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COLLECTIBLES

War Memorabilia Help Capture the Sentiments of a Nation in Crisis

April 11, 1998|RALPH KOVEL and TERRY KOVEL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Emotions run high in times of war or threat of war. The public wants symbols and objects that can help express emotions. War memorabilia become a big business.

War-related collectibles can be divided into two groups: the mementos of life on the home front and the relics and trophies of war saved by those who fought.

Those interested in the history of the 1940s are buying all types of war-related pieces, including ration tokens, books, costume jewelry, GI Joe figures and other toys. Demand also is increasing for posters encouraging Americans to save scrap metal and buy savings bonds. More people also are collecting fabrics and prints that were decorated with flags, military men and slogans.

Some collectibles are a mystery to those who did not live through the war. What is a banner with a gold star? (You hung it in a window to tell your neighbors that your child had been killed in service.) Why is a piece of rhinestone jewelry shaped like three dots and a dash? (That's Morse code for V, as in "victory.")

All wars have produced collectibles. A few people are already saving pieces from the Vietnam and Persian Gulf wars. The prices are low for now but are bound to advance in the years to come.

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Question I'm trying to find an antique set of brass andirons. The ones I've seen are too tall for my fireplace. Any suggestions?

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Answer Don't give up. If you keep looking, you probably will find what you need.

Classically designed brass andirons were made in the United States in the 18th century, when fireplaces were large and open. Fireplaces became smaller in the late 1700s to save heat and wood, so the long shafts or finials of old andirons were cut down, and new andirons were stubbier, with ball-and-steeple tops.

You should be able to find a short pair from the 1800s for $1,000 to $5,000.

There are many reproductions on the market, so be careful. Some of the reproductions are handsome, but they should not be as expensive as old ones.

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Q My blue dinner plate is marked on the back with a crown and the words, "Lusitania, Royal Semi-Porcelain, Alfred Colley Ltd., Tunstall, England." Was it used on the ship that sunk?

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A No. It was made before the famous British ocean liner was torpedoed by a German submarine in 1915. The word "Lusitania" on your plate is the china pattern, named after an ancient Roman province on the Iberian Peninsula.

Alfred Colley Ltd., a pottery in Staffordshire, England, worked from 1909 to 1914. Other factories also made dishes using the pattern name "Lusitania."

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Q My 9-inch-high amber American Life Bitters bottle is shaped like a log cabin. It's embossed "Tiffin, Ohio." I understand another American Life Bitters bottle has a different city's name on it. What is the value of these bottles?

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A Bitters bottles date from 1862 to 1906. They held an alcoholic concoction of herbs and gin that was marketed as medicine.

Both the Tiffin and Omaha, Neb., bottles were made in amber. The Tiffin bottle also was made in green.

American Life Bitters bottles are rare. An amber Tiffin bottle is worth more than $3,000. A green Tiffin bottle or an amber Omaha bottle would sell for even more.

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Q I have two pairs of unused Mickey Mouse roller skates in their original boxes. They clamped over shoes. There is a metal "Mouseketeers Safety Skater Badge" inside each box. What are my skates worth?

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A Your skates were made by Globe-Union Inc. of Milwaukee from 1957 to 1959. In mint condition, including the pin-back badge, each pair of your skates is worth about $20.

If you'd like a listing of helpful books and publications on antiques, send a self-addressed, stamped (55 cents) envelope to the Kovels, Los Angeles Times, King Features Syndicate, 235 E. 45th St., New York, NY 10017.

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Current Prices

Current prices are recorded from antiques shows, flea markets, sales and auctions throughout the United States. Prices vary by location because of local economic conditions.

* Descriptive data manual for P-61 Series airplanes, restricted information regarding the aircraft, photos, diagrams, 60 pages, Oct. 15, 1943: $45.

* Animal Crackers cardboard cookie box shaped like a Greyhound semi-cruiser, blue, animals at each window, 1950s, 9 inches: $55.

* Calendar plate, 1928, scene of deer looking at road sign, "To Old Orchard Beach, Maine," 9 inches: $60.

* Southern Pacific Railroad playing cards, 52 scenes with map, box: $75.

* Perko bottle, green glass, jockey on horse, yellow-and-red painted logo, Elyria, Ohio, 6.5 ounces: $85.

* Straw hat, large brim, ostrich feathers on side, silk ribbon ties under neck, 1880s: $90.

* Everlast aluminum water pitcher and six tumblers, Bamboo pattern: $210.

* Singer sewing machine, No. 3, portable, hand crank, domed case, 1898: $330.

* Frozen Charlie doll, china head, pink tint, painted blue eyes, fists clenched, unjointed china body, 12 1/2 inches: $355.

* French Art Deco ivory-inlaid burl-wood cabinet, rectangular, two doors, raised on recessed plinth, circa 1935, 9 feet: $2,875.

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