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Nothing Is So-So About These Items

September 29, 1988|RONALD L. SOBLE | Times Staff Writer

Question: I have accumulated a large collection of sewing items, such as pin cushions, dating back to the turn of the century, and even some buttonhole cutters that undoubtedly are more than 100 years old. Can such a collection have much value?--S.H.

Answer: Dealer catalogues show that sewing collectibles, such as 19th-Century buttonhole cutters, tape measures, spool boxes and pin cushions, carry individual price tags of $60 and up. So they obviously have significant value.

Many 19th-Century sewing items were made of wood. But elegant silver sewing tools also were popular at that time and are highly collectible.

A related item that is enormously popular is the thimble.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of thimble collectors worldwide, along with thimble clubs and newsletters.

Since Victorian times, thimbles have been produced from a variety of materials, including gold, silver, steel, brass, ivory and leather. In mint condition, it's not unusual to see them change hands for $50 and up.

Aside from the pragmatic sewing thimble, there are collectible thimbles featuring various messages. In fact, by the time the Great Depression arrived, aluminum thimbles had become a popular advertising vehicle for commercial, political and other advertising.

As a result, it's not too difficult for the would-be collector to get into thimble collecting at relatively low prices.

Q: I recently had an opportunity to purchase some items that were supposed to be aboard the Titanic before the disaster. How do I know they are genuine?--M.L.

A: Many collectors have been fooled by items purportedly on the Titanic when, in fact, they are fakes. The public should check with historians and museum curators to authenticate such items.

For example, the Philadelphia Maritime Museum has a collection of the Titanic Historical Society (P.O. Box 53, Indian Orchard, Mass. 01051).

Among Titanic collectibles are brochures about the ship that were put out by the ship's company, the White Star Line; and ship menus and stationery. Prices can be lofty--for example, an authenticated ship's menu can cost more than $800--which is why it's important that the buyer be absolutely sure that the item actually came from the Titanic.

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