Moving to a smaller house or apartment or trying for a less cluttered house usually means there are unwanted toys.
"Kovels Antiques and Collectibles Price Guide 2015" lists a late-1950s toy Radicon Robot that sold for $37,200, a very rare 1916 French doll that auctioned for $300,000, and a blue 1962 Chrysler Imperial friction toy with the box that sold for $26,550. And many more toys are listed that sold for hundreds and even thousands of dollars.
What makes a toy that valuable? Barbie, Hot Wheels, stuffed Teddy bears and other popular toys are easy to find at yard sales for low prices, but the special ones exist today in small numbers. The first Barbie, 1959, in excellent condition is worth $6,000. A rare Steiff teddy bear even in "much loved" condition brings over $1,000. Toys that move and make noise get good prices.
In the 1930s and '40s, many colorful tin toys were made in the U.S. by Louis Marx. He founded his toy company in 1919, and by the 1950s, his company was the largest toy manufacturer in the world. Chances are there is a Marx toy in your family.
"Drummer Boy" is a tin Marx toy made around 1949. It is a tin man dressed in a yellow and orange band uniform, pushing a large drum balanced on a wheel. Wind it up and it rolls across the floor while pounding the drum. That toy sold recently for $370. It was inexpensive when new because Marx had re-used some old toy parts and patterns.
The company created a Charlie McCarthy toy in 1938, when the ventriloquist dummy was a star on the radio. The toy's drum said "Strike up the Band, Here comes Charlie." The head and lithographed designs on the tin drum were changed to make the new toy. Charlie, harder to find, sells for over $2,000.
Before you clean out your toys, take the time to do some research. Age, condition and rarity set the price, so don't assume an old Hot Wheels or Barbie or a damaged teddy bear is worth only a few dollars.
Q: I have a round vase made from a mortar shell from World War I. It's been in my husband's family for years. They got it from relatives in Europe. The brass vase is hammered and decorated. It's 8½ inches high and has several letters and numbers marked on the bottom, including the date "Jun 1 1917." Does it have any value?
A: This is a form of folk art known as "trench art." It started during World War I when soldiers in the trenches used metal casings from bullets and mortar shells to make vases, ashtrays, lamps, letter openers and other objects. Now it's used to describe art from other conflicts. The markings meant something to the person making the vase, but it's impossible to decipher them now. June 1 probably was the date of an important battle. Other numbers and letters may identify the division or unit the soldier belonged to or the place where they were fighting. Trench art is collectible. The value of your vase is about $200.
Q: We found a picture of World War I soldiers in our attic. It's about a yard long. There appear to be about a hundred soldiers sitting and standing in front of a line of tents. It reads "Co. L, 3rd Pioneer Inf., Camp Wadsworth, S.C., Moore Photo." Can you give us any information about this photo and its value?
A: Camp Wadsworth was an army mobilization center from 1917 to 1919, during World War I. Pioneer Infantry regiments marched at the head of each battalion to clear the way. They did minor construction, maintained roads and bridges, and built trenches, bomb shelters, and gun emplacements. The War Department chose soldiers "experienced in life in the open, skilled in woodcraft and simple carpentry." The soldiers were also trained as infantry, but their main job was clearing and preparing the way for the rest of the battalion.
Contact the National Archives (www.archives.gov) for more information. If you're interested in selling the picture, you should contact an auction house that sells photos or military items.
Pearl Harbor decanter
Q: I have an empty Pearl Harbor Beam Kentucky Whiskey decanter that has an eagle carrying a bomb on the front between columns with the words "Dec. 7, 1941" and "Pearl Harbor." There is a picture of the memorial for the U.S.S. Arizona on the back. My husband was a Pearl Harbor survivor at Hickam Field. I'd like to give the bottle to one of my children, but I'm not sure of their interest. Is this bottle a collector's item? What is it worth, and where can I sell it if none of my children want it?
A: This Pearl Harbor decanter was made for Beam by Regal China in 1972. Another decanter, with "Pearl Harbor Survivors Association" on the front and the island of Oahu and three ships on the back, was made in 1976. The Pearl Harbor Survivors Association was founded in 1958 and was disbanded because there were so few survivors still alive. These decanters usually sell online for $10 to $20.
Terry and Kim Kovel will answer as many letters from readers as possible through the column only. For return of a photograph, include a self-addressed, stamped (55 cents) envelope. Write to: The Kovels, c/o King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019. The website is www.kovels.com.
Prices are from shows nationwide.
Akro Agate planter, Jonquil, milk glass, blue swirl, embossed, 5 by 3 inches, $15.
Effanbee doll, Little Lady, Anne-Shirley, composition, blond wig, pink dress, 21 inches, $140.
Slave transfer manuscript, father deeds slave girl to daughter, Shenandoah Valley, frame, 1823, 6 by 8 inches, $230.
Tape measure, Charlie Chaplin, full body, crossed hands, cream, black, 5 1/2 inches, $300.
Wardrobe, ash, Eastlake, Murphy bed convertible, salesman sample, 30 by 12 inches, $375.
Carnival glass water pitcher, inverted strawberry pattern, tankard shape, amethyst, $575.
Sterling-silver bowl, reticulated, grapevine rim, four-footed, Bailey, Banks, & Biddle, 3 1/4 by 10 inches, $600.
Basket, Ikebana, woven bamboo, Japan, about 1965, 18 by 13 inches, $940.
Auto advertising sign, Armstrong, Rhino-Flex tires, Rhino logo, red, cream, black, tin, flange, 17 by 17 inches, $2,700.
Lalique glass vase, aigrettes, egrets, flying, branches, frosted, clear, cylindrical, about 1935, 10 inches, $2,815.