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Sometimes a Good Story Helps the Sale Along


What are the top 10 collectibles in the country? There is no definitive list, but certainly any list would include coins, stamps, dolls, baseball cards, bottles, advertising and political-campaign memorabilia.

Recently, an antiques shop offered a huge advertising sign shaped like a 14-foot bottle, a piece that would interest many collectors. The wooden sign hung above the old El Rankin Hotel in Cincinnati, about 1915. It pictured a bottle of J.T.S. Brown Bourbon. It was said that the whiskey broker had mob connections, so it was not surprising that the sign had pictures of three men, one reputed to be Al Capone. The fanciful story added to the glamour and importance of the unusual collectible that was offered for sale at $6,800.


Question: My husband's mother gave him a figural clock that she won as a punchboard-game prize during the 1930s. The figures surrounding the circular clock face are Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt and George Washington. Roosevelt's hands are steering a ship's wheel. The clock is 12 1/2 inches tall. It looks like bronze, but it's light weight. Is it valuable?


Answer: Your clock is one of about a dozen styles of cast-metal Roosevelt clocks made as punchboard-game prizes or giveaways during the 1930s. Your clock is titled "Steersmen of U.S.A." FDR is at the helm of the ship of state. Others show Roosevelt in similar poses or with members of his cabinet. Your clock is worth about $150 today.


Q Inside my grandmother's old piano bench I found a piece of sheet music that's even older than she is. It's dated 1884 and titled "Blaine for President." Was music often written for candidates back then? What is the sheet music worth?


A Presidential candidates sometimes choose hit songs as theme songs. Franklin Roosevelt used "Happy Days Are Here Again" in 1932. It has continued to be a Democratic Party theme song. Bill Clinton used Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop Thinking about Tomorrow."

But before radio and television, when piano-playing was parlor entertainment, sheet music--sometimes original and sometimes with lyrics sung to already-popular tunes--was published to promote a political candidate or cause. Political sheet music is a popular focus for collectors of sheet music.

Your sheet music, written to promote Republican James G. Blaine's losing candidacy in 1884, is worth $10 or more, depending on its condition.

For a listing of helpful books and publications, include a self-addressed, stamped (55 cents) envelope to Kovels, Los Angeles Times, King Features Syndicate, 235 E. 45th St., New York, NY 10017.

Current Prices

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

* Ideal Baby Snooks doll, Fanny Brice character, composition, poseable arms and legs, c. 1938, 12 inches, $55.

* Political ribbon, gold on white silk, "McKinley & Roosevelt--Union League--Nov. 6th 1900," U.S. flag bow, 7 by 2 inches, $110.

* Brass shoehorn in form of lady's leg, engraved shoe and petticoat, large flowers and leaves, early 19th century, 9 inches, $150.

* Esquire Varga calendar, 1946, beautiful women in different outfits each month, with original paper sleeve, 8 1/2 by 12 inches, $190.

* Mickey Mouse gum-ball machine, cast-iron base, Mickey and his pals marching in parade, decal all around bowl, manufactured by Hamilton, 1938, 16 inches, $1,800.

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