Antique Appraisals

What’s It Worth? 14 years of treasured memories

Steiff Riding Tiger toy
Steiff Riding Tiger toy

Added up, it’s quite a lot of anything: 300,000. That is about how many words you write doing a newspaper column like What’s It Worth? over more than 14 years.

It started the first Sunday of January, 2003. The Tri-Cities temperature topped out at 52 degrees (we probably thought winter was over).

That inaugural column featured three objects: the first official Mariner’s game-issued Ichiro Suzuki bobblehead doll ($100), Sterling silver candlesticks sold by Tiffany ($450) and a “Geisha Girl” porcelain sugar bowl, valued at $25.

Today, the bobblehead from Ichiro’s 2001 season is worth $30. The Tiffany candlesticks would bring about $700. And the ceramic sugar bowl will sell for $10 — if anyone wants to buy it.

This is the last What’s It Worth? It features no new items; rather, it revisits the best of the best.

Here is our top 10 all-time list of your treasures, which we’ve had the privilege of researching and valuing. They came from you, the readers. Some are really valuable, others are not, and at least one was rather strange — in a good way.

We chose them based on rarity, value, quirkiness and historical significance. And, well, because they’re just cool.

10. The Un-Deer — October 2012

A 1960s in-store promotion display of the oddest soft drink spokesman. Ever. Un-Deer only came around at Christmas time, for 7-Up, The Un-Cola. He said strange things like,, “How’s your hoofies?” Goofy, and valued at $200.

9. Weller “Mouse” vase — November 2008

This little piece from Weller Pottery of Ohio dates about 1910. It typifies the style of the American Arts and Crafts Movement. Only two inches high, value was $400.

8. James Dean Poster — September 2004

He died too young, after only three films. He endures as a Hollywood legend. Caroline of Richland has treasured her large one-sheet Rebel Without A Cause poster since she worked at an Everett movie theater where managers gave it to her when the film came out. Value in 2004 was $5,000. Today: $5,000.

7. Civil War photo, Lookout Mountain — June 2011

Thousands of Union soldiers had their picture taken at this famous Tennessee site. This photo was done six months after the 1863 battle. Value $700.

6. Autographed Amelia Earhart book — November 2009

The aviatrix’s 1932 The Fun Of It — mostly about her solo flight across the Atlantic — had her signature on a blank page. $1,500 to $3,000.

5. Disney Merbabies lobby card — December 2012

A 1938 short animated film from Disney, Merbabies promotion included this lobby card. Valued at $200.

4. Steiff Riding Tiger toy — February 2010

An item from the What’s It Worth? topical sidebar “Seen and Sold,” this rideable pull toy set a world record for the form when it sold at auction in Walla Walla for $2,000.

3. Japanese surrender photos — November 2014

These 100-plus never-before-seen images of events surrounding surrender ceremonies that ended the war with Japan were taken by the father of a Richland reader. As there was nothing comparable to establish values, we said, “at least several thousand dollars, but they really need to be reviewed by scholars.”

2. Osaki Sterling silver — June 2004

A reader in Richland had just inherited her service of Harry Osaki’s handmade Sterling flatware when she contacted What’s It Worth? We were pleased to report the set was by a 20th century master who worked in Pasadena, Calif. His handmade silver pieces are much coveted and seldom come to market. Back then, the value was $7,500; 13 years later it is more like $12,500.

1. Folk Art Cane — March 2011

An elderly Moscow, Idaho, couple brought this cane to What’s It Worth? With worn paint and wonderful patina, it was carved in 1885 and carries the image of every American president through Grover Cleveland. We valued it at up to $6,000, maybe more, and said it needed to be looked at by a folk art specialist. When it was shown to an expert on the East Coast, he took it on consignment to sell for the couple. It was listed in his catalog as “a significant find” offered for sale at $24,000.

A newspaper column can be written by a single person, but it doesn’t get into print and in to your hands without the work of many, many others.

Before signing off, we need to thank some of the folks who’ve made What’s It Worth? possible. With apologies to those we’ve missed; you all know who you are.

From the Tri-City Herald, Nancy Luzovich, Allison Stormo, Bob Brawdy, Laurie Williams and Melissa O’Neil Purdue — she who got this all started.

National experts who’ve helped with answers over the years include: Alan Fausel, Chris Lane, Wes Cowan, Lee & Leslie Keno, Katie Horstman and Heather O’Mahoney.

Closer to home, thanks to: Julie Whitney, Liz and Mark Thompson, Cindi Evens, Paul Ziemer, Shu-Chen Lucas, Robyn Chambers, Doug Macon, Dee Black, Lisa Richart, Joann Sheppard and Steve Shockley.

When the words were wrong, it was my fault. When it was perfect, that was the work of our in-house editor and my partner, Kathy Maurer.

Many thanks to them, all the people who’ve asked questions over the years and, especially, to all of you who have taken time to read What’s It Worth? since 2003.

Terry K. Maurer, 15-year senior member of the Certified Appraisers Guild of America, is a personal property appraiser in the Tri-Cities. His What’s It Worth? column on antiques and collectibles has appeared in the Herald for more than 14 years.