Question: What is the current value of a Cornelius Vanderbilt signature?--W.P.
Answer: Signature values can vary widely depending on the documents they're on. For example, a letter is apt to bring a higher price than an autograph standing by itself.
In the case of Vanderbilt, we recently saw the signature being offered by an Eastern dealer in a catalogue of stock and bond certificates, which were part of a mail-order auction (George H. LaBarre Galleries, P.O. Box 746, Hollis, N.H. 03049).
The Vanderbilt signature was on a certificate issued by his railroad--the Beech Creek, Clearfield & South Western Railway Co., a line that was part of his railroad empire in the last third of the 19th Century. The signature asking price: $350.
Q: With the upcoming world's fair in Vancouver almost ready to open, I'd like to know if I should think about the collectible value of some of the items we'll encounter there. How collectible will such items be viewed by collectors in future years?--C.D.
A: There are a number of collectors and some collecting organizations throughout the country that specialize in memorabilia of world's fairs and expositions. The items and their prices vary widely.
For example, there are plates, pins, medals, glasses, ribbons, pennants and post cards--to name but a few of the items that have found their way into collections over the years. Prices range from just a few dollars to several hundred dollars.
So Vancouver's Expo '86, open May 2 to Oct. 13, should be a fertile resource for collectors.
Attracting collectors is the rich history associated with world's fairs. The Great Exhibition of 1851 in London appears to have marked the beginning of the world's fair movement. The first major U.S. exposition was the 1876 Centennial in Philadelphia.
Of interest to collectors are the many technological advances that have been introduced at world's fairs, including those that have affected the airplane, the telephone and electricity.
If readers have any information on local world's fair collecting organizations, write us and we'll pass the word along.
Q: You've frequently written about the collectible value of American products with long histories, such as the Cracker Jack company. We have collected Planters Peanuts items for a number of years. What can you tell us about the firm?--R.M.
A: Planters Peanuts opened in 1906 in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., when Amedeo Obici and Mario Peruzzi produced peanuts for the U.S. market. The Mr. Peanut trademark didn't appear until 1916, however.
Like Cracker Jack, the people running Planters quickly recognized the value of premiums. So it didn't take long for the trademark--Mr. Peanut wearing a high hat, legs crossed at a jaunty angle and carrying a walking stick--to start appearing on items, including ashtrays, beer mugs, belt buckles and clothing.
Collectors say there has been significant price appreciation in recent years.
One dealer, for example, lists a Mr. Peanut spoon at $60. And a Mr. Peanut display sign can sell for almost $200. But many of the items sell in the $10-$50 range.
POLITICAL NOTE OF SORTS: That swatch of Watergate carpeting we recently mentioned, supposedly trod upon by the Watergate burglars in 1972 and placed for mail-order auction by an Eastern dealer, sold for $27.