Surfboards were first surfing collectibles

Terry Kovel
Surfer toys are rare even today. This 8-inch-high vintage metal toy auctioned by Bertoia Auctions recently probably was made about 1960.

Surfing is a popular worldwide sport today, but when did it start and what is collected?

People have been swimming and bodysurfing by riding the waves since ancient times. But it was the Polynesians who started riding the waves on a board long before the Europeans discovered the sport during the first voyage of James Cook to Tahiti in 1769. Their chief was the best at the sport with the best board and beaches. The surfing skill gave him added prestige. Ancient Hawaiians, Samoans, Tongans and other islanders also used boards to surf partially as an art and religious activity.

Modern-day surfing started with the American tourist who wanted to learn the Hawaiian natives sport in the mid-1860s. Some were successful, and in 1908, a club was formed.

In 1885, three Hawaiian princes visited Santa Cruz, California, and surfed. And in 1907, an expert was brought to California to promote the sport. It spread to North Carolina, then Florida, then any good American beach with proper waves but it didn't become a fad until the movie Gidget in 1959.

Surfboards were the first important collectible. Collectors can now find the ever-changing surfboards, clothing, professional contest prizes (after about 1975) surf music, recordings and sheet music, movies and even toys.

Hubley Manufacturing Company (1894-c.1975) made a painted metal toy with a girl riding a surfboard on waves. It had wheels that let it roll on an eccentric path. The girl's one-piece yellow bathing suit suggests a date in the late 1950s or '60s, early for a surfer-toy. It sold for $5,700. Surfer collecting is still young, and prices are highest today for the artistic surfboards and prices.
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Q: I'd like some information about a Royal Doulton pitcher. It's cylindrical with a bulbous bottom and rope-like handle. It's 9 inches tall and is blue and gray with a brown interior. One side is embossed with the bust of Lord Nelson and his birth and death dates (1858-1805). The other side pictures a sailing ship. The words "England expects every man to do his duty" are around the top. When was it made, and what is it worth?
A: Lord Nelson was the admiral of the British fleet when it defeated the French and Spanish fleets in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. His ship, the HMS Victory, is pictured on your pitcher. The words are his message to the fleet before the battle began, sent by signal flags raised on his ship. Lord Nelson was wounded during the battle and died. In 1905, Royal Doulton produced several pieces, including a teapot, sugar, creamer, tobacco jar and pitcher, commemorating the battle. Your pitcher is worth about $150.
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Q: I'm new to your website and wanted to do some price checking on the Aladdin lamps. Why are some lamps appraised in 2016 and in 2013 or another year? Do you update the price lists often, or is there another way to get better estimates value on antiques? How can I find the latest prices?
A: Our website,, lists over a million prices in more than 700 categories. Prices listed are not appraisals or estimates, but actual prices for items sold or offered for sale in shops, online sources or at auctions. The latest prices are in our current price book, "Kovels' Antiques & Collectibles Price Guide 2018." Prices for previous years, going back to 1995, are listed on our website. Historical prices can help you spot trends. Prices are not "updated," but are new every year. We can't price every item sold but choose a variety of items in each category. You won't see the same lamp or other item listed every year. We wish we could give you some good news, but don't be surprised by low prices for Aladdin lamps. Prices have gone down and there are fewer big sales.
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Q: My mother has as old piece of white opaque glass shaped like a ruffled bowl. It has a cover. It is a butter dish passed down from her grandmother to her. She was told that it came from a Spanish princess who is our ancestor. I find this hard to believe. I was wondering if you had any information on who made it, where and when it was made.
A: The picture you sent shows a mark on the bottom of the white bowl. It is a letter "N" with a line under it. That is the mark for the Northwood Glass Company, founded by Harry Northwood in Martins Ferry, Ohio, in 1887. The company moved to Pennsylvania in 1892, then in 1902, bought the old Hobbs, Brockunier glass factory in Wheeling, West Virginia. Northwood made many types of glass - clear, colored, custard, pressed, stretched, blown, opalescent and goofus. It closed in 1925. Harry Northwood and his brothers worked in many companies making tableware and novelties after that. Family histories often are embellished. We doubt that a princess would want an inexpensive piece of glass that came from America. And after four generations, it is amazing that the dish is still in the family. But it is about 115 years old, so it could have belonged to your great-grandmother.
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Tip: If your electric clock stops, turn it upside down for a day. The oil inside may flow into the gears and the clock may start working again.
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Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel answer questions sent to the column. By sending a letter with a question and a picture, you give full permission for use in the column or any other Kovel forum. Names, addresses or email addresses will not be published. We cannot guarantee the return of photographs, but if a stamped envelope is included, we will try. The amount of mail makes personal answers or appraisals impossible. Write to Kovels, (Name of this newspaper), King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803.
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Trivet, brass, round, pierced, turned wooden handle, three legs, iron, 5 1/4 x 13 1/2 inches, $20.
Vase, glass, Bohemian, ruby overlay, flowers alternate with dots, white ground, 8 3/4 x 7 inches, $90.
Vase, Nippon, gilt, blue, river, green riverbank, mountains, flowers, high angles handles, 11 x 5 1/2 inches, $125.
R.S. Prussia, bowl, scalloped and beaded rim, white and pink flowers, yellow centers, cobalt-blue rim, 10 1/8 inches, $130.
Humidor, Buffalo Pottery Deldare, "There was an old sailor and he had a wooden leg," 7 1/4 inches, $150.
Tea caddy, painted, geometric, red, black, gold, Chinese calligraphy, pine, 1800s, 23 1/2 x 22 1/4 inches, pair, $275.
Mardi Gras, invitation, Momus, The Realms of Fancy, Charles Briton, 1878, 4 1/2 x 7 1/8 inches, $370.
Cupboard, bonnetiere, Louis XIV, stepped crown, three-panel door, drawer, block feet, 86 x 28 1/4 inches, $400.
Inkwell, stoneware, two wells, carved, birds, interlacing vines, cobalt blue highlights, 1800s, 2 x 5 3/4 inches, $520.
Vase, Chinese Export, famille rose, rectangular, dragon's head handles, bats, peaches, cobalt blue, 18 x 3/4 x 7 1/2 inches, $600.
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The 50th Anniversary edition of "Kovels' Antiques & Collectibles Price Guide 2018" book is available now. The book includes a special new section containing Terry Kovels' reflections on 50 years of collecting, with prices, trends, special events and surprises. If you order directly from the Kovels, you'll receive our free Companion eBook with all of the book's 20,000 prices - ready for downloading to your eReader. "Kovels" is the best book to own if you buy, sell or collect.

The paperback has more than 2,500 color photographs and over 700 categories of antiques and collectibles. You'll also find hundreds of factory histories. It's available for $29.99, plus $4.95 postage. Purchase directly from the Kovels if you want the free eBook Companion and be sure to include your email address. And, if you order the book now, you'll receive a copy with Terry Kovel's autograph.

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