Vintage plastic radios popular collector's items

Terry Kovel
This plastic Fada radio was made about 1941. It is alabaster color and about 6 by 10 by 6 inches. Now faded to a light green, it sold for $1,000.

Vintage but modern-looking plastic radios are popular with collectors today. The art deco design was popular when Bakelite was introduced as the first molded plastic used for radio cases in 1933. But Bakelite was either brown or black, sometimes with a marbleized look, and customers wanted more color. In 1937, Catalin was a new plastic that was white or beige when used for a molded case. Red and a few other colors were also possible. The famous Fada radio used this plastic, but no one realized that the colors might fade.

Today, white cases have yellowed, and blue ones have turned dark green. The cases also shrink, crack and have other damage. But plastic scientists kept improving mixtures and manufacturing methods, and by the 1950s, other better and cheaper radios were made with new materials. Today one of the older plastic radios in good working condition sells for $440 to $1,000. This Fada Model 845XA sold at a Palm Beach Modern auction for $1,000, although it was never tested to see if it works. 

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       Q. I have a 1930s Schafer & Vater figural ashtray that says, "Wanna see smoke come out of my ears?" It's a funny-looking man's head with a long face and open mouth. He's wearing a top hat and has a monocle in one eye. It's about 5 1/2 inches tall. Can you give me any information about this piece? 

      A. Schafer & Vater had a porcelain factory in Volkstedt-Rudolstadt, Germany, from 1890 to 1962. The company is known for its comic figurines, including several versions of this figural "smoking" ashtray. Some without top hats and printed with song titles on them represented members of a barbershop quartet. These novelty ashtrays were made when smoking was more popular than it is today. If you put a lit cigarette into the figure's open mouth, smoke pours out of holes in its ears and the ashes drop to the bottom of the figure. They sell for $25 to $50. 

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      Q. We have a very heavy Jacobean style dining-room set we'd like to sell. It was a wedding gift to my parents in 1932. Is there a market for this? 

      A. The heavy, "antique" furniture that was in fashion years ago isn't popular today. The cost to ship the set to an out-of-town auction would be high, so try to sell it locally at a house sale or resale shop. 

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       Q. When we bought our house in 1981, we found an unopened Monopoly game in the basement. The plastic wrapping is yellowed but basically intact, and the box is unopened. The front of the box lists copyright dates 1935, 1946 and 1961. Are there any collectors who would be interested in this? Should it be kept intact, or should it be opened and the pieces sold separately? 

       A. Millions of copies of Monopoly have been made since Parker Brothers bought the rights to the game in 1935. About 25,000 games were made that year, but over a million copies a year were being made by the 1950s. The game is similar to the Landlord's Game, invented by Elizabeth Magie in 1904. Other similar games were made, but Charles Darrow became the first to copyright Monopoly, his version of the game, in 1933. Parker Brothers bought the rights to the game from Darrow in 1935 and made some changes to it. Games made before 1955 sell for more than later editions because fewer were made. Games with the 1961 copyright date sell for about $20 to $30. Still wrapped and unused adds about $10. During World War II, a special version of Monopoly with a map, compass and small tools hidden in it was devised by the British secret service to help their airmen escape from German prisoner of war camps. The games were delivered by humanitarian aid groups who were allowed to deliver care packages to the prisoners. 

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       Q. Are antique spool cabinets valuable? I have a three-drawer spool cabinet. The drawers have white porcelain knobs and green sections with gold lettering. The drawers are labeled "George A. Clark, Sole Agent," "Spool Cotton" and "Clark's O.N.T." When was it made, and what is it worth? 

      A. Spool cabinets were used to display thread in stores in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Thread companies supplied the stores with display cabinets. Members of the Clark family began making thread in Scotland in the 1750s. George A. Clark and his brothers came to the U.S. to act as agents for the company in 1856 and began making thread in a New Jersey factory in 1863. The company became the Clark Thread Co. in 1866. The letters "O.N.T." stand for "Our New Thread," a six-ply thread on a wooden spool made to use with sewing machines. Clark joined with the English firm J. & P. Coats in 1896 to form J&P Coats Ltd. The name became Coats & Clark in 1954. The company is still in business, now as the Coats Group. Spool cabinets have been made with different numbers of drawers, from two to six or more. Reproductions have been made. Three-drawer spool cabinets have sold for over $100. Those with more drawers bring a few hundred dollars more. 

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      TIP: Never store rhinestone jewelry in a plastic bag. Moisture inside the bag will cause the stones to discolor.

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Current prices are recorded from antiques shows, flea markets, sales and auctions throughout the United States. Prices vary in different locations because of local economic conditions. 

Tortoise shell glass powder jar, round, squat, lid with silver repousse decoration, c. 1900, 2 1/2 x 3 inches, $80.

Hooked rug, horse in oval frame, dappled gray & black, standing by fence, earthtone striped ground, mounted on stretcher, c. 1890, 22 x 39 1/2 inches, $190.

Bottle, ink, cut glass, clear, swirled tusks, squat ball form, rayed base, scalloped skirt, Gorham silver neck ring & flip cap, c. 1900, 4 1/2 x 4 inches, $345.

Wood glove-making form, carved birch wood, mitten shape, tombstone style base, Gloversville, N.Y., c. 1910, 14 x 3 1/2 in., 6 pieces, $405.

Charlie McCarthy toy, Drummer Boy, Strike Up the Band, Charlie walks & strikes drum, tin lithograph, windup, Marx, 1938, 8 inches, $570.

Toy, bus, Seeing New York, 899, open air, 4 passengers, driver, cast iron, 6 1/2 x 10 1/2 inches, $860.

Marblehead pottery vase, grapevine band at top, tan speckled glaze, oval, marked "MP" with ship symbol, 1908-1920, 5 x 3 1/2 inches, $1,040.

Furniture, game table, Regency, mahogany, inlaid banding, swivel top folds over, baize playing surface, pedestal base, 4 splayed feet, 29 1/2 x 34 inches, $1,410.

Lamp, electric, Tripod, T. Robsjohn Gibbings, chrome, steel, 3 supports, center band, tapered linen shade, Widdicomb, c.1950, 47 x 19 inches, pair, $1,875.

Bank, mechanical, Butting Buffalo, boy climbs up tree trunk, sees raccoon, buffalo lifts heads & butts boy, cast iron, Kyser & Rex, 8 x 3 inches, $2,460.

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