THE SMART COLLECTOR

Grandkids unlikely to covet aging stack of National Geographics

Posted March 11, 2011, at 10:42 p.m.

Q: We have a complete set of slip-covered National Geographic magazines dated 1998-2003. My husband thinks that some day our grandchildren (the oldest is 4) will enjoy reading them. Given technology, are these magazines worth keeping? Are they of any value, other than sentimental?

A: Paper versus electronic is one major line defining generations. By the time your grandchildren are old enough to enjoy NG content, they’ll expect to access it on a tablet (think iPad) or some sort of e-reader (think Kindle). Who knows? By then, another innovation may beat either or both.

Part of a generation already growing up with bedtime stories on a tablet, the grandkids will no doubt, as they grow older, view information on bound paper as quaint.

Children and teens can enjoy a visual Geographic on HD television. The main site, www.nationalgeographic.com, has a great digital link for kids. And demand for an e-version of the magazine is avid: Online chats are peppered with requests for NG on iPad, Nano or another color-friendly delivery system.

As a magazine, National Geographic is a very old publication. Before cable TV and the Internet, it brought the world to millions of readers. Geographic was the most saved publication of all. Depression-era babies and their families could not bear to throw them away, and so there are millions stashed away in basements and attics.

In a magazine that old, only the very oldest issues and issues with cross-over appeal bring significant money.

At this point, serious collectors won’t look twice at post World War I issues of National Geographic. Your issues are so new that most dealers won’t buy them. There’s just no demand. We checked eBay and found 29,130 copies for sale.

If you decide to save the magazines for the grandkids as a novelty, keep copies in a dry place, protected from light and temperature extremes.

To sell, try a garage sale. Most sell for 50 cents to a dollar.

Q: Can you ID my mother’s lamp? I’m wondering about age.

A: The lamp seen in a photo may have started life as a Victorian glass lustre or luster. Both spellings are used. Finer mantel and-or table decorations of their time, most lusters stood from eight to 14 inches high and usually were displayed in pairs. The best had hanging crystal prisms that were long, ornately cut, beveled and faceted, and sometimes hung in double rows.

Original lusters of cased glass, where an opaque top layer is cut down to reveal a colored base layer, still are collected. Lusters handpainted with enamel and gold are especially attractive. Some combinations of fine glass and top quality brushwork are real works of art.

The midsection of this lamp is a real or facsimile luster.

The lamp from your childhood is either a 1940s conversion outfitted with a metal base and shade fitting, or a facsimile luster created expressly for mass production of lamps. My bet is on the first.

In any case, the lamp is not an authentic, intact luster (note the missing glass base). Value is that of a circa 1940s decorative table or side lamp.

Q: I have just about all the Beanie Babies ever made, including packaged ones from McDonald’s. Will my grandchildren be able to make money from them in the future?

A: No one can predict future trends in collecting, except for one absolute: The best will always sell best. Other than that, it’s a crapshoot.

Today, one sees piles of Beanie Babies at garage sales for 25 cents each. We found almost 2,000 listed on eBay starting at 99 cents. Who knows if the toys will ever appreciate in value? And are you willing to baby your stash until or if values climb? Future buyers (if they materialize) will want only pristine, nonsmelly, clean babies.

If one is the Ronald McDonald Beanie, that’s hot now. One sold for $46 on eBay.

AUCTION ACTION: An elaborately decorated pair of Bohemian lusters set to sell at Bonhams and Butterfields in San Francisco this month is estimated at $1,500-$2,000. Of cranberry overlay glass, the 19th century lusters stand almost 13 inches high and are decorated with handpainted portraits of period beauties and floral bouquets. Plus lots of gold.

COLLECTOR QUIZ

Q: The jewelry artist known as Margot de Taxco was a mid-20th century artisan celebrated for her enamel work on silver. Born in San Francisco, she married a Mexican silversmith working for William Spratling. Together, they created a studio where her artistry in silver and champleve became celebrated. What was her real name?

A: Margot Van Voorhies signed her jewelry first as Los Castillio, then Margot de Taxco. Source: “Margot Van Voorhies: The Art of Mexican Enamelwork,” by Penny C. Morrill (Schiffer, $49.99). Includes a chapter on contemporary enamel artists in Mexico.

Danielle Arnet will answer questions of general interest in her column. Send e-mails to smartcollector@comcast.net or write Danielle Arnet, c/o Tribune Media Services, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 1400, Chicago, IL 60611. Include an address in your query. Photos cannot be returned.

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