Our expert shares insights on a range of items that bear witness to favorite pastimes and historic events, from baseball booklets to a presidential plate.
Our expert shares facts and figures about antiques.
Question: The label on this 4½-inch container indicates it once held 8 ounces of Butter Boy Sur-Nuf Popcorn. It looks nice on my kitchen shelf with other vintage food tins. There’s a slot in the tin lid so it can be used as a coin bank. What is the history behind this container?
Answer: Popcorn was one of the first variations of maize cultivated in Central America about 8,000 years ago. North American whalers most likely brought popcorn from Chile back to New England in the early 19th century. From there, its popularity spread rapidly. Unpopped popcorn was sold in containers like this before plastic bags became available. The coin slot at the top probably saved this container from being discarded after its contents were consumed. Ray G. Redding, a prominent resident of Mattoon, Illinois, grew popcorn and packaged it in containers like this one from the 1920s to the 1950s. Butter Boy Popcorn containers of this size are found priced from $15 to $40.
RESOURCE: “Why Do We Eat Popcorn at the Movies?” by Natasha Geiling, www.smithsonianmag.com.
Question: I was unable to find this embroidered pillow cover through an internet search. What can you find out about it, including its age?
Answer: The “V” in the picture signifies victory and dates the pillow cover to the World War II era. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill is widely credited with popularizing the symbolic hand gesture (index and middle finger extended, palm outward), and the“V for victory”symbol immediately caught on in the United States. Dogs and cats were popular subjects for commercial embroidery patterns of that era and were sometimes depicted wearing military uniforms. The origin of this patriotic pup is presently unknown, but the pattern was most likely printed on the pillow cover and was sold in stores as part of a kit to be embroidered at home. Finished pillow covers of this era can be found priced $20 to $40, depending on the quality of the handwork, the condition and the appeal of the subject matter.
RESOURCE: The Sewing Palette, “Vintage Embroidery Transfers,” www.sewingpalette.com.
Question: Knowing I’m a longtime baseball fan, a friend gave me two old guides published by The Sporting News in 1943 and 1954. Each is 6¾ inches high by 5 inches wide. They are complete but show signs of wear. How much are these publications worth?
Answer: Alfred H. Spink, a writer for the Missouri Republican newspaper, founded The Sporting News in 1886. Published in St. Louis, it became the dominant American publication covering baseball. By World War I, The Sporting News would be the only national baseball newspaper. In addition to its regular weekly tabloid, The Sporting News published baseball guides and record books, plus its annual Baseball Guide from 1942 through 2007. The 1943 Baseball Guide contains 350 pages filled with statistics, records, photos and drawings. Its wartime cover salutes the four branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. The Sporting News Dope Book, an annual publication that ran from 1948 through 1985, contains similar information. These softbound publications in used, very good condition sell for $20 to $35 apiece.
RESOURCE: Society for American Baseball Research, www.sabr.org.
Question: This print under glass shows the Battleship Maine in full color on one side and the outline of the ship exploding on the back. It is printed in black, yellow and red. What can you tell me about these unusual images?
Answer: USS Maine was an American warship that sank in Havana Harbor on February 15, 1898. The unexplained sinking and loss of 266 Navy sailors was a catalyst that led to war against Spain. This picture was manufactured by M.F. Tobin, a printing company in New York City. An article in the June 29, 1898, issue of the trade journal Printers’ Ink. reported that in the four months after the sinking, 2 million prints of the Maine had been sold. The article also said the most popular version was a transparency that, when held in front of a bright light, depicted the vessel exploding. The illustrator was listed as F. Fetherston. Battleship Maine prints usually sell for $50 to $100, but the transforming double-sided version has sold for $150 to $250.
RESOURCE: LiveAuctioneers auction results, www.liveauctioneers.com.
Question: This 6-inch plate is decorated with a portrait of Abraham Lincoln with“Souvenir of Springfield, Ill,”printed under the picture. The back has a mark that shows two blossoms crossed at the stems along with “J&C Bavaria” and “G.H.B. Co.” Do you have any idea how old it might be?
Answer: The portrait on the plate is based on Alexander Gardner’s photograph of Abraham Lincoln taken on November 8, 1863, just weeks before the president would deliver the Gettysburg Address. Although it is sometimes referred to as the “Gettysburg portrait,” Lincoln sat for the portrait in Gardner’s studio in Washington, D.C. Jaeger & Co., a Bavarian porcelain manufacturer, made the plate and decorated it with a transfer print. The company used the crossed flowers mark from its founding in 1898 until 1923. The G.H.B. Co. mark is that of Geo. H. Bowman Company, a china and glass wholesaler in Cleveland, Ohio. Older souvenir plates bearing portraits of Lincoln usually sell for $15 to $25.
RESOURCE: Porcelain Marks & More, www. porcelainmarksandmore.com/germany/ bavaria/marktredwitz-02/index.php.
Question: My wife found a stack of tobacco flannels at an estate sale. Each flannel patch pictures a country’s flag. She had three flannels of the American flag mounted together and framed. What is the origin of these patches?
Answer: American tobacco companies began inserting small textile items into their cigarette and tobacco products to promote sales in 1906 and continued the practice for about 10 years. The cotton flannels, sometimes called blankets, could be used to make quilts, coverlets and pillow tops. In addition to flags, additional subjects included major-league baseball players, butterflies, college seals and rug designs. Flannels came in a range of sizes; the smallest was 3½ inches by 5½ inches. Large flannels could be ordered from premium catalogs by redeeming coupons that came with the tobacco products. Flannels can be found priced $5 to $15 each. Full-size quilts composed of tobaccoflannel flags range in price from $500 to more than $700.
RESOURCE: “Textile Tobacco Inserts And Premiums Used In American Quilts” by Laurette Carroll, The Fabrics Network, http://info.fabrics.net/textile-tobacco-inserts-and-premiums-used-in-american-quilts.
SUBMISSIONS Please send your questions to Antiques Q&A, Country Sampler, 306 East Parr Road, Berne, IN 46711 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions should be accompanied by a 35mm photograph or a digital photograph of the object (please do not send color printouts on plain paper) and a detailed description. IMPORTANT: Please make note of all dimensions, the item’s condition, the type of material used and any history known for the piece. We are not able to answer questions pertaining to stamps, coins, jewelry or art of any type. We regret that we cannot answer all questions and are unable to return photos.