Vintage Lunchbox

It took only $35 to win this lunchbox, a football sports collectible, at a Main Auction Galleries sale in Cincinnati. The most expensive metal lunchbox ever sold pictured “Toppie the Elephant,” a Kroger grocery store figure that promoted plaid Top Value stamps. A 1957 Toppie lunchbox with thermos sold for $2,784.

Vintage collectibles, especially those related to sports, sell quickly at auction, perhaps because not all are expensive. Sometimes they are not noticed by the dedicated sports collectors and sell at bargain prices. This metal lunchbox was made in 1976. It is decorated with the helmets of the National Football Conference on one side, and American Conference helmets on the other side. Lunchbox collecting began in 1950, with the first example picturing the cowboy movie star Hopalong Cassidy. The metal boxes and matching thermos bottles remained popular until 1960, when soft plastic boxes were the style. (And it is a myth that metal boxes were replaced because students were hitting each other in the head and causing injuries.) This football collectible included a matching thermos and was an auction bargain at $35. The King-Seely Thermos Company made many metal lunchboxes, including the one with the football helmets.

Q I bought a cup and saucer with a painting of a lighthouse on it at a thrift store. The bottom of the cup says “Thomas Kinkade, Painter of Light, A Light in the Storm, 2003, Thomas Kinkade, Media Arts Group, Inc., Morgan Hill, CA, Teleflora gift, made in China.”

A The lighthouse scene, “A Light in the Storm,” is the name of a painting by Thomas Kinkade (1958-2012), who is known for his light-filled idealized landscape and seascape paintings. Kinkade lived in California, studied at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, and began selling his oil paintings in the 1980s. By the late 1980s, much of his work was mass produced, with Kinkade designing and painting works that were finished by assistants. He trademarked the term “Painter of Light” in 1996. His work was most popular from about 1995 to 2005 and many Kinkade stores were franchised. Since then interest has declined. His paintings have been reproduced as prints and used on ceramics. Teleflora is a service used to order flowers online. This cup and saucer would have included a bouquet of flowers tucked into the cup. The dishes sell online for $10 and under.

Q I have inherited a collection of 20 vintage and antique toy stoves, some from the 1940s, ‘50s, etc. I have advertised them individually on a local online garage sale and on several eBay-type websites. I have contacted numerous local shops and advertised in a local monthly antique newspaper. I’m running out of marketing ideas. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

A In the early 1900s, salesmen traveled the country to sell their wares. Stove salesmen had miniature replicas of their products made with the same materials and details as their full-size counterparts. Today, those replicas remain collectible, especially working examples, which were more common before 1920. Sample stoves were made mostly from 1900 to the 1920s, when larger hardware stores began to appear in major markets. A small toy stove was a gift to the children when the family bought a stove. Most stove manufacturers were regional companies. Contact an auction house to sell your collection of toy stoves. Go to Kovels.com and look under “How to Buy and Sell” and “Auction Advice” for more information.

Q I bought a blackface minstrel man marionette at a thrift store. It has a yellow shirt, red striped pants, red hat, white gloves and black shoes. The label says “Hazelle” and “airplane control marionette, Made in Kansas City, Mo.” I’d like to know something about it and what it’s worth.

A Hazelle, Inc. was founded by Hazelle Hedges in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1933. She began making marionettes and puppets in 1929, when she was an art student. Eventually the company made 200 different characters and was producing 1,000 puppets a week. Puppets have plastic heads, flexible bodies and mouths that move. Her patented “airplane controls” made it easier to operate the marionette without getting the strings tangled. Hazelle puppets were sold worldwide. By the time Hazelle retired and sold the company in 1975, the company had made over a million puppets. The last Hazelle puppets were made in 1984. Your marionette is Hazelle’s No. 805, Minstrel Mike, made in the 1950s. It sells online for about $40 to $50.

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