Popcorn wasn't a popular snack food until the 1890s, when Charles Cretors created a steam-powered machine to roast peanuts, coffee and popcorn to sell from a wagon on the street near his Chicago candy store.

He kept improving the machinery and the product, and in 1885, he started C. Cretors and Co.

In 1893, he took his popcorn wagon to the Chicago Columbian Exposition to sell his new product — popped corn.

He made individual horse-drawn popcorn wagons for customers, and by 1900, he made the first electric popcorn wagon.

He made more changes as the popcorn-eating public went to the movies. Cretors changed his business to make things for the war effort in the 1940s.

His machines were modernized by the 1950s, but the company still made old-fashioned popcorn wagons for use and display.

Today, you may find a popcorn wagon, horse-drawn or motorized, at an antiques auction. A 15-foot-long horse-drawn Cretors 1910 wagon just sold at a Kamelot auction in Philadelphia for $34,000. It even has a custom-made travel trailer for long trips.

Classroom maps

Q: I have a set of 10 pull-down maps that were in school classrooms in the 1960s and '70s and was wondering what they would be worth today.

A: Colorful maps sell quickly as decorative items. Some people look for maps of the city or area where they live or for places they've traveled to, while others choose maps just for their decorative appeal. Schoolroom maps might sell to someone decorating a child's room. They sell online for $300.

Metal SSN cards

Q: My mother and dad had metal Social Security cards. They have a brass colored finish. The front has an eagle, shield and flag banner on a red, white and blue background. My dad was born in 1895 and my mother in 1901. Do these cards have any value?

A: The Social Security Act was passed in 1935. The first Social Security cards were issued in November 1936. Taxes were deducted from wages beginning in January 1937. Benefits were paid in a lump sum, not monthly, that year. The first benefit was paid to a streetcar motorman in Cleveland, the day after the program began. He received 17 cents, not a bad return on the nickel he paid in Social Security tax! Social Security cards have always been paper, but private companies made metal "copies."

Metal cards like your parents' are still being made by some private companies. They are not issued by the government and are not valid Social Security cards. They may have sentimental value to you but have little value to collectors.

Write to: The Kovels, c/o King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019. The website is kovels.com.

current prices

Prices are from shows nationwide.

Commode, two doors, two shelves, mirrored, brass trim, shaped top, conforming body, Art Deco, 39 by 60 inches, $130.

Globe, terrestrial, figural stand, robed woman, holding stand and globe on her head, ball, Girard Barrere et Thomas, 38 inches, $160.

Sevres vase, swan handles, gilt, diamond pattern, flowers, pink, purple, white, 34 inches, $250.

Document box, oak, carved, band of stylized flowers, keyhole, English, 1700s, 9 by 27 inches, $280.

Lightning rod, copper, balls, barbs, circles, verdigris, 112 by 20 inches, $280.

Dionne Quintuplets, molded hair, clothing, quintmobile, Madame Alexander, 1930s, 5 1/2 by 17 1/2 inches, $330.

Quezal vase, slag glass, silver overlay, flowers, leaves, multicolor, art nouveau, 6 inches, $1,140.

Figurine, "Modest Lady," arms crossing chest, multicolor teapot head, Michael Lucero, 1996, 37 by 10 inches, $4,160.

Marble head, Medusa Rondanini, curly hair, framed by snakes, white, 18 1/2 inches, $7,500.