Question: Are items associated with America's space program becoming collectibles?--S.B.
Answer: It depends on the items. Astronaut autographs, for example, may gather value, particularly those of men on the early space missions. But items sold by the government-run museum at the Florida launch site or in the National Air & Space Museum in Washington would not generally be considered in collectible categories. Exceptions would be limited-edition stamps and coins and any items that were limited in production for a particular launch.
More generally, the category of aeronautics has attracted many collectors throughout the world. This covers many areas--including books, posters, aerial show programs, airplane maintenance and instruction manuals, posters, photos and airline tickets. Such items gain value, of course, in proportion to their scarcity and condition.
Q: This might be a good question for the holiday season. My mother collected candy containers, some of which date back, I believe, to the turn of the century. Is there a collector or dealer market for them if we choose to sell?--E.F.
A: Depending on verification of the authenticity of your collection, the market is certainly there. Buyers will want to make sure, for example, that the containers still have the original paint and that parts or materials haven't been upgraded in recent years.
One individual who attends collectors shows (but who didn't want his name used) said to make sure you have the original tops to the containers as well because they also enhance value.
According to Warman's "Americana & Collectibles" (Warman Publishing, 1st edition, Elkins Park, Penn. 19117), one of the first candy containers was manufactured in 1876 by Croft, Wilbur & Co. confectioners. "They filled a small glass liberty bell with candy and sold it at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia," a section on candy containers notes.
The section continues: "Jeannette, Pa., was a center for the packaging of candy in containers . . . . Containers were produced in shapes that would appeal to children and usually sold for 10 cents. Candy containers remained popular until the 1960s when they became too expensive to mass produce."
The catalogue also lists a Candy Containers Collectors of America, Box 184, Lucerne Mines, Pa. 15754.
A number of containers are listed in the catalogue, ranging in price from $10 to $1,500, but generally priced at less than $100. From this list, it would appear that there is a wide variety on the market in a number of shapes from animals to locomotives to even a glass lawn swing in a tin frame ($600).
Q: We usually don't ask for sales receipts at flea markets. But should we, to protect ourselves in case of fraudulent merchandise?--A.L.
A: Low-priced items bought at flea markets may not be worth the effort. But when you're plunking down a roll of cash for a high-priced collectible or "antique"--the latter almost a synonym these days for many high-priced collectibles--it's a good idea to ask for a sales slip or invoice. This is for your protection in case you have to file a legal action based on the sale.
A written description of an item on a sales slip could be compared in court to the item you were actually sold in case a dispute arises over the merchandise. The description could include, for example, the age of the item, its condition and any restoration work that has been done on it.
Commenting on our recent column that addressed the value of sheet music, Marilyn Brees, secretary of the National Sheet Music Society, writes that the group now meets monthly at Pasadena City College's Music Building. For more information, she said readers should write to her at 1597 Fair Park Ave., Los Angeles, Calif. 90041.
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.