Mascots on advertising sings make for popular collectables

Tim Kovel and Kim Kovel
Cowles Syndicate
This realistic wooden pig's head was originally made as a butcher's trade sign. It sold for $3,125 at Cowan's Auctions.

Advertising signs are most popular when they include a well-known brand name or recognizable mascot. Sometimes, a sign doesn't have a name or brand attached, but there's no mistaking what it's for. 

This three-dimensional pig's head made of carved and painted wood with glass eyes was made for a butcher's shop. It sold at Cowan's Auction in Cincinnati for $3,125. The buyer may be a collector of advertising and store furnishings, might have an interest in the meat industry, or may have recognized the pig's value as an interesting work of folk art.

The head is detailed, with wrinkles where the snout rises, teeth and a tongue visible in the open mouth. It took plenty of skill for the unknown artist to carve and paint such a realistic design.

Question: I was recently given 63 books from The Little Leather Library Corporation in New York. The collection includes a variety of classics, such as Shakespeare's plays, "Arabian Nights," "The Christmas Story," etc. The books are in fairly good condition considering their age, but are quite yellowed. I'm curious about them and interested in their worth. 

Answer: Brothers Charles and Albert Boni came up with the idea of the miniature books about 1914. They founded The Little Leather Library Corporation with Max Sackheim and Harry Scherman, two advertising men. A miniature book of one of Shakespeare's plays was first enclosed with chocolate in boxes of Whitman's "Library Package" in 1916. Woolworth's sold over a million copies of Little Leather Library books for 10 cents each in 1917. The books were also sold in other department stores, drugstores and by mail. 

Books were made with synthetic covers during World War I when leather was hard to get. The Little Leather Library eventually included over 100 titles of classics in the public domain. By 1920, more than 25 million books had been sold. Robert K. Haas, Inc., took over the company in 1924, and publication of new titles stopped. The books sell in lots or individually for about $2 apiece, depending on the title and condition.

Q: What is the value of an aluminum Christmas tree in great shape? It's 5-feet tall. 

A: Save your aluminum tree. It is worth over $400. Aluminum Christmas trees were popular in the 1960s. The wire branches, wrapped with narrow aluminum strips to represent "needles," came in individual paper sleeves to protect them when stored. If the branches aren't inserted into the sleeves end first when disassembling the tree, the "needles" get twisted and wrinkled. Since lights can't be hung on the tree, aluminum trees were usually illuminated by a revolving lighted color wheel at the base. 

The Aluminum Specialty Co. of Manitowoc, Wisconsin, made the first aluminum trees in 1959. Several other manufacturers made them in the 1960s and millions were made. Early trees had collapsible tripod bases. Trees were made in silver, gold and several other colors, but silver was the most popular. Reproduction and new aluminum trees have been made. 

The value of a vintage aluminum tree depends on size (height and number of branches), desirability and condition. Some people like "Pom Pom" trees that have branches with flared ends resembling pompoms, while others prefer trees with more realistic-looking branches. A 6-foot Sparkler Pom-Pom tree with 91 pom-pom end branches, original box and sleeves sold recently for $461. A 6-foot tree with 49 "realistic" branches and a color wheel sold for $202. And a 7-foot tree with 154 realistic branches and a plastic stand sold for $461.

Q: How much is a John Wayne "Symbol of the West" doll in the original box worth? It's the second of Effanbee's Legend series and was made in 1981. 

A: The Effanbee Doll Company was founded by Bernard Fleischaker and Hugo Baum in 1910. The name of the company is an acronym formed from the initials of the founders' last names. Effanbee introduced the Legend series, limited dolls representing historical figures or famous people from movies and television, in 1980. A new doll was issued each year. Two John Wayne dolls were included in the series, your "Symbol of the West" doll in 1981 and John Wayne "Guardian of the West" in 1982. Effanbee went bankrupt in 2002 and was bought by Tonner Dolls. It closed in 2018. John Wayne dolls like yours sell for up to $50 if in mint condition in the original box.

Q: How much is a Villeroy & Boch tumbler worth? It has a picture of a serving girl holding a pitcher in one hand and a plate with what looks like a partridge on it in the other hand. The word "Wohlbekomm's" is printed on it. It has the Villeroy & Boch mark and "1025, Geschutz" and an incised "2327." 

A: Villeroy & Boch Pottery of Mettlach was founded in 1836 when two potteries owned by Francois Boch and Nicolas Villeroy merged. The pottery is known for its famous Mettlach steins. The number "2327" is the form number and "1025" is the design number. The German word "Wohlbekomm's" translates as "Well be it." "Geschutzt" means "protected" (similar to "registered"). Villeroy & Boch tumblers sell at stein auctions and online for about $80 to $120. 

TIP: If the name "England" (or that of another country) appears on a dish, it was probably made after 1891, but it may have been made as early as 1887. The words "Made in England" (or another country) indicate the piece was made after 1914.

Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel answer readers' questions sent to the column. Send a letter with one question describing the size, material (glass, pottery) and what you know about the item. Include only two pictures, the object and a closeup of any marks or damage. Be sure your name and return address are included. By sending a question, you give full permission for use in any Kovel product. Names, addresses or email addresses will not be published. We do not guarantee the return of photographs, but if a stamped envelope is included, we will try. Questions that are answered will appear in Kovels Publications. Write to Kovels, (Name of this newspaper), King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803 or email us at collectorsgallery@kovels.com.