Question: I found some books in an attic trunk that I'm told were called "big little books." When were they popular?--S.N.
Answer: Such books, small but thick hardcover volumes, were widely circulated in the 1930s and 1940s. Generally, they were published for children and were takeoffs on comic strips of that period.
Because their covers were usually made of stiff cardboard, thousands of them have survived, as opposed to comic books of that era, which tended to disappear. Therefore, even though they were colorfully illustrated and produced, their prices are not on a par with valuable comic books, collectors say. Even so, some of the books featuring such popular characters as Dick Tracy, Flash Gordon and Mickey Mouse have brought prices in excess of $100.
Commenting on our recent column on railroad collectibles, W.J. of Desert Hot Springs was wondering if there are any clubs for collectors of old railroad timetables. Among the memorabilia in W.J.'s collection, he says, are the menu and itinerary of former President Richard M. Nixon's campaign train when he was running for governor of California.
A recent column on cookbooks brought a response from David Streeter, who, along with John Biklen, owns a business in LaVerne specializing in food and wine books and called Gluttony Books (P.O. Box 241, LaVerne, Calif. 91750).
"We . . . have approximately 3,000 books in our stock," Streeter says. "We are especially strong in the cookbooks of the Pacific Rim and Southwestern states, Mexico and charitable books (published) prior to 1945. The oldest book that we have to offer is 'Nuevo Arte de Cocina' by Juan Altimiras, published in Madrid, Spain, in 1791."
Streeter says collectors need not be too concerned about an older cookbook's condition, because such books are likely to be "kept in the kitchen with all of the kitchen hazards of heat and steam, in addition to stains, rather than in pristine order on the shelves of a neat library room."
Some other food and wine book sellers he calls to our attention are: Marian Gore Bookseller, Box 433, San Gabriel, Calif. 91778; Household Words, Box 7231, Berkeley, Calif. 94707; Wine and Food Library, 1207 W. Madison St., Ann Arbor, Mich. 48103, and M. M. Einhorn Maxwell Books, 80 East 11th St., New York, N.Y. 10003.
Collectible-button expert Ted Hake took particular notice of vanquished 1936 presidential candidate Alf Landon's death on Oct. 12. Landon, Hake says, was a "winner" in his Sept. 29 auction of presidential memorabilia by Hake's Americana & Collectibles (P.O. Box 1444, York, Pa. 17405).
"A one-inch diameter celluloid button issued in 1936 for Landon and his vice-presidential running mate, Frank Knox, brought a $1,364 winning bid from among nine competitors," Hake says. The winning auction bid, he says, "is a record amount for an individual Landon button, and part of the total auction of 145 scarce and rare political buttons, which netted more than $23,000."
The valuable button, Hake says, showed photos of the two candidates, the sunflower symbol of Landon's home state of Kansas and the overly optimistic (Landon lost every state but Maine and Vermont) slogan, "Landon Knox (Knocks) Out Roosevelt."
Hake's mail and telephone auctions have been conducted quarterly or bimonthly for 20 years. In the past, we have recommended his book, "Collectible Pin-Back Buttons 1896-1986" (336 pages, indexed, $48), which contains information on more than 5,000 buttons.
Pin collector-dealer Bill Nelson says he's giving away a booklet that will introduce readers to the world of pin collecting. "The hobby of pin collecting has been very popular in Europe for years, and now it's catching on in the United States," he writes.
Nelson, who specializes in Olympic pins, says the free booklet is entitled, "Pins by Mail--An Introduction to the Hobby of Collecting Pins." Write to Nelson in care of P.O. Box 41630, Tucson, Ariz. 85717-1630. Nelson will also send a free copy of his monthly pins newsletter.
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.