Question: A while back you wrote about beer-can collecting. Well, I have a number of related items, such as beer-bottle openers, some dating back to before World War II. Such items also fall into an interesting collectible category, don't they?--C.H.
Answer: Certainly. Pre-World War II beer bottle openers with an advertising message have sold for $20 or more, according to dealers. But condition is very important, and if the opener is chipped or rusty, its value will plummet.
Additionally, in the area of advertising collectibles, there are a number of companies, past and present, that produced openers as giveaways. These openers also are very collectible, and more so if they are shaped like an animal or if they have some other unusual design that doubles as a bottle-cap remover.
A book on the subject is "A Price Guide to Beer Advertising, Openers and Corkscrews" by Donald Bull (1981). Bull and his wife, Bonnie, are collectors and can be reached at P.O. Box 106, Trumbull, Conn. 06611.
Q: We have what appears to be a water pitcher with advertising for a Scotch whisky on the side. What sort of history does it have?--S.G.
A: Whiskey pitchers, once known as pub jugs, appear to have gotten their start in Great Britain before the turn of the century. They were, indeed, used as water pitchers and were popular items for liquor-company messages.
Glass, porcelain and pewter examples abound, and, it is estimated, there may be more than 2,000 different types of pub jugs in collectors' hands here and abroad. Collectors tend to look for pitchers produced by quality pottery manufacturers, such as Royal Doulton.
The standard pitcher doesn't stand much more than six inches high, and its value, according to dealer catalogues, can range to $20 or more. Although Great Britain is a primary source for these pitchers, they also have been manufactured in other European countries and in Japan and the United States as well.
Caution: Collectors say they look only for pitchers authorized by the distillery, and that authentication can be determined by finding a statement on the pitcher detailing the proof of the whiskey and where it was produced.
Auction scene: The autographed manuscript of James Joyce's first published book, "Chamber Music," poems he published in London in 1907, is scheduled to be auctioned by Christie's in New York on Feb. 7. In a recent newsletter, Christie's estimated that the manuscript, dated around 1903-04, could bring bids in the range of $45,000 to $65,000.
The auction house says the Joyce manuscript will be part of a library of Irish literature that will be auctioned on that day--550 lots, which it claims to be "the most important collection of modern Irish literature to appear at auction" since the 1920s.
"The 10th Edition of the Bradford Book of Collector's Plates" (Charles Winthrope & Sons, $17.50, 392 pp., indexed) is out, a coffeetable-size production heavy with color photographs and a country-by-country breakdown of the marketplace.
"Plate collecting currently attracts more than 8 million persons throughout the world, with the vast majority of these concentrated in North America and Europe," according to the book produced by the owners of the Bradford Exchange, a marketplace for plate sales located in the Chicago suburb of Niles.
Also out is "1986 Pin Guide" by Michael B. Steinborn (Beverly Hills Pin Co.: $5).
If you're into pin collecting--from Olympic to beer, law enforcement and product pins--you'll like this dealer's 129-page illustrated paperback.
The author said in a recent letter that the book apparently is filling an information void.
"I had originally thought that my attempt to organize my massive inventory into a price list would sell a lot of pins," he said. "But, instead, I am selling a lot of books. I like the concept of selling information rather than the actual pins; it is much more rewarding."
Readers can buy a copy by mail: the Beverly Hills Pin Co., P.O. Box 2504, Beverly Hills, Calif. 90213 (add $1.50 to the book price to cover first-class postage).
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.