for home delivery

Comic collectibles remain popular

Terry and Kim Kovel
Some of the plots, names and situations in the old Dick Tracy comics would be considered non-PC today. But the foul smelling, dirty thief B.O. Plenty has become a popular character. A walking tin windup toy of B.O. holding his beautiful baby Sparkle sold at auction for $118.

Comic collectibles remain popular as long as the comic characters are still seen or heard in comic books, cartoons, radio, TV, movies, plays or reruns.

And B.O. Plenty, who was an early figure in the Dick Tracy comic strip that started in 1931, has been dropped and reintroduced many times. He married Dirty Gertie, and these two ugly people had a beautiful daughter, Sparkle Plenty, in 1947. Later, they had a very ugly son whose face was never shown in the strip.

The tin windup toy by Marx picturing B.O. holding his daughter Sparkle just sold at a Bertoia auction for $118. The 8-1/2-inch toy shuffles across the floor while his hat tips. The Dick Tracy characters and inventions still are familiar.

The original artist, Chester Gould, drew the strip from 1931 to 1977. Other artists have continued it. His characters, their strange names and the inventions used by policeman Dick Tracy still are popular. The two-way wrist radio first mentioned in 1946, two-way wrist TV (1964) and Spacecar (1960s) have all become realities.
Q: I just found a metal tin that seems to have held pepper at the White House. How much is a political piece like this worth?
A: Sorry to disappoint you, but White House is a brand name used by Wilson Burns & Co. of Baltimore in the 1930s. In those days, all grocery store containers of small amounts of spices were sold in tins. There still are collectors of the tins for their advertising or country-store collections. The best place to find them is at the back of the kitchen cupboard at a house sale. Most tins sell for $15 to $35.
       * * *
Q: I bought a modern copy of a tall flower container with 24 tubes to hold flowers that go to a center section. I bought it to use as a flower vase and now I'm told it was used to grow indoor plants in places like Williamsburg. Can you settle a bet about this for us?
A: The name "tulipiere" is used for tall many-spouted vases like yours, and for a shorter vase with five spouts that looks like fingers on a hand or just a round vase with spouts facing in all directions. The original tulipieres were made of 17th-century Delft. Queen Mary II of England liked flowers in the palace and ordered the vases to be refilled three times a week with cut flowers, including tulips. Part of the reason was renewed fascination with the flower due to the strange "tulipmania" of the 1630s, when rare tulip bulbs had become a very expensive status symbol. Like other economic "bubbles," it burst in 1637 and caused financial ruin for many. The many-spouted tulipiere also was used to grow flowers indoors, and each spout was made the right size to hold a bulb partially covered with water. So both of you are right. They held either cut flowers or bulbs now or in the past.
       ** *
Q: My family heirloom is a divided child's feeding plate decorated with scenes of a girl playing with or feeding her toys. The back is marked "Thompson." What is its value?
A: Your plate was made by CC Thompson Pottery Co. of East Liverpool, Ohio, founded in 1868 and closed in 1938. They made porcelain plates after 1917. The decoration on your plate is a decal called "Dinnertime," which was used by several companies. The dish was made sometime between 1917 and 1938. It would sell in a shop today for about $20, but should be worth much more to your family.
       ** *
Q: I have a picture from the Civil War that is a family heirloom. An ancestor whom I believe was named William Heard (or Hurd) was General Grant's wagon master during the war. The story behind the picture is that a New York Times reporter wanted a picture of General Grant for his paper, but Grant was signing the peace treaty. So, the reporter asked if he could have a picture of the horse. My relative would let the reporter take a photo of the horse only if the reporter allowed him to be in the picture, because his wife didn't know if he was alive. The reporter agreed and took the picture of the horse and my relative, which appeared in The New York Times. I have an enlarged version of that picture and wonder about its value. 
A: To be valuable, a historical picture requires an event or people who are important, few existing pictures of the event and documented proof of the history that is the same age as the picture. Your enlargement probably is a copy of the original picture, which means it is not unique. What written proof do you have of the story? A letter written when the war ended? A copy of The New York Times with the picture? A description of the picture in a relative's home in the 1860s? A piece of the uniform your cousin wore in the picture, and his Army records? Family legend is not enough, and usually a story as unusual as yours is a fable that has been enhanced through the years. You might take the picture to a shop, auction house or museum that has an appraiser who can date the picture from the paper, subject matter or type of developing. Even if the story is true, there would be minimal interest in the general's horse even if it is a picture over 150 years old.
Tip: You can use an old iron cooking utensil. The finish on the iron will not be damaged if you wash the item properly after using it. Don't let it get rusty.
Take advantage of a free listing for your group to announce events or to find antique shows, national meetings and other events. Go to the Calendar at to find, publicize and plan your antiquing trips.
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 Drive, Orlando, FL 32803.
       * * *
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.

Celluloid hair receiver, faux tortoiseshell pattern, squat octagonal base, lid with center hole, scallop and point rim, 1930s, 5 inches, $25.
Easter basket, tin lithograph bucket, pail handle, nursery rhymes, candy, eggs and Easter designs, 1950s, 4 x 4 inches, $70.
Salt shaker, Wemyss, Plump Porker, figural pig, posie design, white with pink clover blooms, leaves, sleepy eyes, 3 x 5 inches, $120.
Barber shop razor strop, brown leather, brass medallion handle with crisscross design, round base, mounting holes, c. 1900, 29 inches, $195.
Ship's telescope, mahogany, brass mounts, three draws, lens cover and eyepiece slide dust cover, Troughton & Simms, c. 1890, 30 inches, $305.
Pinocchio, marionette, hand-carved puppet, articulated head, multicolor paint, strings and cross handle, c. 1905, 16 inches, $350.
Umbrella holder, pine, oval bucket, flower bouquet, painted, tulip shaped top handle, mounting hole, Germany, 1930s, 24 x 11 inches, $505.
Garden bench, Louis XV style, painted iron, scalloped crest, scroll and flower back, open-weave seat, arched legs, 1930s, 39 x 33 inches, $795.
Carousel shield, Jester Head Medallion, flowers, painted fiberglass, spade-shaped, multicolor, lightbulb sockets, c. 1945, $1,000.
Sterling-silver cigarette case, incised, Moscow city and scrolling vines, hinged lid, marked, Russia, 1889, 4 x 2 inches, $1,800.
Keep up with changes in the collectibles world. Send for a FREE sample issue of our 12-page, color-illustrated newsletter, "Kovels on Antiques and Collectibles," filled with prices, news, information and photos, plus major sale reports and opinions about the world of collecting. An important tool for anyone who buys, sells or collects antiques and collectibles. To subscribe at a bargain $27 for 12 issues, write Kovels, P.O. Box 292758, Kettering, OH 45429-8758; call 800-829-9158; or subscribe online at