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Some Old Bonds Have Growing Interest

March 05, 1987|RONALD L. SOBLE | Times Staff Writer

Question: I have some old Los Angeles Water Works bonds that date back to the 1930s. What might they be worth to collectors?--C.H.

Answer: If you have a $1,000 Water Works bond that had a 4% return, colored blue, black and white, it recently was featured in a catalogue of scripophily for $25.

Demand for old stocks and bonds appears to be growing. Some collectors are attracted to a certificate's artwork. In your case, there is a blue, black and white vignette of the City of Los Angeles seal.

Other collectors are more interested in historic signatures. Old railroad stock, for example, might produce autographs of titans of American industry, such as those of the Vanderbilt family. Such certificates can change hands for several hundred dollars each.

Q: I came across what appear to be some old wine bottles in our attic. None of them have labels. Can you offer any hints on how I might go about some history sleuthing on the age of the bottles or who produced them? It's possible the bottles, still in good condition, are more than 100 years old.--L.R.

A: Take a look at the bottom of the bottles. Oftentimes, a company name appeared on the bottle's base and could provide some basis for historical research.

Without a name, bottle experts can date their collectibles by analyzing design, colors and shape. For example, 19th-Century wine bottles were made in molds, which left mold seams on the sides of the bottles. By analyzing mold-blown bottles, experts sometimes can come up with approximate--but not precise--dates of production.

An informative paperback on the subject is "The Knopf Collectors' Guides to American Antiques, Vol. 2, Glass Bottles, Lamps & Other Objects" (Alfred A. Knopf, New York: $13.95, 478 pp., indexed).

Q: Are there any particular years I should focus on in collecting Indian beadwork? I have a fairly good collection, but in terms of value, I was wondering if I should concentrate on certain periods instead of simply adding to the quantity in my collection.--B.B.

A: Collectors have said some of the best Indian beadwork appeared in the early part of this century. In fact, beginning in the late 19th Century, various North American tribes began making their work available to the general public. Determining the age of beadwork can be a problem, however.

Interestingly the Indians of the West did not dominate Indian bead trade at that time. Instead, Eastern tribes first made their wares available to the public in quantifiable numbers, according to collectors.

Collectors underscore that individuals new to the field should pay attention not only to the quality of the beadwork; if the fabric is badly faded or damaged, they say, then the value of the work can plunge.

Some collectors say market demand has been stronger for colored beads rather than the clear variety. And, they say, the larger the individual beads, the more valuable the piece could be.

Prices seem to vary widely from $12 pin cushions to intricate animal and geometric designs worth hundreds of dollars.

Date Book

What's being billed as the first annual West Coast Marble Convention is scheduled Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Holiday Inn in Santa Cruz (611 Ocean St.). The show will feature a sale of antique marbles, marble games, machine-made marbles and related items. General admission is $2; children 11 and under free. For further information, call Russell Coppel, (408) 423-6409.

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