Kovels Cracker Jack

It took $615 to buy this early Cracker Jack store sign. The sailor boy and dog are still on every box but with newer clothes and different features.

Companies that have been in business for a long time often have updated and changed the logo or slogan used in advertising. Collectors can usually identify the age of the ad from the words and pictures that were used. Cracker Jack was first sold in 1896 from a cart in Chicago. The mixture of popcorn, molasses and peanuts, sometimes called the first junk food in America, was very popular. It sold well at the Chicago World’s Fair and got even more notice when the familiar song sung at ball games said, “Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack.”

The company developed a box that held a single serving, added coupons for prizes in 1910, then small toys in 1912, and in 2013, a code that leads to an online puzzle or game. The box has pictured the sailor boy (the founder’s son) and his dog Bingo since 1918, often changing their looks. This 9-by-14-inch die-cut cardboard store sign pictures an early version of the sailor boy. It sold at a Kimball Sterling auction for $615. The early toys are popular with collectors, and there is even a Cracker Jack Collectors Association. The most expensive prize? The baseball card series from 1914-1915, worth over $100,000.

Q. I have a Josef Originals “Doll of the Month” figurine for the month of July. She’s holding a gray kitten in her left hand. A gold and black sticker on the front of her dress says “July.” A second sticker says “Josef Originals.” Some of the sticker is gone. The hang tag has a little poem. What is the value of the doll?

A. Muriel Joseph George began making ceramic figurines in the basement of her home in California in 1945. A printer’s error on the first labels changed the spelling from “Joseph” to “Josef” and that became the company name. Production moved to Japan in 1962. The company was sold several times beginning in 1982. The value of your figurine is $25 to $40.

Q. I saved your article on cleaning collectibles and find it very helpful. I have a lovely lacquered tray on a stand that has several dull spots. We lived in Japan for five years and bought the tray there. At some point, my cleaning help used a rag that probably had polish of some sort on it. How can I restore the finish?

A. Lacquer should be kept out of strong light, which can dull the finish. It should be dusted with a feather duster, not a cloth that might have residual polish on it or one that could scratch the surface. Sources online suggest using carnauba wax and a lambswool buffer to restore damaged pieces, but if only some of the finish is damaged, this isn’t a good idea. If it’s a piece you love and want to keep on display, it would be worth taking the tray to someone who restores antiques. A good restoration by an amateur is almost impossible on lacquer.

Q. A porcelain group showing a wicker basket with four babies’ faces peeking out from under the lid has been in my family for years. The basket is actually a box with a removable lid. It’s decorated with leaves and a lock and key and is 9 1/2 inches long by 8 inches high and 6 inches deep. A very lightly impressed mark with a rounded top is on the bottom. Can you provide any information on it as well as possible value? It is in perfect condition.

A. Gebruder Heubach, or Heubach Brothers, was a firm known for bisque dolls and doll heads. It operated in Lichten, Germany, from 1840 to about 1938. They also made bisque figurines beginning in the 1880s and glazed figurines in the 1900s. Heubach made the rare “Four Babies in a Basket” figural bisque group about 1910. Even more rare is the larger-sized basket, like yours. It’s prized for the realistic-looking wicker and baby faces with intaglio eyes, sculpted hair, molded teeth, blushing cheeks and chubby arms. A Gebruder Heubach mark, the sunburst over initials G and H that was registered in 1882, is incised on the bottom. We’ve seen a few sell from $1,300 to $3,000.

Q. I’ve been collecting “People’s Book Club” books for over 20 years and have over 100 of them. Some have jackets, others do not, but all are in really good shape. I’m downsizing and would like to sell the lot of them. Where can I take them to sell?

A. The People’s Book Club (PBC) was a mail-order book club started by Sears, Roebuck and Co. in July 1943. Special PBC editions of popular books were designed and printed in the Sears publishing house in Chicago and offered monthly at low prices to club members. Books were chosen based on the recommendations of “experts” and the interests of members, which was based on information supplied by George Gallup, the inventor of the Gallup Poll. The words “Selected by Your People’s Jury” are included on some book covers. The club continued until 1959. An antiquarian or used bookstore might buy your books. The books sell online for $3 to $35.

TIP: Dust glass Christmas ornaments with a feather duster.

Write to Kovels, (The Daily Times), King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803.

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