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Circus Is Popular Penny-Arcade Theme

February 04, 1988|RONALD L. SOBLE | Times Staff Writer

Question: They're expensive. But I'm addicted to them. Penny arcade machines, that is. Bally Manufacturing and Exhibit Supply are two old-time brand names on my machines. Can you give me a few more to look for at collectors' shows and flea markets?--S.G.

Answer: Mills Novelty Co., D. Gottlieb & Co. and Caille Brothers are some more names for you.

Highly collectible are the machines that were produced in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s and that took on a circus flavor with their bells, lights and interesting sounds.

Aside from the glitzy models, among the most popular among collectors are machines that were not games of chance but have a touch of nostalgia, such as peanut- and candy-vending machines. Many of them have cast-iron bases supporting glass bowls that displayed the merchandise.

By the way, what will a penny buy today?

Q: In toy collecting, does the original box play a role in determining the price of the toy?--C.R.

A: Invariably. If you have the original box, hang on to it. And if you have an opportunity to buy a collectible toy in its original box, do so. Toy collectors are among the most fastidious among collectors and place premiums on such things.

Additionally, condition--including whether any moving parts still function--counts for a lot in this collectible category.

In this context, collectors should be careful when considering reconditioning old toys. Too much refinishing can virtually destroy a collectible toy's value. Repainting can also diminish value.

Obviously, the name of the game is to keep to the original condition as much as possible.

Age and manufacturer are also important factors to consider, but you'll always come back to condition as the bottom line when negotiating price. Even if a toy is slightly damaged or chipped, most collectors say this is preferable to a glossy refinishing job, which destroys the toy's original appearance.

Of great interest to veteran collectors are pull toys and others produced between the Civil War and the turn of the century. But toys of more recent vintage, such as post-World War II autos and trucks, also attract collectors' attention.

With Valentine's Day almost upon us, collectors' interest in old valentine cards undoubtedly will be whetted.

The winter issue of Paper Pile Quarterly (Box 337, San Anselmo, Calif. 94960) featured what editor Ada Fitzsimmons called a "warehouse find" of valentines. "All are marked 'Printed in Germany,' " she wrote. "All are unused. All are stand-up; many are mechanical and stand-up. All are 1920s." The high end of the price range is around $7.50 each.

Pin collecting is one of the fastest growing hobbies.

All sorts of pins, from the political variety to the Olympic kind, have caught collectors' eyes.

Collecting Olympic pins received major impetus during the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Pins featuring countries along with products were big sellers. And with the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary approaching, there's sure to be another upsurge in interest for Olympic pins among collectors.

Pin collecting is still a hobby that doesn't take big bucks to enjoy, and it offers beginners ground-floor opportunities for starting interesting collections.

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