Popcorn wasn't popular until 1890s when steam-powered machine was created

Terry And Kim Kovel
Kovel’s Antiques And Collecting

Popcorn wasn’t a popular snack food until the 1890s, when Charles Cretors created a steam-powered machine to roast peanuts, coffee and popcorn to sell from a wagon on the street near his Chicago candy store. He kept improving the machinery and the product, and in 1885, he started C. Cretors and Co. In 1893, he took his popcorn wagon to the Chicago Columbian Exposition to sell his new product — popped corn. He made individual horse-drawn popcorn wagons for customers, and by 1900, he made the first electric popcorn wagon. He made more changes as the popcorn-eating public went to the movies. Cretors changed his business to make things for the war effort in the 1940s. His machines were modernized by the 1950s, but the company still made old-fashioned popcorn wagons for use and display. Today, you may find a popcorn wagon, horse-drawn or motorized, at an antiques auction. A 15-foot-long horse-drawn Cretors 1910 wagon just sold at a Kamelot auction in Philadelphia for $34,000. It even has a custom-made travel trailer for long trips. Back in style again are modern food trucks that can go where the crowd is, and the popcorn wagon is still one of the most popular.

Q I inherited a 1768 German family Bible. What’s the best way to store it so it doesn’t deteriorate?

A If your family Bible lists names of family members with birth and death dates going back over 250 years, you have a treasure! Before you store the Bible, use your cellphone or digital camera to take pictures of the pages that have family information so you can share them with other family members and have copies in case the ink fades. Don’t try to copy the pages by opening the book flat on a photocopier. It may break the spine. The public library may have a photocopy machine with a book mount to hold the book partly open, but the light may fade the print. Don’t keep the Bible in a plastic bag. Put a piece of archival tissue paper between handwritten pages to prevent the ink from bleeding through. Store the Bible flat in an archival box and pad it with archival tissue paper to keep the Bible in place. Store it in a cool, dry place, not in the attic or basement. Archival materials can be purchased at sites online. A few places for archival supplies are and

Q I have a stoneware crock that has “The Denver Stoneware Co., 5, Denver, Colo.” written in blue. Can you tell me how old it is and the possible value?

A The Denver Stoneware Co. was listed in Denver directories from 1905 to 1907 with W.W. Gaw as proprietor. In 1905, the Western Pottery Manufacturing Company, a pottery trust with headquarters in Denver, was formed. It included two other manufacturers by 1906 and intended to take over the Denver Stoneware Co. It planned to enlarge the plants so they could supply all of the western United States. No further information on Denver Stoneware is available. It may have become part of Western Pottery Manufacturing Company. The number “5” on your crock indicates it’s a 5-gallon crock. Crocks like this sell for about $50.

Q I have a set of 10 pull-down maps that were in school classrooms in the 1960s and ‘70s and was wondering what they would be worth today.

AColorful maps sell quickly as decorative items. Some people look for maps of the city or area where they live or for places they’ve traveled to, while others choose maps just for their decorative appeal. Schoolroom maps might sell to someone decorating a child’s room. They sell online for $300.

Q My mother and dad had metal Social Security cards. They have a brass colored finish. The front has an eagle, shield and flag banner on a red, white and blue background. My dad was born in 1895 and my mother in 1901. Do these cards have any value?

A The Social Security Act was passed in 1935. The first Social Security cards were issued in November 1936. Taxes were deducted from wages beginning in January 1937. Benefits were paid in a lump sum, not monthly, that year. The first benefit was paid to a streetcar motorman in Cleveland, Ohio, the day after the program began. He received 17 cents, not a bad return on the nickel he paid in Social Security tax! Social Security cards have always been paper, but private companies made metal “copies.” Metal cards like your parents’ are still being made by some private companies. They are not issued by the government and are not valid Social Security cards. They may have sentimental value to you but have little value to collectors.

TIP: Don’t store paper collectibles in the trunk or glove compartment of your car. The heat may harm them. If you are on a long buying trip, don’t keep putting the papers you buy in the trunk. Mail them to your home or office and avoid exposing them to prolonged heat.

The smell of the popcorn draws customers to a traveling popcorn machine. This modernized wagon, which looks on the outside like it did in 1910, sold at an antiques auction for $34,000. Did you know it needs a special type of popping corn to get the best results?