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Signs Not of the Times Are Valuable

October 07, 2000|RALPH KOVEL and TERRY KOVEL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Advertising signs of all ages are selling for high prices. The early handmade signs are popular with folk-art collectors. Late 19th- and 20th-century tin lithographed signs can sell for thousands of dollars if the graphics are appealing and the brand is known.

Kings of the collectibles are cola and soda-pop advertising pieces, especially signs.

Patent medicines became popular in the 1860s. The public wanted to find a drink that would make them feel healthy. Druggists often made drinks, which usually had alcohol mixed with herbs, drugs such as cocaine and some flavoring.

A Georgia druggist mixed a kola nut extract, fruit syrup, coca-leaf extract and water and sold it in an Atlanta drugstore as Coca-Cola. In 1887, the formula was mixed with carbonated water. Dozens of other soft drinks or medicines were sold at drugstores. Food and drug laws have changed the contents of soft drinks sold today, but they still contain carbonated water, flavoring and, possibly, caffeine and herbs. The ads in the past stressed the medicinal value--"aids digestion," "renews vigor," "freedom from fatigue"--and even suggested that the drinks cured headaches and diseases of the vocal cords.

Look for old ads of any sort and save new items, such as drink cups from ballgames, Olympic pins, printed shirts or ties, bottles and cans.

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Q I bought a table at an estate sale last year. When I looked under the table, I discovered an electrical cord and plug, a complicated mechanical device and a long set of instructions. The table's name, "Hammond Electric Bridge Table," was also on the bottom of the table.

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A If you insert a deck of cards into the central compartment of the mechanism, the cards will be shuffled. Then an arm goes around on the device's outside track, picks up a card and deposits it into another compartment in front of each of the four players around the table. The Hammond Clock Co. of Chicago made about 12,000 of these tables in 1931-32. The tables are sturdy and well-made. Quite a few still exist.

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Q I just read an article about a collector who buys old high-school yearbooks. I wouldn't mind selling mine. How do I go about selling it? What can I get for it?

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A Most people shopping online or at flea markets for yearbooks are interested in buying one from their high school. They might have lost theirs, or maybe they're interested in the history of their city. If you still live in or near your hometown, try a local antiques mall or flea market. If you live far from your hometown, use an online auction. Most old yearbooks sell for $3 to $15. The exception would be a yearbook that includes a graduation photo of a major movie star, politician or athlete.

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.

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