Question: I have a number of 45-rpm records that go back quite a few years. How far back does the 45 go?--W.F.
Answer: RCA Victor and Columbia Records took the lead in the late 1940s in experimenting with "slower" records to succeed the standard 78-rpm. In 1948, Columbia placed the first 33-rpm longer-playing records on the market.
(Interestingly, music historians note, Columbia also had an option at the time to produce the 45 record, but the firm wasn't sure if it would have very wide public acceptance.)
Then, the next year--1949--RCA Victor exercised an option on the 45 and by the 1950s was successfully marketing millions of the records. These old 45s are still widely held by collectors and can be found in collectible-record shops around the country.
Incidentally, collectors we've interviewed say you shouldn't be shy about purchasing old 78s and 45s even if they have some scratches. Unless the sound is seriously flawed, they say, the value is still there in terms of fleshing out a collection. If properly stored, even slightly scratched records should maintain their value, they add.
Q: My grandmother left us some candy molds that appear to date back more than half a century. How collectible are they?--F.G.
A: We've seen dealer prices range up to $100 or more, according to various catalogues that sample sales across the country.
From what we've read--unlike the case with slightly scratched records in the above answer--the molds should be in excellent condition to retain their collectible value.
Candy molds were very popular from the late 19th Century up to World War II, particularly for elaborate chocolate candy creations. They began fading from the scene as mass-production methods took over. That's when collectors stepped in.
Such molds, made of tin, pewter and other materials, stood as much as a foot or more high and were used to produce a wide variety of candy shapes, ranging from animals to human figures.
Q: The penny gum-ball machine of my childhood is a colorful collector's item. I'd like to contact any collecting clubs, particularly in Southern California, that have an interest in these old vending machines.--B.D.
A: Gum-ball and peanut machines seem to have flourished from the early part of this century into the 1940s. They are very collectible and, as a result, expensive. Price tags of several hundred dollars and more are not unusual.
Such machines seemed to particularly flourish during the Great Depression, when the public was more prone to part with pennies than with dollars.
Collectors say keeping the machines in original condition greatly enhances their value. This includes retaining original parts and decals and maintaining their original paint. Moreover, the more complex the mechanical features, collectors say, the more valuable the machine.
Needless to say, as the nostalgia trend in collectibles took off in recent years, the value of these machines rocketed. A cast-iron peanut machine, manufactured in Chicago in the late 1920s, recently changed hands for $2,000, according to one dealer.
Be sure to authenticate anything you purchase in this area, because a number of individuals and companies have been reproducing this collectible.
We'll await reader mail to answer whether there are vending machine clubs for collectors.