Question: I recently purchased "Up and Down California" in good condition for $90 from a book dealer and wondered if I got a good buy.--E.G.
Answer: The book "Up and Down California in 1860-1864" by William H. Brewer (Yale University Press, 1930) is coveted by book collectors. According to Los Angeles book dealer Jeff Weber of Zeitlin & Ver Brugge, its current value, if in good condition with the dust jacket intact, is $150.
One measure of its importance, Weber said, is the fact that it's listed as item No. 9 in Zamorano 80, a bibliographic guide to California's most distinguished books.
The 601-page volume, illustrated with maps, consists of a series of letters written by Brewer to his brother, which provide "a permanent record of a geological survey" of the state, Weber said. The book was edited by Francis P. Farquhar, and its preface was written by Russell H. Chittenden, two late well-known California writers.
The book, Weber added, "is one of the most valuable for information about California of that period. It's not an easy book to find."
Q: In a book about the Kennedy family ("The Kennedys: An American Drama"), authors Peter Collier and David Horowitz say John F. Kennedy collected scrimshaw. How old is the scrimshaw art form? Is this a popular collectible? Are the pieces usually valuable?--D.I.
A: Sailors have been carving on whalebone and whale teeth for centuries, and early forms of scrimshaw command lofty prices ranging into the hundreds of dollars and higher. Another popular material is walrus tusk, to the consternation of many environmentalists.
Some painted scrimshaw designs, showing outdoor scenes or animals, can be quite elaborate. The painted technique consists of scratching the design into the surface with needles and then etching India ink into the scratches.
Artistic quality, age and condition are some of the factors that determine value.
Q: You recently mentioned a catalogue showing a price range on Coca-Cola trays. Could you please publish the name of this catalogue and where it can be purchased?--R.F.
A: The reference work is "The Official 1987 Price Guide to Antiques and Collectibles" (House of Collectibles, 201 East 50th St., New York, N.Y. 10022, 927 pp., $9.95). This is just one of many books on collectibles that lists Coca-Cola memorabilia.
This particular volume offers a price range in each of hundreds of collectible categories based on feedback from sources such as dealers and flea markets. Be careful, however, because such books, no matter how well organized and written, can quickly become dated in terms of prices and collecting trends. You should also keep in touch with dealers and collectors on your own to make sure you stay apace with the market.
Speaking of doing your own research, one collector we recently spoke with, who is into nostalgia items such as Coca-Cola trays, said he has a big collection of old catalogues and magazines. The reason, he said, is that they provide him with an excellent way to date many of the items in his collection.
Additionally, catalogue- and magazine-product displays allow him to study how the collectibles he is seeking originally looked, so he can detect those which have been cleverly repaired or copied.
An event called Collectors' Expo is set for this weekend at the Pasadena Exhibit Center, 300 E. Green St., Pasadena. Promoters say a wide range of antiques and collectibles will be exhibited from furniture and cars to Western memorabilia, toys, dolls, barber shop items, vending and slot machines, records, old signs--you name it. Show hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Admission: $3.50.