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Your Collectibles

Hard to Box In Interest in Containers

May 16, 1985|RONALD L. SOBLE | Times Staff Writer

Question: You have written about cigar boxes, but what about other kinds of collectible boxes? I collect tin boxes that once held various assortments of tea. I would think there must be other collectors out there who have similar tastes.--L.M.

Answer: You're certainly correct. Collectible boxes come in all shapes and sizes.

Small tea boxes, such as you collect, are very popular because they're colorful and easy to store. Box collectors also are to be found in the Americana field where, just a few decades back, the box was commonly used as a container to store a variety of household items. This is particularly true in the area of kitchen collectibles because in the early days of this country, boxes of all shapes and sizes were used for foodstuffs and utensil storage.

Often such boxes had decorations that reflected the region in which they were made. These decorations make them all the more valuable to collectors.

Naturally, when we assess the value of boxes we have to evaluate the material from which they were made--whether, for example, it's wood, tin or something more exotic. Needless to say, in this field the type of material could have the biggest resale impact. Condition and a well-known owner or historical setting also count when determining value.

Q: I have several tobacco jars that were once in my father's collection. I believe that they may date back several years. Is this a rare commodity?--V.C.

A: Not necessarily. Tobacco jars were produced in such great numbers that their value has not soared out of sight. That's not to say, however, that an ornate jar couldn't command a hefty price.

The container for storing tobacco goes back at least to the 17th Century and can be found in an assortment of materials, including wood, lead and pewter. Some may have fancy designs or illustrations of the era on the side, which provide some insights into the period in which they were produced.

Another related item of interest to collectors is the tobacco container of more recent vintage in which pipe tobacco was sold. These colorful, lithographed tin boxes are popular among collectors and are not hard to find at flea markets and the like. Along with a sharp rise in the Americana collectible market, these boxes too have taken off in price. This makes it all the more important that the collector know the field and have some ability to spot fakes.

We might add that a related field of tobacco collectibles includes items like cigarette holders, pipe-bowl tampers and assortments of tobacco tags produced by companies that have long since ceased to exist.

Q: This may sound weird, but I collect dinosaur miniatures, and I've heard that there may be a few other "crazies" out there like me. True?--H.G.

A: That's what we hear too. We hesitate to call it a dinosaur cult, but people do collect everything from dinosaur figurines, posters and cards to souvenirs, toys and T-shirts.

Following the discovery more than a century ago of what was eventually determined to be the world's first dinosaur skeleton, the dinosaur became a kind of lovable creature to be found almost everywhere in our culture.

In case you harbor doubts about dinosaur values, a recent glance at a catalogue showed prices of around $30 for dinosaur cereal-box premiums, $10 and up for dinosaur toys and a whole range of dinosaur books, some fantasy and others of a more serious nature, ranging up to $100 and more.

For dinosaur aficionados, some information on your favorite subject can be obtained by writing to the Dinosaur National Monument at Jensen, Utah 84035.

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