Every six months I receive a giant publication that makes me drool and drives me crazy: it’s the auction catalog from Hake’s Americana & Collectibles. Whether your interest is presidential campaign ephemera, vintage comic books and original artwork, rock ‘n’ roll posters, old-time radio premiums, Disneyana, pin-up girls, advertising pieces, or any other facet of popular culture, this biannual sale is a major event. I’m not in an acquisitive mode just now but I still enjoy looking at every page of the catalog, which you can also find online at: hakes.com.
While I love cartoon-character toys, cowboy paraphernalia and product tie-ins for the TV shows of my childhood, it’s the movie-related items that appeal to me the most. I’ve chosen to highlight a handful from the current auction, which closes in three phases this week, beginning today.
I’ve never seen the store sign promoting Film Funnies gum cards, from 1935—the cards themselves are rare enough—but auction founder Ted Hake says the sign is the first one he’s seen in his 47 years of collecting and dealing! The cardboard item measures 6.25x12” and has already met its opening bid of $300.
Speaking of gum, Ted has another “first” in this sale: an actual package of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs chewing gum from 1938 with all five pieces still in their original wrappers! As most collectors know, packaging is often rarer than the contents, although in this case I’d shudder to think what shape the actual gum is in. Opening bid: $250.
The rare German wind-up toy of Charlie Chaplin dates to 1920 and was made by the Gunthermann company. To quote the catalog: “Tin litho and painted tin w/cast iron shoes. Wire cane in left hand. Toy works well and upper body rocks back and forth at waist as he waddles about ever so slightly. Scattered paint nicks w/trace oxidation to face, but toy remains totally clean and glossy. Arm holding cane has been professionally reattached.” This gem comes from the collection of the late author and illustrator Maurice Sendak, which only enhances its value; bidding began at $200.
I’m a sucker for paper items featuring silent-film stars, and the Movie-Land Lotto game comes in its original box from Milton Bradley. It’s clearly from the late 1920s as it features such relative newcomers as Joan Crawford and Louise Brooks along with stalwarts like Tom Mix and Lillian Gish. This opened at $100.
Speaking of silent stars, the original window card for the 1927 hit movie 7th Heaven, starring Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell is awfully nice, and I think the catalog estimate of $200-400 is fair. Besides, I love window cards: they’re one-sheets in miniature and fit more easily onto a crowded wall.
Ted Hake is best known in the collecting field for his vast knowledge of pinback buttons, which he sells on his own site. (Hake’s Americana is now part of Steve Geppi’s pop culture empire.) My collection of lapel pins is small by comparison, but I always pine over rarities like the one up for auction this week promoting Buck Jones’ 1933 Universal serial Gordon of Ghost City. It’s definitely worth an opening bid of $100, but I’m trying to resist temptation just now. (Also note that these prices don’t include the auction house’s 20% premium, which is added to the final price of every item.)
But, as my wife and I like to tell each other, there’s no charge for looking.