Q & A with Harry Rinker: Whitney Reed Rocking Horse, Hindenburg Ephemera

A reader writes that she bought a Whitney Reed glider-base rocking horse for $600. She wanted to know if it was a good buy. Harry Rinker did some research and came back with some good news.

QUESTION: Several years ago I purchased a Whitney Reed, glider base, rocking horse for $600. The horse is 33-inches long and 31-inches to the top of its ear. It is missing its mane but has its tail. In researching Whitney Reed rocking horses on the Internet, most of the examples I found are larger than the one I own. I am wondering what the real value of my rocking horse is.

– TA, Janesville, Wis., via e-mail

ANSWER: Researching your rocking horse has been a challenge. I found listings that dated Whitney Reed glider rocking horses as early as the 1870s and as late as the 1920s. The confusion results from assuming that the W. S. Reed Toy Company and the Whitney Reed Chair Company, both located in Leominster, Mass., are one in the same. They are not.

A tag reads Whitney Reed Corporation.

William S. Reed founded New England Toy Company of Leominster in 1874. Although the company lasted approximately 18 months, Reed continued to invent and patent toys. In 1881, Charles E. Dresser and William S. Reed sold stock in the W. S. Reed Toy Company. The company manufactured novelties and games such as lithograph paper-on-wood toys and construction sets. In 1891, the company issued Espirito, a planchette that closely resembled one sold by the Ouija Novelty Company of Baltimore. Four months later, W. S. Reed withdrew its Espirito planchette. A fire destroyed the W. S. Reed factory on July 2, 1892. A new brick factory was destroyed by a second fire on February 7, 1896. The company struggled to maintain production and was acquired by the Whitney Reed Chair Company in March 1897. At no time in its history did the W. S. Reed Toy Company make rocking horses.

Founded in 1893, the Whitney Reed Chair Company made high-quality furniture. Like many furniture companies of that era, Whitney Reed also made wooden blackboards, novelties, and toys, including ABC blocks and rocking horses. In 1903, Whitney Reed joined more than 30 other New England toy manufacturers such as R. Bliss Manufacturing Company in having their toy products represented by the National Novelty Company of New York, New York. Whitney Reed also produced a “wicker perambulator” (baby carriage). I was unable to ascertain when the Whitney Reed Chair Company ceased operations.

Given the above, the earliest date for a Whitney Reed rocking horse is approximately 1894. Those sellers estimating an age between 1905 and 1915 are more accurate than those dating the horses prior to the mid-1890s.

It is hard to authenticate objects from photographs. Looking closely at the photographs that accompanied your e-mail, I have several concerns. First, the saddle, harness and ear leather appear to be replacements. Although the replacements may have been done in the mid-20th century, the leather does not exhibit the type of wear I would associate with leather dating from 1905-1915. Second, the decorative painting does not seem consistent. There appear to be large white sections without secondary decoration, suggesting that some repaint/in painting may have taken place over time. If you used a flash to photograph the horse, the reflection from the flash may account for this distortion.

The loss of the mane is minor. Most examples I found for sale on the internet appear to have the mane and/or tail replaced. Historically, horsehair was used for both. Over time, it becomes brittle and deteriorates.

I found examples for sale on the internet ranging from $800 for a Whitney Reed glider horse stripped of its body paint but with the paint on the glider intact to $1,750 for an example that appeared to have its period paint but restoration to the mane and leather. The $600 you paid is a fair, possibly even a bargain, price. A dealer would probably ask more. Insurance replacement value is between $1,200 and $1,400.

QUESTION: I have an envelope from the first flight of the Hindenburg from Lakehurst, N.J. to Frankfurt-am-Main. The postmark is “NEW YORK, NY / May 11 /4-PM / 1936.” The envelope has a 25¢ Transpacific airmail stamp featuring the China Clipper over the Pacific (Scott AP13) and 15¢ Statue of Liberty Stamp (Scott A169) at the top. The bottom has a 50 pfenning Deutsch Luftpost stamp featuring the Hindenburg. The return flight cache is on the front left of the envelope. The back of the envelope has a postmark stamp from the Hindenburg. What is my envelope worth?

– EM, Blandon, Pa.

ANSWER: The airship Hindenburg flew from Frankfurt to Lakehurst from May 6 to May 9, 1936, with a travel time of 61 hours and 40 minutes. The airship left Lakehurst on May 12 and arrived in Frankfurt on May 14, making the crossing in 49 hours and 13 minutes. The Hindenburg made a total of 10 crossings from Frankfurt to Lakehurst, the last resulting in its fatal crash on May 6, 1937.

The Hindenburgcarried large volumes of mail. The first flight from Frankfurt to Lakehurst included 1,059 kilograms (almost one ton) of mail, primarily philatelic flight covers for collectors. While the mail volume was less on the return flight, 824 killograms, the number of philatelic covers remained high. German Zeppelin covers are designated by “Sieger” numbers found in the Zeppelin Post Katalog published by the Sieger-Verlag of Lorch/Wurtemberg.

First flight covers for both directions are very common. Your cover is a Sieger 409C and has a Type III backstamp.

The Kenmore Stamp Company is offering a 1936 Trans-Atlantic Return Flight-US to Germany for $95. The advertisement notes: “Stamps and covers will vary,” thus indicating that multiple examples are available for sale.

QUESTION: I work at a gas station and came upon a 1930 Indian head nickel that looks more like a dime. It says “copy” on the head. Does it have any value?

– JA, Lancaster, Ohio, via e-mail

ANSWER: It has some value, but not much. This is not an official United State Mint coin. It is a novelty coin of some type, perhaps a token from a children’s game or piece from a miniature coin proof set.

I found several Internet discussion boards discussing a 1930 miniature Buffalo nickel. The conclusions were identical. The coin is a fantasy piece of little to no interest to collectors.

Pictures of dead relative have little value to anyone other than family members. Often, the frame is more valuable.

QUESTION: I inherited a picture of my great uncle who died in 1901. The picture is in an oval frame measuring 17 ½ inches wide by 23 ½ inches tall. The frame has bubble glass. There are applied plaster floral designs at the four quadrants. The frame is gold leafed. A small chip on the back top edge of the frame cannot be seen from the front. What is the value of my picture?

– JB, Caribou, Maine, via-email

ANSWER: Pictures of dead relative have little value to anyone other than family members. Even in such cases, the value is usually minimal. The good news is that you know the name of the individual pictured. In more than 90 percent of the examples I see, the name of the individual is lost to posterity.

There are elements that can make an unidentified portrait valuable. The most obvious is jewelry, especially if the piece or pieces are easily identifiable and unusual. A person in uniform, either military or occupational, is a plus. Individuals holding a pet, especially a dog or unusual animal, attracts buyer interest. Ethnic portraits also command a premium.

Anyone outside the family will buy the framed picture to reuse the frame. The photograph of your great uncle is likely to end up in the landfill. It is common that the frame of a drawing, photograph or print is worth more than the object housed in the frame.

In the case of your great uncle, he probably once hung beside a picture of your great aunt displayed in an identical frame. Paired frames command a premium, usually an extra 25 to 50 percent above the doubled price of an individual frame. This is especially true when the frame contains bubble glass.

Condition is critical to value. Damage not visible to the naked eye is acceptable. If front surface damage is visible, the price drops between 50 to 75 percent. The cost to repair the frame often exceeds its final worth.

Your great uncle’s picture is worth between $50 and $65. As suggested earlier, all the value is in the frame.

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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