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To Feline Fanciers, Chessie Is Cat's Meow

April 25, 1985|RONALD L. SOBLE | Times Staff Writer

Cats, dogs and frogs . . . unusual collectibles. However, it just goes to show that, undaunted, we'll tackle almost any collectible question.

Question: I have an old magazine ad featuring Chessie, the C & O Railroad cat, and wondered if it falls into any sort of "cat collectible" category.--J.C.

Answer: Perhaps the great success of the musical "Cats" has spawned the number of recent inquiries we've received on cat-related collectibles. In any case, there certainly must be many fanciers of cat collectibles across the nation--individuals who specialize in everything from advertising art to toys.

In your case, Chessie, the railroad logo, is collected by both advertising buffs as well as railroad aficionados. A 1937 magazine ad featuring the popular Chessie recently changed hands for $5 in mint condition, according to a collector. That was nothing, however, in comparison to a complete 1944 Chessie calendar, also complete and in mint condition, which was recently sold for $100!

Aside from the popular musical, this appears to be the era of the cat, with felines being featured in cartoon strips, books, greeting cards and the like. Some would even go so far as to say our little furry friends have just about replaced the dog as the national pet. Such popularity adds up to an increased interest in cat collectibles.

Cat collectibles seem to be endless. Besides advertising art, there are cat books, bottles (both Avon and Jim Beam, for example), figurines, lithographs, plates, photographs and more.

A Cat Collectors Club is listed at 31311 Blair Drive, Warren, Mich. 48092.

Q: I have some bronze frog miniatures and want to know if there is a market for them.--E.F.

A: There are collectors, according to one dealer, who will pay well above $100 for a bronze frog miniature, depending on its condition, age and where and how it was produced.

Additionally, frog pottery designed in Europe has commanded collector attention for a number of years. If the frog items are more than 100 years old, prices can jump sharply, the dealer said.

Of lesser value, but of interest to collectors, are other frog items that can be found in paperweight and clock designs. Hand-carved designs generally carry higher price tags than mass-produced items.

Q: What would be some examples of early cartoon strips that have a high collectible value?--H.M.

A: If you can find it and have the bucks to buy it, the early Mutt and Jeff strip is much valued by collectors. Invented by cartoonist Bud Fisher, the strip first appeared in 1907.

Other early artists who rocketed to national attention include, of course, Walt Disney and Richard Outcault (The Yellow Kid, Buster Brown), Mort Walker (Beetle Bailey), Charles Schulz (Peanuts), Chester Gould (Dick Tracy) and, more recently, Garry Trudeau (Doonesbury).

Collecting old comic strips, as opposed to comic books (another very popular item), has become the rage in this country and abroad in recent years. Aside from pure collector interest, such strips, enlarged and framed, have become popular household decorations.

Q: I have a painting of a dog by Edwin Landseer. How well known is the artist?--B.D.

A: Sir Edwin Landseer (1802-1873) is considered by collectors of animal paintings to be one of the foremost dog artists. He painted many breeds, depicting them in a pose that best shows the particular breed.

Expensive collectible category: Christie's of New York says it "will hold the most important sale of Old Masters in the United States in 20 years" on May 9. The auction house says it expects to realize sales "in excess of $11 million" for 23 paintings. For further information, call (212) 546-1127.

Ronald L. Soble cannot answer mail personally but will respond in this column to questions of general interest about collectibles. Do not telephone. Write to Your Collectibles, You section, The Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053.

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