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Ad Cards Cheap, Have Nostalgia Value

October 08, 1987|RONALD L. SOBLE | Times Staff Writer

Question: My mother kept a collection of advertising cards that, I understand, could date back to the turn of the century. I don't see these cards in circulation these days; nor do I believe new sets are printed each year like baseball cards. Have they vanished from the American scene?--C.H.

Answer: Advertising trade cards, about the size of the popular baseball cards, generally stopped being printed about 75 years ago. The cards usually carried a product picture, maybe a slogan and possibly the name and address of a merchant selling the item.

The colorful cards are popular among collectors both for their nostalgia value and the fact that they don't cost a lot--usually only a few dollars each.

One problem for collectors, however, is that few of these cards carried dates, although approximate times can be established by tracing the history of a product or the company that produced it.

Cards are known to have been circulated by American manufacturers in the early 19th Century, but these are difficult to find. The most commonly available ones probably were printed in the late 1800s.

Many of the companies that used such cards, such as the Singer and Colgate firms, became household names. The demise of these cards can be largely tied to the fact that these companies found they could more efficiently spread their message in newspapers and magazines rather than attempting to reach the public on a piecemeal basis.

Sol Marshall of Van Nuys says his Creative Book Co., (818) 988-2334, has an inventory of about 40 old cookbooks if any collectors or clubs are interested. "The oldest is a little 48-page booklet, 5 inches by 8 inches, saddle-stitched, issued by the Royal Baking Powder Co., entitled 'Royal Baker and Pastry Cook,' " he says.

"Other little booklets are dated 1913 and 1915, and they also were produced as giveaways by manufacturers. Most are hard-cover and range up to 40 years in age."

From time to time we receive correspondence from cookbook collectors, so there must be a viable market out there. If there are any cookbook collector groups, let's here from you.

Unlike some collectibles where individuals are looking for items in any condition, we're told that cookbooks should be in top condition (no food stains!) to command top dollars.

Additionally, any margin notes by well-known cooks or personalities add to the book's value.

Historians place the dates of the earliest American cookbooks at around the turn of the 19th Century.

One of the first was called "The Frugal Housewife," which apparently also was published under a second title, "Complete Woman Cook," both written by Susanna Carter and published in Philadelphia in 1796. Another cookbook published that same year in Hartford, Conn., was titled "American Cookery" by Amelia Simmons.

As Marshall points out, even as far back as the Carter and Simmons books, such publications were used as premiums by food companies to publicize their products. We're advised that they are generally less expensive than other cookbooks published in the 19th Century. We've seen few dealer catalogue prices on old cookbooks ranging toward the $100 level.

Another mailbag item from S.R. of Pacific Palisades suggests a collectible category we haven't covered before: old passports.

S.R. says she kept several passports "from my family homestead in Maine. . . . One, from one of my grandparents, is dated 1925 and is a large folded green paper with a red Department of State seal." Another, she adds, "is a large single white sheet of paper with the (State Department) red seal," issued in 1898 and carried by her great-aunt. Any collectible-passport groups out there?

A recent letter from Darryl Rehr, vice president of a typewriter-collectors group, says: "There has been significant activity this year among collectors of antique typewriters, including the formation of the Early Typewriter Collectors Assn." A telephone contact for his group is (213) 559-2368.

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.

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