Collecting is for everyone. It doesn't take a lot of money. In fact, many things that are collected are free but will someday have a monetary value.
Thirty years ago, savvy collectors saved empty Avon cosmetics bottles and figural whiskey decanters offered as promotions during the holidays.
In the 1980s, soda bottles and milk bottles were still free. Old advertising boxes and signs were being thrown in the trash but were rescued by advertising collectors.
We found an old Ivory soap crate waiting for trash pickup and took it home. It is now worth about $100.
Costume jewelry, old purses, even old bluejeans, have been discarded or given to Goodwill stores.
Depression-glass dishes have sold for pennies at garage sales.
Even art-pottery vases by Roseville or Weller have been found at rummage sales for a dollar.
Old battery-operated toys were almost unwanted. Collectors had not yet discovered them.
A few collectors are already saving paper napkins with advertising or holiday themes, decorative store shopping bags, fast-food toys, small transistor radios, early computers, giveaways from defunct scandal-ridden companies, many types of holiday decorations and cards, videotape ads and memorabilia from Sept. 11.
Q. My family bought a furnished summer home in Bangor, Maine, in 1944. We have kept the home and all of its furniture in good condition. One of the small tables there is unusual. We think it is maple. It has a 2-foot square top and one lower shelf. The ball-and-ring-turned legs have ball-and-claw feet made of brass with a glass ball. The manufacturer's mark is a circle that says & quot;Wolverine Mfg. Co., Detroit, Org'd. 1887. & quot;
A. Furniture with brass claw and glass ball feet was made in the late-19th century. Similar reproduction feet are available. The Wolverine Manufacturing Co. made reproduction style and Arts & amp; Crafts furniture from the late 1880s through the early 1900s. The company specialized in tables, pedestals and cabinets for parlors and libraries. Tables made by Wolverine Manufacturing Co. have auctioned for prices ranging from $350 to $900.
Q. I have a very old 15-inch pewter plate. One mark on the bottom shows that the plate was made in London, but the other mark telling the name of the maker is too worn to read. Is there a chemical I could use on the mark that would make it easy to read? I know that coin collectors use chemicals called & quot;date restorers & quot; so they can read the dates on their coins.
A. Pewter is a much softer metal than nickel, silver or gold. Chemicals -- even the mild chemicals naturally found in food -- can stain or pit pewter. So if you apply a date restorer, you might lose the mark altogether and perhaps hurt the plate. You can clean and polish the plate with a paste of rottenstone and boiled linseed oil. Or you can use a commercial pewter polish. Then hand-wash the plate in mild soap and water, dry it with a soft cotton towel and spray the mark with an ammonia-based glass cleaner. If that doesn't work, we suggest you give up and just enjoy the plate.
Q. Among the items my mother left us in an old box, we found a 3-3/8-inch-long political item. It's only 1 inch wide and is made of four brass links -- two triangles and two squares. An image of Thomas Jefferson is on one triangle, and the image of an eagle is on the other. The squares are embossed with the words & quot;Our Country for the Masses, Not for the Classes & quot; and & quot;High Tariff Breeds Trusts, Do They Help You. & quot;
A. You have a watch fob from Alton Parker's 1904 campaign for the U.S. presidency. Parker, a New Yorker, was the Democratic Party's nominee that year. He lost to Theodore Roosevelt.
The Democrats used the image of Thomas Jefferson because they consider him the founder of the party. A watch fob was attached to the chain of a pocket watch. Watch fobs were popular around the turn of the 20th century. Yours is missing the brass medal picturing Parker. A complete fob, with the round Parker medal, is worth $50 to $75.
Q. I inherited a mahogany grandfather clock from my in-laws. It looks just like an antique Chippendale clock, but it's electric. Instead of a pendulum inside the solid door on the front of the clock, there's a radio. The writing on the back reads & quot;Modern Longfellow Grandfather Clock-Radio. & quot; Can you give me more information?
A. Your grandfather clock-radio was an unusual combination manufactured by General Electric Co. in 1931. It was GE's Model H-91. At least one other early radio manufacturer, General Motors, made a similar grandfather clock-radio. If yours works and is in excellent condition, it could sell for more than $700.
Don't store paper collectibles in the trunk or glove compartment of your car. The heat might harm them. So if you are on a long buying trip, don't keep putting papers in the trunk. Mail them to your home or office to avoid prolonged exposure to heat.
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