Feb. 4, 1938. It was the first of many feature-length animated films produced by the Disney studios.

By 1938, Disney product licensing was already established thanks to Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse and Donald Duck. “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” licensed merchandise appeared on store shelves within days of the movie’s release.

In addition to the Snow White Valentine card series, there were several stand alone, die-cut, mechanical Valentines featuring Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. A heart-shaped card picturing the seven dwarfs looking through the cottage door is captioned “I’m like Dopey, trying to peek, To see if your heart is mine to keep.” The mechanical lever on the card moves Dopey’s head in and out of the group.

Collector interest in the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Valentine card series is high. Assuming the cards are in fine or better condition, the value for your set is between $85 and $100.

The leather toy dog that measures 8 inches from the tip of its nose to the tip of its tail. The body is black and white. The collar is marked “PAL.”

QUESTION: My dad, who is 89, remembers playing with a leather toy dog that measures 8 inches from the tip of its nose to the tip of its tail. The body is black and white. The collar is marked “PAL.” It is not in great condition. I am curious about what you might be able to tell me.

– BP, Reading, Pa.

ANSWER: The leather toy dog dates from the mid- to late 1920s, an obvious conclusion subtracting 89 from 2013. The artwork on the leather and the contrasting of black and white colors, an Art Deco motif, confirms this association.

I spent a little more than half an hour searching the Internet trying to locate the manufacturer or other information about the toy. My efforts proved fruitless. Perhaps a reader can provide more information.

In terms of value, you leather toy dog is worth between $25 and $35.

TRIVIA QUIZ ANSWER: “Jailhouse Rock” (1957) starring Elvis Presley.

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. 2013

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