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Glass Firms Made Memorable Items

June 06, 1985|RONALD L. SOBLE | Times Staff Writer

Question: I need some brief information on two glassmakers that I have run across in my collection. They are the Westmoreland and Blenko glass companies.--R.B.

Answer: Westmoreland Glass Co. was started just before the turn of the century in Grapeville, Pa., and has been generally looked upon by collectors as a firm that has produced quality glassware. In its early years, particularly, the company's handcrafted glassware has been given very high marks and is sought by collectors. Among these items are containers for condiments and the like. Prices are wide-ranging: A candy dish, for example, can be picked up for just a few dollars, but a lamp base could sell for more than $100, according to dealers.

Blenko Glass Co., founded in the early 1920s in Milton, W. Va., originally made stained glass for churches. In recent decades, however, the firm also has produced a multitude of household glass items such as heavy bookends. Its vases and pitchers can range up to $50 or more, according to catalogues.

Q: I'd like to expand my bank collection. I assume, if I'm trying to be frugal, that collecting still banks is the less expensive way to go. Right?--D.G.

A: That's generally a correct assumption. Still banks, as opposed to mechanical banks with moving parts, are obviously less intricate and therefore less expensive. But this is not always the case because a particularly rare still bank in good condition can easily sell for more than $100.

Still banks come in all shapes and sizes--animals, for example, are very popular--and can date back almost to the Civil War in terms of production dates. Because there is such a great variety, bank collectors tend to specialize in certain manufacturers or subjects.

Demand for bank collectibles has held up (no pun intended) well in recent years. One reason is that there are plenty of collectors--who don't specialize in just banks--who are interested in these items. For example, Americana advertising collectors count banks in their domain too.

Among the most prized banks in this category are the cast-iron variety, which may be elaborately decorated. On this latter point, by the way, collectors should refrain from touching up or repainting an old bank.

Aspiring collectors should familiarize themselves with this market as much as possible because literally thousands of different varieties of still banks have been produced in this century.

Q: Ever hear of clickers? They were a great advertising item. How valuable are they?--F.S.

A: For the uninitiated, clickers are handheld noisemakers that do just that--make a loud clicking sound. They come in many shapes and sizes and, as best as we can tell, go back at least 50 years as a promotional item.

Apparently, the use of clickers was first appreciated by manufacturers of a variety of items from beer to shoes. But then political candidates also got into the act, and tin clickers with candidates' pictures and slogans became popular.

Toy clickers also were produced by the hundreds of thousands, but collectors don't seem as attracted to this category as they are to those that reflect more of the culture of the time in which they were produced--such as the advertising variety.

Price tags vary widely, but we've seen few selling for more than $30 no matter how old they are or what condition they're in.

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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