SMART COLLECTOR

Condition, maker sweeten prices for cookie jars

Posted April 22, 2011, at 1:17 p.m.
Nothing says spring like toy ducks and rabbits. The circa 1910-20 German mechanical duck toy brought $7,475 last year in a James D. Julia sale.
James D. Julia Inc.
Nothing says spring like toy ducks and rabbits. The circa 1910-20 German mechanical duck toy brought $7,475 last year in a James D. Julia sale.

Q: My unusual cookie jar was, I think, sold in the 1940s by Sears. Any info on it? What is it worth?

A: Imagine a round head with white glaze, a painted face and a red beret as the jar lid, tilted to one side.

Because of its moonlike face, the cookie jar is popularly known as “Moon Girl.”

Chicago dealer Mercedes Di Renzo Bolduc, www.jazzejunque.com, buys and sells cookie jars and retro kitchen collectibles. She told us that who made this cookie jar is up for debate.

Collectors first pegged it as an RRP (Robinson Ransbottom Pottery) product. Then the author of a guide to cookie jars identified it as American Bisque Pottery. The battle about who made it still rages. At this point, it is commonly dubbed an RRP-Bisque jar.

Bolduc has sold the jar in the past and she still buys it. Back in the day when Andy Warhol made cookie jars hot (he was a major collector), retail value was around $400. Today, one in excellent condition runs about $250.

A jar in not-so-great condition, such as the one seen in a photo sent, might bring $150. Remember, that’s retail. You’d get half that or less when selling to a dealer.

Typically, the lids on cookie jars break first. This jar seems to have an original lid. That’s a plus.

Q: Clearing out my dad’s house, we found a collection of 150-200 Hummel figurines, collector plates and bells. How do we begin selling?

A: I feel your pain. It is overwhelming to have a mass of strange stuff dropped in your lap at a time when you’re hardly equipped to deal with more stress.

Forgive me while I climb on my soapbox once more: Readers, are you paying attention? Please make plans for your collections before you go to the big antiques market in the sky. Don’t burden your heirs. When-if they don’t value your collection, it’s just stuff.

I urge you to have The Stuff talk while you can. Photograph or videotape what you have, list and identify items, including age, maker and possible market value, and add suggestions on how to sell or dispose of it all. Put the info in an agreed-on place. Then rest assured that you’ve done your part to ease a future problem.

That said, the reader has all those Hummels to handle. Yes, the market is not where it was when the pieces were bought. And yes, Hummel collectibles can be hard to sell.

But look on the bright side. Assuming you have genuine Hummels by Goebel, a large collection is often more palatable for an auction to take on, as opposed to single pieces. And certain Hummel figures, etc., sell better than others. The market is down but it’s not dead. Imitations, copies and repros are garage sale material.

Smart collectors research what they have before approaching any buyer, including an auction house. You wouldn’t sell a car without research. Same here.

Look for prices of similar Goebel Hummel items in a price guide at the library. Scan completed sales on eBay. Think about buying short-term use on www.worthpoint.com where we found 246 pages of recently realized prices for a variety of Hummel items. We found 419 listings for Goebel Hummel figures alone on the free site www.liveauctioneers.com.

Selling the collection as a whole makes sense. Piecemeal is too much work. Given the choice, buyers will opt to pick off the best and leave the rest.

Choose your auction house carefully. Too many throw items in a box and sell them off, cheap, as box lots.

More: Collectible car sharing is a concept whose time has come. This month, an exclusive by-invitation-only supercar club is set to launch at a high-end car show in Monaco. Members who join can play with rare Aston Martins, Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Porsches, and then return them. It’s a new way to have all fun and none of the downers, such as depreciation and maintenance.

Auction action: An early German mechanical duck that sold for $7,495 last year at Julia Auctions in Maine dated from 1910 to 1920. The almost 21-inch-high toy was a superb example. Made in humanlike form, the duck was new to the market and in original untouched condition. When activated, its head nods as its bill opens and closes. Two baby ducks mirror the action.

Collector quiz

Q: Who was the artist whose works inspired Hummel figurines?

A: It was Sister Maria Innocentia (Berta) Hummel, 1909-1946, a German nun. Her name is the M.I. Hummel trademark. The Goebel family made the figurines based on her art.

Danielle Arnet will answer questions of general interest in her column. Send emails 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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