JOHN EGGERS COLUMN: The ABCs of antique buying

Part one of the ABCs of antique buying and collecting was published in a recent column. Part II is the conclusion providing you with M to Z. Are you interested in what I found for Z? I am too.

John Eggers WEB.jpg

I wrote part one of ABCs of antique buying and collecting in a recent column. Part two is the conclusion providing you with M to Z. Are you interested in what I found for Z? I am too.

M: Old movie posters and theater bills are good when you can find them. Their value is determined not only by the title of the movie and who was in it but equally by the type of artwork on the poster. Surprisingly there is a market for those old pulp magazines with colorful covers.

Marbles are a conundrum for me. I have a difficult time telling the old ones from the new ones unless they are a sulfide which is a clear marble with an object like a cow or teddy bear inside. "Midcentury modern" itself is a difficult term to define. It broadly describes architecture, furniture and graphic design from the middle of the 20th century (roughly 1933 to 1965, though some would argue the period is specifically limited to 1947 to 1957.) In any event, it is becoming very popular.

N: North Dakota School of Mines pottery was made for about 50 years beginning in 1898. Prices range from $75 and way, way up. Most of it is marked, all is valuable including damaged items. Many of our grandmothers or mothers had a piece of Nippon or two. Nippon means “Japan” and was made during the early part of the 20th century. Old Norwegian items like salt and porridge boxes or trunks and old silver are very collectible and can command top dollar. Try a product called Nevr-Dull to shine brass and silver. You can find it at Ace Hardware.

O: Those old greasy oil tins/containers can be very good if in good condition and scarce. The rarer the better. Occupied Japan items don’t have much value anymore unless they are scarce items. The items were made after the close of World War II until 1952. We have an entire tree full of old Christmas ornaments. Be careful where you purchase them because they are reproduced.


P: I have a passion for early postcards and pocket watches. Postcards tell the history of the United States from the late 1800s through today. Postcards usually are either a real photo card, a lithograph, chrome or linen. Real photo cards of depots and street scenes are sought after. Halloween and Santa cards are also collectible. Sent or unsent, it doesn’t make too much difference.

Pocket watches in working condition with gold cases and high jewel numbers are, to say the least, nice. Personalities like Peanuts, Pluto, Peter Pan, Popeye and Princess Diana are collected by many. Anything political is desirable. Roseville, Sleepy Eye, Hull and Weller pottery among many other names are still sought after. Any unique photographic items are also in demand like interesting photos and cameras.

Q: Don’t quit collecting something. Collections add meaning to our lives. Old hand-sewn quilts in good condition are sought after. Badly torn or stained quilts have little value. Quimper is a type of early pottery produced in Quimper, France. The factory still makes pottery. Remember the Dionne Quints? I believe only two remain from the original five: Anette and Cecile. Quint items are not nearly as sought after as they used to be.

R: Common Red Wing crocks like 2, 4, 6 and 10 gallons are easy to find with small or large wings. Crocks with a birch leaf, target or lazy eight marks are more valuable. Like other items, crocks, too, should be in good condition. Buying good Red Wing pottery and stoneware is a good investment as are items pertaining to scarce Roy Rogers, rock and roll memorabilia, Roseville pottery and royalty.

S: Sewing antiques like signs, buttons, shuttles and fancy work attract buyers. Soda pop items are high on a collector’s list. Old shaving mugs with an embossed name and an illustration of the owner’s occupation are expensive and hard to find.

Easier to find and less expensive are Shirley Temple mugs and bowls, Shawnee pottery and sheet music. Old Stanley tools, any type of old advertising signs and country store mementos like biscuit boxes, cash registers, display cases, coffee bins and candy display containers are cherished items because they evoke memories of yesteryear.

T: Old toys are desired by more people than most any other antique. This is why old toys, in good condition, can bring top dollar. Arcade, Hubley and Marx are a few names to look for and don’t forget John Deere tractors—and other tractors. One of my first collections was tintypes (photographs on tin). Pictures of people are easy to find and cost less than $5. Civil War soldiers and outdoor scenes are more expensive.

Tobacco-related items like advertising signs, unusual lighters and good old pipes are sought after. Traps, trivets and old trunks are also nice. Old typewriters are beginning to be very popular. I almost forgot about trade tokens. They come in various sizes and shapes and were good for free merchandise in a store depending on the value of the token.


U: Look for the unusual in any antique. People like unique, one-of-a-kind items like first edition books, rare fishing lures, custard glass souvenir pieces, “what is it?” kind of tools and kitchenware. All unusual items are rare and usually have a buyer that is willing to pay an uncommon price.

V: I know little about video games but those old handheld Pac-Man type games are now hot items. I would rather look for old Victor duck decoys, vending machines and Van Briggle pottery. This pottery was first produced in Colorado Springs in the early 1900s and is well marked. Be careful of old lace and paper Valentines. They are so delicate and beautiful but not as collectible as you might think.

W: Watch for old watch fobs that advertise farm machinery, old weather vanes with a cow or horse or pig, war memorabilia, Whitman publishing company children’s books, Weller pottery and World’s Fair Collectibles. Western Americana having to do with cowboys and ranching are also very good items. Winchester items are always good even in poor condition.

X, Y, Z: X-mas collectibles, yard-long pictures and old Zenith radios can be good investments. X-mas items like ornaments, Santas and even plastic items from the 50s are highly regarded. Yard-long pictures are exactly what the name implies. They are of a yard of flowers or of some animals like cats or horses. They usually sell for more than $100. Yearbooks are also desirable especially if they have a well-known person in them. Old Zenith radios are good but not great plus they are the only thing I could think of that begins with Z. One thing for sure, collecting antiques is anything but a zany idea.

Collecting antiques is “A” for an awesome idea and “Z” for anything but a zany idea. I especially encourage elementary teachers and teachers of social studies and history to use antiques to supplement their teaching. Students like to see and feel tangible things and a flag with 48 stars or a picture of Kennedy on a cover of “Life” magazine can be used in a variety of ways to make history come alive.

You will not lose money when buying quality antiques. You never know about stocks. Antiques are a safer bet, plus you can see and enjoy them. Just remember your ABCs.

Riddle: How do you keep ugly monsters in suspense? (Answer: I will tell you next week. There is no suspense in collecting old Halloween items. They are golden.)


Thanks to the Ecuadorian shop in the Paul Bunyan Mall for supporting the 100% graduation rate project.


John R. Eggers of Bemidji is a former university professor and area principal. He also is a writer and public speaker.

Related Topics: EDUCATION
What To Read Next
Leadership takes honest reflection and thinking about the needs of others, Jenny Schlecht writes. With that in mind, do we have the right leaders to get a new farm bill passed by Sept. 30?
Has anyone ever asked you, “What are you concerned about?” Did they ask a follow-up question, “How do you translate that concern into action?”
"Church worship now competes with everything from professional sports to kids activities to household chores. ... we can either have a frank conversation about what church can be, or we can continue to watch the pews empty in cherished houses of worship across the country."
When Katie Pinke directed her daughter to a beef expert in preparation for her speech meet, it made her think about the need for trusted ag sources of information.