Disney item maintains value

TERRY MAURER, WHAT'S IT WORTH?December 30, 2012 

Damage always devalues a collectible object and sometimes damage can be so severe as to make an otherwise valuable thing worthless. On the other hand, there are occasions when less-than-stellar condition still leaves an item with good market value.

Such is the case in today's What's It Worth?, as we end the year by answering a reader's question about her unusual Walt Disney movie card.

And, colorful bathroom glassware from the Depression Era is on the agenda, in the form of "Crinoline Girl."

Q. I purchased this Merbabies movie poster or lobby card at an antiques show recently. It is made of heavy cardboard and comes in two pieces. The total dimensions are about 46 by 24 inches. It is in pretty bad condition, with extensive rips and tears along the edges of each piece, a few big creases, plus damage to each of the four color photographs. Will it have any value to a collector? -- Ann in Pasco

A. Merbabies was a Walt Disney production and part of the studio's famous Silly Symphonies. These were a series of 75 animated short films made between 1929 and 1939. Merbabies, the 72nd film in the series, was released near the end of the run, in 1938.

Unlike the companion series of Mickey Mouse short films, Silly Symphonies generally did not feature continuing characters. But some famous Disney "stars" got their start in Silly Symphonies, including Donald Duck.

The Merbabies, as shown in the photo, were adorable little redheaded sea sprites who on film first came out of the crashing ocean surf and then proceeded to present a circus of sea creatures. It was released three years after the similar Water Babies short film.

Condition is pretty poor for this piece, and that certainly detracts from market value and potential collector interest.

That said, there is not a lot of Merbabies material out there in the market and these two pieces will still find willing buyers in the $50 to $100 range.

Some Merbabies items bring big money. At auction in 2011, a movie poster sold for $2,000 and in July of this year a piece of original background art -- a "cell" -- was sold for $5,000.

Q. I have a bath powder container made of green glass that was given to my mother in 1921 by her parents as a Christmas gift. It is about 5 inches tall. This history is on the bottom of the base unit. Both pieces are in very good shape -- no nicks, scratches, or missing details. I am giving this piece to my daughter this Christmas -- Patricia in Richland

A. What a great way to preserve family history by writing details of where the item came from and who owned it. We quite often advise private appraisal clients to save these easily-lost family facts in just this way.

This is called "Crinoline Girl" by collectors of glassware. It was made in America for the the Ramses Body Powder Company and sold in stores across the country in the 1920s and 1930s.

A 1931 advertisement for Sears-Roebuck said it features a "frosted bowl that presents a Crinoline Girl," and thus the collector's name for the piece was born.

The lid depicts a lady wearing an off-shoulder hoop skirt gown. Her arms are by her sides, and she is holding a bouquet of flowers in one hand and a large round hat with flowers hangs from her other arm. The bottom of the jar -- with embossed bows on the glass -- completes the skirt. This powder jar is 41/2 inches in diameter.

She came in several colors, including blue, green, pink and clear glass. Some examples found today may have the Ramses Powder label still on the base.

Always a desirable item to collectors of Depression-era bathroom glassware, Crinoline Girl originally was sold for 59 cents.

Ten years ago, guides valued her at between $75 and $85. In today's market, she is regularly offered for sale in the $200 to $250 range.

* Terry Maurer, Tri-Cities personal property appraiser, is a member of the Certified Appraisers Guild of America. For possible use in a future column, direct questions on your antiques and collectibles to What's It Worth? by email to tchwhatsitworth@gmail.com.

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