Question: I have collected a number of items from fast-food restaurants over the years and wondered what sort of premiums collectors place on such things these days.--V.G.
Answer: There appear to be a number of fast-food collectibles around from McDonald's, Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken and other familiar quick-stop eateries that dot the American landscape.
Usually, the collectible items spawned by these establishments are made of plastic or cardboard, such as advertising signs, posters and premiums put out to attract customers. Items generated by McDonald's expansion over the years appear to be most popular with collectors.
It's not too difficult to trace the age of these items. Fast-food restaurants didn't really proliferate until after World War II. Then, when Ray Kroc opened McDonald's in Des Plaines, Ill., in 1955, the business really took off--and so did the soon-to-be-collectible premiums.
Over the years, collectors have sought a number of items put out by McDonald's--such as a Ronald McDonald coin bank, puzzles, whistles and Frisbees. Not to be outdone, Burger King has given away pencil holders, games, puppets and yo-yos.
All of these items, thus far, have sold among collectors at relatively low prices, usually under $10 each. One of the reasons is that they are still in plentiful supply. But, as is the case with most collectibles, as the years pass and their quantity diminishes, prices tend to rise.
Q: I have a mechanical frog bank that was given to me for my birthday some 30 years ago. I know that collectors covet mechanical banks, but I've also heard that there are some individuals who collect "frog items." Or was someone pulling my leg?--B.R.
A: Actually, there is more than a little mystique attached to the lowly frog both in artwork and collectibles. Aside from being a popular cartoon character, frog drawings and designs have been widely used on a number of products from toys to paperweights.
Prices vary widely. Turn-of-the-century mechanical banks or wind-up frog creations can sell for up to $200 or more, according to a recent catalogue's assessment.
Q: We have an antique British tea service in our family that we believe goes back more than 100 years. Does this alone make it a valuable collector's piece?--J.A.
A: Not necessarily, because the tea service tradition goes back much further. In fact, historians have recorded the appearance of ornate tea services a few years before the start of the 18th Century.
As for collecting tea services, to be complete it should at least have--aside from a teapot, of course--a sugar bowl and a creamer. Such a quality three-piece set in good condition could sell for upwards of $5,000 or more, according to dealers.
A tip for collectors: Make sure that the markings or design on the tea pot's lid match that of the pot.
The Cornfield Meet, billed as the largest railroad artifact show on the West Coast, is scheduled for April 25 and 26, in the 42,000-square-foot Building 7A on the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds in Pomona. Collectors will be interested in railroad lanterns, dining-car china and silverware, locks, keys, hardware, photographs, slides and publicity items. Additionally, a permanent display of steam engines, rolling stock and trolleys will be on public display. For ticket and/or display information, call (818) 963-8845 or (714) 681-4647.
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.