Antique Appraisals

Condition of collectibles affects value

This coaster wagon and wafer iron are collectible, but in their current conditions, one is worth quite a bit more than the other.
This coaster wagon and wafer iron are collectible, but in their current conditions, one is worth quite a bit more than the other.

In today’s What’s It Worth? we’re reviewing two metal items our readers asked about. One is a classic and very popular toy. The other was highly useful and practical, but is not much used today.

Q. We bought this old metal child’s coaster wagon at a sale in Walla Walla. There are no marks on it and we haven’t been able to identify the maker. The wagon is 15 inches high and 32 inches long. What can you tell us? — Delores in Pasco.

A. Your wagon is about 80 years old and is a “Streak-O-Lite” model. It was made by the most successful manufacturer of coaster wagons — Radio Flyer.

The company had its beginnings just before World War I, when Italian immigrant Antonio Pasin settled in Chicago. After bouncing from menial job to menial job, he saved enough money to open his own business.

Pasin started by making toy wagons from wood and selling them himself. By the mid-1920s, he had several employees and was turning a nice profit. By the 1930s, he had adopted the assembly line processes of the automobile industry and was turning out Liberty Coaster wagons in large numbers. When Liberty Coaster started making steel wagons, the company name changed to Radio Flyer.

Their large exhibit at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair was very popular. It was about that time the Streak-O-Lite wagon was introduced. The wagon’s styling was modeled after the popular Zephyr railroad trains of the day.

Streak-O-Lite wagons could be purchased at most leading stores. They also could be ordered from Sears-Roebuck. The cost for the basic model enhanced with a real working headlight was $4.79. A plain version like this one, without headlight, was a dollar less.

This wagon was originally all red in color, with a special decal depicting a Zephyr locomotive on each side. They came in many variations. There was even a Baby Streak-O-Lite, just 17 inches long and costing 95 cents.

In its current condition, Delores’ wagon is worth between $100 and $125. Completely restored examples come to auction from time to time. In this case, a good restoration increases the value and we have seen nice, restored examples sell for as much as $450.

Q. I bought this rather odd looking cast iron cooking utensil at a Tri-Cities estate sale. It very clearly states it was made by Buck & Wright and is a model No. 7. I thought is was probably an old waffle iron, now I’m not so sure. Can you help with identification and possible value? — Julianna in Moses Lake.

A. Lots of companies have made cast iron cooking items and they are still being made today. Big names like Griswold and Wagner are popular with collectors.

Lesser-known firms, many of them dating to the 19th century, were also active at one time. Buck & Wright was among them.

By the 1850s, St. Louis had become the leading stove manufacturing city in the nation. In addition to Buck & Wright’s Eclipse foundry — creators of the popular Buck line of stoves — other firms such as Success Stove were prominent.

Charles Buck and Hadley Wright were wealthy men just before the Civil War. In the 1860 census — when both were 40 years old — each was listed as owning real estate and personal property worth about $40,000.

In addition to stoves, Buck & Wright made utensils to use on their stoves. Frying pans, griddles and items like this wafer iron were among them.

It is not a waffle iron, although they came in the same basic shape and are quite similar. This is a wafer iron, for making thin wafer cookies.

Those cookies go by many various names, bricelet, krumbkake and pizzelle among them. The cookies are a European tradition, and many companies made wafer irons to cater to recent immigrants and their families.

Wafer irons from this era, circa 1850-70, are hard to find and desirable to collectors of cast iron.

Models by well-known companies sell for between $100 and $200.

A very collectible but lesser-known firm’s wafer iron, like this one, would be fairly priced in the $300 to $400 range.

We can see there is some minor surface rust on the piece, which could be easily removed. That would protect it from further oxidation and enhance the value as well.

Terry K. 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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