Rinker on Collectibles: Questions and Answers

QUESTION: I have a 1964-65 World’s Fair US Royal Tires Ferris Wheel battery-operated toy. It is made of plastic and still works. However, the battery compartment is somewhat corroded. I have the box in which it came and, to the best of my knowledge, it is complete. What is its value? – JK, Willoughby, OH, E-mail Question

ANSWER: The Ideal Toy Company made your US Royal Tires Ferris Wheel Toy, marketing it as the “GIANT TIRE MECHANICAL TOY.” The toy is a replica of the US Royal Tires Ferris Wheel ride and features the wheel (black) with rotating bucket-type gondola cars (red), the pavilion (white), and ten people (red) glued to the front base. The toy requires a D battery and stands approximately 12in high.

Collectors associated the Ideal Toy Corporation, located in Hollis-Queens, New York in the 1960s, with the manufacture of dolls. Under the leadership of Marvin Glass, a freelance toy designer, Ideal launched a number of toys and games during the 1960s that quickly became Baby Boomer classics. These include Mr. Machine (1960), Robot Commando (1961), King Zor (1962), Mouse Trap (1963), and Haunted House (1963), one of the first three-dimensional board games. Ideal became a full sponsor of several Hanna-Barbera cartoon shows including The Magilla Gorilla Show and Peter Potamus Show. With the 1964-1965 World’s Fair in its backyard, Ideal was eager to manufacture a toy associated with it.

The US Rubber Ferris Wheel ride, a bias-ply white wall tire with a mid-1960s hub cap, was one of the most popular attractions at the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair. Long lines formed to ride one of the twenty-four cars on the 12-ton, 800-foot tall wheel designed to withstand hurricane-force winds.

When the fair ended, the wheel was moved to Allen Park, Michigan and located beside I-94 on the site of Uniroyal’s headquarters. The cars were removed and the opening covered with tire tread. The text, tread-style, and hubcap on the tire have changed several times, reflecting changes in brand and company name and tread and hubcap design. There is no truth to the urban legend that the wheel once broke loose and rolled across I-94.

According to roadsideamerica.com/story/8258, “In 1998 Uniroyal stabbed the tire with an 11-foot-long, 250 nail—another ‘world’s largest’—to promote their puncture-resistant Tiger Paw Nailgard tire. The big tire withstood the assault and the nail was eventually removed and given to Allen Park.” Allen Park offered the nail for sale on eBay, designating the profits for a local historical society. Instead of the hoped for hundreds of thousands dollars, the final buyer was Ralph Robert, a local businessman, who bid $3,000.00.

The period box definitely adds to your toy’s value. Since you indicate it is complete, I am assuming all ten people still are glued firmly to the platform. The battery compartment corrosion is a problem. Because the toy still works, you should remove the rust and prevent further deterioration rather than replace the compartment. Ask a friend who has firearms to lend you his Hoppes #9 (or its equivalent), remove the rust using a Q-Tip, and then apply a little gun lubricating oil. Make certain to pat the lubricating oil with a paper towel until no residue appears. Do not worry. There will still be a very thin layer of protecting oil.

The value of your Ideal Giant Tire Mechanical Toy is between $100.00 and $125.00.

QUESTION: About 1979, I purchased a pair of Asian statues, a Chinese Emperor and his wife, in a gift shop near Chicago. They are approximately 24 1/2in high. I do not know if they are carved, cast from stone, or made of some kind of other material. They weigh about eleven pounds each. Each has a black painted stand on the bottom of which is a red and gold sticker that reads: “Norleans, Hand made in Italy.” What are they worth? – KJ, Myerstown, PA

ANSWER: An eBay search for “Norleans” resulted in figurines with labels marked “Italian,” “Japan,” and “Korea.” Norleans was a brand name dating from the late 1950s through the early 1970s used by a US wholesaler of generic giftware, many pieces of which were knock-offs of brand names. I was not able to locate the wholesaler’s name. [If anyone knows, please e-mail the name to me at harrylrinker@aol.com, and I will share it in a future question and answer column.]

The Norleans figural line covered a wide range of subjects from couples in period dress, to figures from famous paintings, e.g., Gainsborough’s Pink Lady and Blue Boy, to Hummel copycats to animal figures, including a bird series.

The figures pictured on eBay appear to be glazed over earthenware (clay), bisque, or plaster. I did not find any evidence of porcelain. Given their weight, your Chinese figurines are made from plaster or some type of casting compound. They most definitely are not resin/plastic (they would be lighter) or ivory (which would be hand carved). The picture accompanying your e-mail clearly shows they are mass-produced.

Of the twenty-one Norleans pieces listed today on eBay, not one has attracted a bid. Opening bid requests range from $0.99 to $8.99. The sell through rate for closed auctions is about one in twenty. The obvious conclusion is that there is little to no secondary market for Norleans items. The fact that a pair of Oriental figurines, not as nice as the pair you own, closed at $1.99 plus postage, supports my assertion. The value of your pair of figurines is under $10.00.

QUESTION: I have a small child’s reclining chair. It is made of oak. The flat arms extend behind the chair and are supported by four turned spindles rising from the side rails. The back of each arm has slots to hold a rod. The rod’s position determines how much the back reclines. The back and seat cushions are upholstered in a 1950s pale red and green floral pattern. The legs have extended block standards ending in a simple cabriole foot. I once saw a full-size version of my chair at an auction in Hellertown, Pennsylvania, but have never seen a child’s size. When was my chair made and does it have value? – SY, Kunkletown, PA

ANSWER: The picture accompanying your letter indicates that you have a child’s version of a Morris chair, an early form of the reclining chair. Your child’s chair dates between 1900 and 1915. The finish is golden oak. Although largely generic in appearance, the chair does show some Arts and Crafts evidence.

The upholstery and pattern is completely out of character. Historically, the seat and back would have been covered in either a brown/tan or pale green leather or fabric. Consider having the seat and back recovered in a reproduction of a period Arts and Crafts fabric.

There are no children’s chair collectors, at least none of which I am aware. Doll and teddy bear collectors are the primary buyers for children’s chairs. They display their larger dolls and bears on them. Grandmothers are the next buying group. They imagine their grandchildren sitting in the chair while reading stories to them. This rarely happens, but the thought is enough to sell the chair.

The value of your chair as it stands is between $75.00 and $90.00. The value would double, perhaps even triple, if the seat and back cushion had period upholstery.

QUESTION: I have two beer steins from the Lewis and Clark Centennial, 1805-1905, held in Portland, Oregon. The first features the centennial dates. The second advertises Rainier Ale, Seattle, Washington. Each stein stands 5 1/2in tall and was made in Germany. They belonged to my grandfather, a medical doctor who lived in Portland from 1904 until 1955. What are they worth? – PC, Merced, CA, E-mail Question

ANSWER: The Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition, also billing itself as the American Pacific Exposition and Oriental Fair, was the first major fair west of the Rockies. Sixteen states, ten of whom built buildings, participated in the fair. California, Oregon, and Washington built large buildings. John Olmsted of Olmsted Brothers, Brookline, Massachusetts designed the grounds. Whidden and Lewis, a local firm, oversaw the transformation of Guilds Lake.

Spanish Renaissance was the agreed upon architectural style. There were exceptions. The California building was done in a Mission style. The Forestry Building was the largest log cabin every built, its rustic appearance a tribute to the growing interest in the Arts and Crafts style.

Rainier Ale traces its history back to 1878. When Andrew Hemrich moved to Seattle in 1883, he worked at a small brewery that had been producing “steam beer” since 1878. He established the Bay View Brewing Company within months and continued making the “steam beer.” In 1893 Bay View Brewing Company became part of a three-brewery syndicate known as the Seattle Brewing and Malting Company. A new brewery in Georgetown followed. As transportation opportunities expanded, Hemrich added more brands to his initial three--Bayview, Bohemian, and Rainier. The Lewis and Clark Exposition presented Hemrich with an excellent opportunity to increase his brands’ exposure. By 1910, Hemrich’s Seattle Brewing and Malting Company was one of the world’s top ten largest breweries.

Your mugs are highly collectible, especially in the Pacific Northwest. Their value in very good or better condition is between $175.00 and $225.00.

Harry L. Rinker welcomes questions from readers about collectibles, those mass-produced items from the twentieth century. Selected letters will be answered in this column. Harry cannot provide personal answers. Photos and other material submitted cannot be returned. Send your questions to: Rinker on Collectibles, 5093 Vera Cruz Road, Emmaus, PA 18049. You also can e-mail your questions to harrylrinker@aol.com. Only e-mails containing a full name and mailing address will be considered.

You can listen and participate in WHATCHA GOT?, Harry’s antiques and collectibles radio call-in show, on Sunday mornings between 8:00 AM and 10:00 AM Eastern Time. If you cannot find it on a station in your area, WHATCHA GOT? streams live on the Internet at www.goldenbroadcasters.com.

SELL, KEEP OR TOSS?: HOW TO DOWNSIZE A HOME, SETTLE AN ESTATE, AND APPRAISE PERSONAL PROPERTY (House of Collectibles, an imprint of Random House Information Group, $16.95), Harry’s latest book, is available at your favorite bookstore and via www.harryrinker.com.

Copyright © Rinker Enterprises, Inc. 2008

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