Wisconsin State Farmer

Many comic book, movie and TV heroes are so popular that they inspire hundreds of different collectibles. Often, interest in the characters dies about 25 years after the last new episode of their shows are shown. Some have continued to be popular because of TV reruns and their rebirth in new movies, comics or even plays. "Underdog" was one of the characters created in 1959 for television cartoons selling General Mills cereal. He formerly was Shoeshine Boy, who went into a phone booth to take a pill that turned him into the super-powered Underdog. He always damaged the booth and spoke in rhymes. In 1969, the show lost its sponsor, but 62 shows continued in syndication. They can be seen on TV, and other syndicated shows with Underdog as the hero were edited, rewritten and re-bundled to remain on TV until the late 1990s. Many years on the air have helped "Underdog" collectibles remain popular and expensive. A 1974 child's metal "Underdog" lunchbox and thermos sold at a auction in fall 2015 for $2,296. Other undiscovered "Underdog" memorabilia still is waiting in garage sales and flea markets, usually without the history that gives it value.
Q: I have an old blue leather rocking chair with horse-hair stuffing and fringe around the bottom. I was told it was my grandmother's and that she brought it over from Germany. The only marking on it is a round button on the back that I believe reads "Karpen Furniture." Can you provide any information and maybe a value?
A: Your chair was made by S. Karpen & Bros. of Chicago, Ill. Solomon Karpen, along with his nine brothers, started the company in 1880, and by 1900, it was the largest manufacturer of upholstered furniture in the world. By 1927, Karpen had also built factories in Long Island City, N.Y., Michigan City, Indiana and Los Angeles, employing 1,800 workers. The company made an endless variety of chairs for every need, budget and decorating plan. As leather furniture became more popular, many different Karpen styles were made. Karpen was in business until 1952. Your chair is in very distressed condition and it would be very expensive to recover. Any value it has would be sentimental.
Q: My sister was given a black Couroc serving tray with 37 presidential coins in it. The coin representing President Gerald R. Ford is in the center. It's 18 by 12 1/2 inches. What can you tell me about it?
A: The Couroc Co. was founded in Monterey, California, by Guthrie Courvoisier in 1948. The name is derived from the first four letters of his last name, "Cour," with "oc" added to make it sound like "rock." Most Couroc items were made of black resin and embedded with coins, wood, metal or objects from nature. Courvoisier died in 1963 and the company closed in the 1990s. The value of your tray is about $30.
Q: More than 20 years ago, I purchased three electric light bulbs that are not just light bulbs. They have animals inside and light up when turned on. Two have dogs and one has a donkey. I can't find any numbers or markings on them and I am wondering if you can tell me when they were made and what they might be worth.
A: Light bulbs with glowing figural objects inside were first made in the 1930s. They were invented by Philip Kayatt, founder and president of Aerolux Light Corp. of New York City, who patented the first novelty filament glow light in 1935. From 1938 until the early 1970s, Aerolux made gas-discharge light bulbs with small figures in the bulbs. Called "cheer lights," the low-wattage bulbs could be used in standard electric lamps. When the lamps were turned on, the figures glowed orange, pink, green or purple. The filaments were made in various shapes, including animals, flowers, comic characters, zodiac signs and the Trylon and Perisphere from the 1939 New York World's Fair. Dogs were made from about 1938, and donkeys were made between 1940 and 1950. Other companies made similar bulbs. The value of glow bulbs can go from $15 to $65.
Q: I found an old post office box door in a box of things that were in my uncle's barn. It looks like it's bronze. The door has an eagle holding a bunch of arrows above a glass window. There is a combination lock dial above the eagle. Is this collectible?
A: There are collectors interested in old post office box doors. They have been made of bronze, gold-painted aluminum and other metals. The window is so the customer could see if there was any mail in the box. Doors with an eagle holding arrows that were first used in about 1906 are fairly common. Some old doors have been made into a box-shaped bank. The price of an old post office box door depends on the material, decorations, condition and rarity. Most sell for under $25.
Tip: Do not wrap or store scrapbooks in furniture made with pressboard. The pressboard emits gases over the years.
         Need prices for your antiques and collectibles? Find them at, our website for collectors. You can find more than 1,000,000 prices and more than 11,000 color photographs, which can help you determine the value of your collectibles. Study the prices, and go to the free Price Guide at The website also lists publications, clubs, appraisers, auction houses, people who sell parts or repair antiques, show lists and more. adds to the information in this column. 
         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, 300 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019.

Underdog is pictured on this metal lunch box and matching thermos that auctioned for $2,296. The comic character has remained popular since the 1950s because of television reruns.


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.
         Photograph, little cowboy delivers Sunday newspaper, standing by fence, black and white, 1917, 2 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches, $5.
         Cookie jar, McCoy, fortune cookies, lantern shape, white and red, black writing, lid, ribbed design, 1960s, 9 1/2 inches, $40.
         Cigarette lighter, New York, twin towers image, multicolor on silvertone, rubber, hinged lid, butane, 1980s, 2 1/4 x 1 1/2        inches, $60.
         Badge, Labor Day celebration, ribbon, arm holding American flag, quote, white ground, multicolor, pinback, 1890s, 2 1/2 x 8 inches, $85.
         Tool box, wooden crate, planks, upright square handle, metal hardware, varnish, handmade, 1930s, 26 x 12 x 14 inches, $105.
         Table, game, round, painted wood, inlaid linoleum top, checkerboard, turned pedestal, curved feet, 1800s, 29 x 15 inches, $225.
         Sewing machine, Singer, black metal, gilt scrolling, leaves and flowers, folding oak tabletop, foot pedal, 1800s, $900.
         Hat, sombrero, charro, felt, gold bullion thread and tassels, brass sequins, flowers, high crown, silk cord, 1920s, 7 1/2 x 22 inches, $2,500.
         Bronze censer, elephant with pagoda on back, looking up, trunk raised and curled, openwork and etching, 1800s, 27 1/2 x 17 inches, $4,700.
         Grand piano, Chickering, Brazilian rosewood, 85 keys, 2 pedals, octagonal tapered legs, 1863, 37 x 77 inches, $8,900.
         There is hidden value in contemporary pottery. You find it at shops and garage sales at low prices, because the marks are unknown. Kovels special report "Kovels' Identification Guide to Contemporary American Pottery 1960s to Present" (available only from Kovels) includes more than 180 marks and 60 featured artists. Each artist's biography includes a mark, a pictured piece and this year's price. Learn about Robert Arneson, Jack Eugene Earl, Henry Takemoto and others. Recognize the newest pottery when you see it at a flea market or garage sale. Available only from Kovels for $19.95 plus $4.95 postage and handling. Order by phone at 800-303-1996, online at; or mail to Kovels, Box 22900, Beachwood, OH 44122.