It’s a New Year and we want to try a new approach to our column. Being an active dealer collector more than 50 years ago, we became friends with many collectors of bottles, dolls, coins, signs, Santas, and – you name it. We would often ask, “How did you get started?” Responses were quite similar. We chose an actual case of a devoted couple from Allentown, Pa., named George and Dolly for our choice of the first “Anatomy of a Collector.”
Dolly, an art teacher, and George, a workaholic, had no idea of being a collector when Dolly, cleaning out her grandfather’s closet came onto a marshmallow tin full of buttons. She thought this tin, if polished up, would be nice on a kitchen shelf.
One day she noted that Angelus Marshmallows were made by William Rueckheim in Chicago. Upon curiosity, this is the same company that made America’s favorite snack, Cracker Jacks. “Bingo,” she said, and she was off and running. (Coincidentally, the name of Sailor Jack’s dog was Bingo.)
Dolly pursued a Cracker Jacks item and found Jack and his girlfriend counter stand ups to add to her new hobby. George saw how much fun Dolly was having so he embarked on the search for colorful old oil tins and allied advertising for his workshop.
Dolly and George lived in close proximity to one of the largest indoor markets and weekend flea markets in Adamstown, Pa. In the beginning, when scouring the tables and booths they were often told “Oh, we sold that early this morning.” Dolly looked at George and said, “We have to get up early every Saturday as the early bird does indeed get the worm.”
Their collection grew with each month and they decided to expand their horizons by traveling to Brimfield, Mass., and Gaithersburg, Md., both large markets that specialized in advertising and country store artifacts. George took the lead in declaring, “Dolly, if we are to invest in these more expensive signs and objects they must be near perfect.”
And so, George and Dolly went on to amass one of the best “art” collections in the country. Each room was specialized, such as ads with beautiful women in their bedroom, medicinal ads in the bath, soap ads in the laundry, and so on.
Along the way Dolly saw how attractive talcum tins were, and quickly was referred to as the talc queen. Dealers would hold their best for Dolly. In the past few years, you’ll recall how we would expand on how collecting is an exciting adventure. By now you can see what a great adventure this couple was on every weekend.
In 1985, they organized a “Canvention” which was a meeting of tin can collectors. More than 200 attended and buying, selling, and trading was robust.
Today, close to 40 years have passed and much of the great artistic items are in private collections and only come on the market through estate sales as yesterdays serious collectors of age are passing on to todays caretakers of historic artifacts.
Sadly, George passed away several years ago and Dolly has vivid memories of where and when they purchased the beautiful pieces of advertising that continue to adorn her walls and shelves.
Jerry Glenn, former owner of Legends and Reminisce gift shop, currently is appraising trading card collections.