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Your Collectibles

Transforming Plowshares Into Prizes

June 22, 1989|RONALD L. SOBLE | Times Staff Writer

Question: Having grown up on a farm, I have a number of farm collectibles that I've kept over the years, even though we now live in an urban area. In terms of assessing the value of my collection, are any years of manufacture more significant than others?--C.H.

Answer: Collectors generally are interested in farm collectibles used before World War II, although age is not always the deciding factor in determining value. Rarity of the item and its condition also count, say collectors and dealers.

Of particular value are farm items that were made by individual craftsmen--such as blacksmiths--before the turn of the century.

The introduction of mass-production techniques usually translates into collectibles of less value because so many of the same item--such as farm tools--could be manufactured. Thus, a rule of thumb is that the collectible value of mass-produced items is not as great as those fashioned by the individual craftsman or farmer.

Generally, the value of such collectibles--ranging from egg baskets to old prints to hay forks--has taken off in recent years because the "farm look" has become fashionable in many homes and urban areas of the country.

Serious collectors should look for signs of wear that indicate that the item is a genuine collectible and not a fake.

Q: I have several old newspaper comic strips, some dating back half a century. Was Mutt and Jeff the first continuous strip?--M.B.

A: Yes. Bud Fisher's Mutt and Jeff appeared in 1907.

It wasn't long before the daily comic strip became enormously popular--and profitable, both for the successful artist who could syndicate his strip and for the newspaper, which used it to promote sales.

By the Great Depression, Dick Tracy, Little Orphan Annie and other characters had become household names that, for a few moments, could take American minds off the depressing economic times.

Many collectors prefer to concentrate on one cartoon character rather than attempting to acquire a number of different strips. A variation of this is to focus on one particular artist.


Our recent note about leather post cards brought a response from B. F. of Van Nuys, who says he has one, bearing a 2-cent stamp, which was mailed to Great Britain in 1905.

"I wonder if it would be possible for you to suggest a source of information so that one might get some idea of the value of these cards before approaching a dealer," he writes.

Another reader, S. K. of Newport Beach, says of leather post cards: "It is true most people have neither seen nor heard of them." But S. K. adds she has more than 70 in her collection and that several of them were sent through the U.S. mail.

"They are postmarked 1906, '07 and '08, from various places in the country. The post cards are regulation size, made of soft glove leather. Some have printed verses, seasonal greetings or cartoons. All have space for handwritten messages.

"My original source was a second-hand store about 20 years ago. I have since found them occasionally at swap meets and antique stores, but never more than two or three at a time."

If you have any further information about collectors, dealers, clubs or source books knowledgeable about leather post cards, drop us a line.

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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