We Gather Together…A Vintage Thanksgiving Feast Photo

Thanksgiving Vintage Photo

I don’t know who these people are.  Random family photos like this turn up in my possession all the time.  Clearly this is an important meal, and judging by the gigantic turkey on the table, I’m going to assume it’s Thanksgiving sometime in the late 1930’s or early 1940’s.  I wonder why Norman Rockwell didn’t paint this family scene; it’s Americana at its finest.  Please note as well the stacks of plain white bread prominently displayed on the table.  Where are the Pillsbury Crescent Rolls?  You may laugh, but a buttered piece of white bread was usually an accompaniment to my holiday feasts as a child in the 1950’s, too.  We can only imagine the scintillating conversation going on here based on on the lone man at the table who is about to doze off.  That’s the great fun of collecting old photos.  You try to imagine who these people were and the kind of lives they led.  One thing I can’t figure out, though.  Why was this photo blown up to a gigantic 11 by 14 size?


Collecting enriches our lives, and we are very thankful for that.

Posted in 1930's, 1940's, Americana, Carol, Food, Holiday, Photography, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Amazing Variety of Gumball Machine Monster Jigglers

It’s that time of year where I like to write about monster toys. Well, for me that is any time of year, but it is most important to make this a tradition in October so here it goes! Today I wanted to spend some time with Monster Jigglers. I chose the topic for several reasons. Firstly, I collect Monster Jigglers. Secondly, I remember my mom giving some Monster Jigglers out as party favors at a little Halloween party we had when I was a kid. It just seemed like a very appropriate thing to write about. Hopefully by the time I am done, you will be as fascinated by these silly little pieces of rubber as I am.

Gumball Machine Monster Jigglers

Gumball Machine Monster Jigglers

So if you haven’t been clued in to the world of jigglers yet, let me bring you up to speed. Jigglers are toys made out of a springy and flexible rubber that literally jiggles when you move it. If you were a kid between the 60’s- the 80’s, you probably had at least one. Though they came into popularity in the 1960’s, you can still find toys made like this today. In fact, you can still find some of the same jiggler designs of 40+ years ago in stores if you look hard enough, but I will address that later. Russ Berrie is famous for making larger gift ware jigglers that were sold in novelty shops and gift shops in the 60’s and 70’s. Most of their jigglers are animal characters with plastic inset eyes. They are made out of an oily rubber that will stain anything it touches if you leave it long enough, but they still have a following today regardless. Ben Cooper also made some cool jigglers including Marvel and DC super heroes and Universal Monsters. Yes, this is the Ben Cooper that made cheap Halloween costumes, but they also did dime store toys in the form of rubber jigglers. The rubber used by Ben cooper is more like the rubber on the toys I am talking about today (less oily). With the success of jigglers in the 1960’s, cheap-toy companies decided to jump on the band wagon and create small jigglers that could fit into a capsule in a gumball machine. You could fold the flexible rubber into a capsule and it would spring back good as new when the toy was removed.  Many of them are in the form of bizarre monsters, and those are the jigglers I am discussing today.

Flat JigglersFlat Monster Jigglers just like the ones I had as a kid!

Now I should make it clear that these jigglers weren’t only sold in gumball machines. Some were also sold bagged and carded, and you could probably buy them individually in your local dime store. I remember the ones that my mom gave out at Halloween came in a big bag filled with a couple dozen of them. They were cheap to produce and kids loved them. The ones above are like the ones I had as a kid. They are what I would call flat jigglers, and they were still producing them up through at least the 1980’s when I had them.

Finger Puppet JigglersFinger Puppet Jigglers.  That sad red fella on the far right is totally a new Jiggler.

One of the most incredible aspects of these small jigglers is that some of these designs, or bootlegs of these designs, are still being produced today. They are often sold as party favors for kids birthday parties. That means that some of these toys have had a consistent run of production for at least 40 years. In many ways that puts them in a league with Barbie, Hotwheels, and G.I. Joe when it comes to longevity, but because they are small and innocuous we never see them that way. The finger puppet jigglers are still made today. Though the designs have changed a bit over time, the concept remains the same.

It can sometimes be very difficult to tell an older jiggler from a new one, but there are a few tricks to help you decipher age. One of the easiest ways to tell age is to look at the markings. This trick I am about to mention will help you date a lot of toys besides jigglers. If the jiggler is marked “Hong Kong” it was made 1985 or prior. If it is marked “China” it is made after 1985. Another way to tell is the rubber. This is hard for me to describe in a blog post, but there is a different feel to the older rubber. When you have a China jiggler and a Hong Kong jiggler to compare you will see what I mean. They feel different. Finally, not every design has been produced over and over for years. In general, the octopus jigglers or spider jigglers aren’t being produced today and probably haven’t been for decades. The frog looking ones are the same. The main two still being produced are the finger puppets and the flat jigglers.

Octopus/ Spider JigglersOctopus/ Spider Monster Jigglers.  These are some of my favorites.  Look at those crazy designs!


Frog Monster JigglersFrog Monster Jigglers.  Two eyes would just be too normal.  It’s either one or five with these guys.  The frogs are also some of my favorites.  I mean, just look at them.

One of my favorite aspects of jigglers is you can see their progression through time as different companies rip each others designs and make slight alterations. They shrink and grow, and they gain limbs and they lose limbs.   They come in different rubbers and plastics, and they change color as they go. As I find jigglers digging through bins at flea markets I watch them evolve over time, and I feel like a biologist finding a new species when I find a slight variation on a design. Flea markets are the Galapagos Islands of jigglers! It makes them particularly fun to collect. I never find the exact same jiggler twice.

Jiggler VariationsThe same jiggler can take on many forms.  Clearly these are the same design, but the one on the right has a horn.  Based on the rubber, the one on the right is also probably the older one.


Jiggler Variations 2These two have very similar faces, but different legs.  Another one of my favorite aspects of these toys is their evolution over the decades they were created.


Jiggler Variations 3These two may be the closest yet, but if you look carefully you will see that they are two totally different sculpts.  One is most likely a shameless rip off of the other.  They weren’t even trying to make it something different!


Jiggler Variations 4That tiny guy on the left was probably created in the 80’s and is clearly based on the guy on the right.  That being said, they made a lot of changes in the leg department.  What a crazy evolution!

I also want to take time to point out how weird and awesome some of these designs are. They are brilliant! As an artist, I love every one of them as these incredible and interesting sci-fi monsters. This is because many of these designs are based on work by well known artists such as Wally Wood and Basil Wolverton that were done for a line of Topps trading cards (the jigglers are clearly bootlegs). Others are based on other toy line such as The Outer Space Men by Colorforms, and some designs were done in house at the cheap toy companies based on these designs. Of course, as bootlegs of work by popular artists, these toys have garnered quite a following.

Topps CardDoes Barry look familiar to you? His doppelganger is in the top left corner of the photo of the spider/ octopus jigglers.

topps card 2My fried Ed is in the top row second from the right.  You can probably thank Wally Wood for these nightmares.

topps card 3Remember those multi-eyed frog jigglers?  You can call them Steve!

topps card 4Finally Iris shares a striking resemblance to the rat bug jiggler in the next photo down.  This is the least obvious of the bootlegs, but the idea is still present.

Figural Monster JigglersThese Jigglers are more figural.  Two monkeys, a bootleg of a larger jiggler line called De Horribles, and a rat bug.  I like the rat bug (but really, I just like them all).

Thanks to having a bag of flat jigglers as a kid from a Halloween party, I became hooked on monster jigglers. Their wacky and wonderfully disturbing designs intrigue me and keep me searching the depths of dirty boxes at flea markets to rescue them from obscurity. It is a worthwhile pursuit as far as I am concerned.

Tiny Jiggler MonstersSome teeny tiny jigglers.  I put a big one in the back for comparison.  These guys are less than half the size of their counterparts, and therefore are even harder to find!  They are less than an inch long!

jigglersFinally, some really cool jigglers that probably weren’t in gumball machines.  These are probably from a dime store based on their size.  Still, these are really great and were well worth sharing!

Posted in 1960's, 1970's, 1980's, 1990's, Amy, Art, Halloween, Humor, Monsters, Toys, Weird | 2 Comments

2014 Road Trip Blog: Scrappy the GI Mascot and Other WWII Collectibles

World War II home front collectibles have become a growing interest for Jim and me, so we were very happy to add a few new items to our collection during the course of our road trip. Pictured is a grouping of some of the items we found.

WWII Group Shot

Ration books are rather commonplace even after seventy years, but we liked this ration book envelope showing Uncle Sam rolling up his sleeves. It was a giveaway from Royal Crown Cola. Likewise, old bottles of ink aren’t hard to find, but it was fun to find Parker Quink ink for V-mail in its original box. The little flannel pennant with the nice patriotic graphics and the patriotic cardboard fan showing a WWII nurse were also little “finds.”

Among our better finds was the “Hi Buddy” ceramic soldier head. He turns up with some frequency on the antique circuit, but this example has nice, bright paint and only a few minor condition issues. He is marked “Hi Buddy” on the back of his shirt collar and is an early type of “Chia Pet.” The striations on his head are meant to grow a grassy form of hair! He was made by the Morton Pottery Company in Morton, Illinois.

We were immediately drawn to the cloth saluting soldier doll with a paper Shackman label on his back. He is eight inches tall and in excellent condition. He has wire arms and legs which make him very posable. He also has a Christmas tree hook through his cap, so he could be hung up. While he looks like a WWII G.I., he couldn’t possibly have been made during the war because the label says that he was made in Japan. This doll either predates the war by a few years or was made in the 1950’s after occupation ended. The Shackman Company started its toy and novelty business in 1898 and continues to this day so either date works. I’d like to think that this little guy was available for young wives and little sisters of soldiers to buy at the local Woolworth’s in 1942, but I don’t know for sure.

Scrappy 1

Last, but certainly not least, in our WWII acquisitions is Scrappy (Yard Bird), the Lucky Mascot. Thankfully, he has his original tag explaining that he was a “Service man’s pal” who could handle the annoying details like sassing the sergeant back. Without his tag, one would be left pondering the meaning of this painted pinecone with a weird attached head and boots! There is a patent serial number on the tag, but no company name, so who made Scrappy is a mystery. It was likely a very small company with a handful of employees or even a cottage industry that produced him. In the South, a yardbird is a chicken, and Scrappy could be a chicken. During WWII, “yardbird” was a slang term for a basic trainee because much of his time was spent out in the yards. My guess is that some creative entrepreneur who lived near an army post filled with new recruits came up with the idea of Scrappy. Whatever his origins are, I doubt too many Scrappys still exist. We’ve never seen one before, and that’s why he left his temporary home in a case in an antique mall in Missouri and came back with us.

Scrappy 2

Posted in 1940's, Americana, Carol, Comic Characters, Historical, Humor, Road Trip, Weird, WWII | Leave a comment

Kenner’s Battle Brawlers: Awesome Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Monsters

As a collector of action figures, I understand that amassing a complete “set” of any one line usually requires amassing at least four or six action figures and at least a vehicle and maybe a playset. By collecting mostly obscure toy lines, I’m very fortunate in that most of the lines I like are rather small, and while they might be hard to find, it gives me less to collect. However, I’m pretty sure that Kenner’s Battle Brawlers has to be the set with the smallest number of things to collect. I’m writing about two figures that literally make up the entirety of the toy line.

(left to right) Crackarm, Hammertail...and that's it! The complete set of Battle Brawlers!

(left to right) Crackarm, Hammertail…and that’s it! The complete set of Battle Brawlers!

Battle Brawlers were released in 1986 at a great time for monster action figures. High fantasy lines like Masters of the Universe and Thundercats were still going strong. That same year, Hasbro introduced Inhumanoids, a toy line based almost entirely around the monsters rather than the heroes. In all of these lines, the monsters kept growing and growing in size, which was great for a generation of kids who didn’t grow up with things like The Great Garloo.

Though they were figures, Battle Brawlers were in a sense more like a modified, monsterfied game of Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots. Crackarm has arms that would try and punch his enemies from the sides, while Hammertail swings around his giant scorpion-like appendage to hit people on the top of their noggins. Conveniently, each character had buttons placed in their weak spots that corresponded to the other figure’s actions, so it was a matter of who could knock piece off of the other figure first.

Brawlers2 Brawlers5 Brawlers6

What I love about the line is the fact that you could really use these figures in just about any toy line and they work. They tower above most fantasy figures, so they can serve as foes for He-Man and Lion-O if needed. They are basically just awesome monster designs wearing armor, and they are both very, very evil-looking, like something Les Edwards would have designed for old Games Workshop games.

Brawlers7 Brawlers3

The series only included these two figures, so if you want to collect the line, the only work you have ahead of you is finding them, which is not impossible. I found Hammertail at a toy show and later found Crackarm at a flea market. A word to the wise, though: the name “Battle Brawlers” is used by Bakguan toys, so if you go searching for these online, you might have to wade through a bunch of stuff you don’t want. However, they are absolutely worth seeking out for any fantasy or monster toy collectors out there!

Posted in 1980's, Action Figures, Ben, Monsters, Toys | Leave a comment

Primal Rage Necrosan: A Terrifying 90s Figure that’s Terrifyingly Expensive!

Sometimes, something gets very valuable very quickly. You might assume that by checking completed listings on eBay and seeing a particular collectible sell for the same price consistently that it must be worth that, but if you haven’t been paying attention to the market for a while, you might not realize that it wasn’t nearly as valuable a year ago. What happened to cause such an escalation of price?

I’ve been asking that question – and formulated several reasonable answers – when it comes to the Primal Rage figure Necrosan.

Here's Necrosan in all its glory! This figure has gotten really, really expensive lately.

Here’s Necrosan in all its glory! This figure has gotten really, really expensive lately.

Primal Rage is an arcade game that was released by Midway in 1994. Midway was responsible for the hyper violent yet massively popular Mortal Kombat series of fighting games. To capitalize on both the popularity of fighting games as well as the popularity of dinosaurs thanks to Jurassic Park, Midway created yet another hyper violent fighter starring giant dinosaurs and apes pounding each other senseless with inordinate amounts of gore spouting out across the screen.

Primal Rage ad courtesy of arcade-museum.com

Primal Rage ad courtesy of arcade-museum.com

What should have been a recipe for inevitable success in 1994 was not as successful as many had hoped. While Primal Rage could be found at arcades across the country, it was competing against an ever-expanding roster of fighting games that were all competing for hard-earned quarters. A sequel was planned and initially developed, but Midway decided that it wouldn’t be lucrative enough to justify production.

Despite Primal Rage only receiving one arcade entry into the series, there’s actual quite a bit of Primal Rage merchandise available to collect. It was ported onto virtually every system that was available at the time. It also received a board game, a comic book, and, I wish I was kidding, a NOVEL. But of course, it also had a corresponding series of action figures, made by Playmates toys. They were big and chunky and meant to be thrown around the same way you would have thrown around LJN WWF Wrestlers in the 1980s. They all featured actions that helped recreate their special moves in the game.

Despite not receiving a second game, Playmates actually produced a second series of action figures. Some of these were repaints of first series figures, but there were two new characters who would have shown up in the second arcade game: Slash Fang (a sabretooth tiger) and Necrosan (a…uh…a skinned…dragon…thing?).  Had the second arcade game been made, Necrosan would have been the final boss, which is something the first arcade game was lacking.


Here's a look at the back of the package showing Necrosan, Slash Fang, and some of the other repainted Series 2 figures.

Here’s a look at the back of the package showing Necrosan, Slash Fang, and some of the other repainted Series 2 figures.

The toy series was scrapped after this second series of figures, and they were quickly discounted at Kay Bee Toys at rock bottom prices.

So why has this figure suddenly been selling at various points of the year for more than $500?

Yes, that is a real number. While most collectors of 1980s action figures scoff at the notion that anything made beyond 1989 is worth anything at all, there’s a figure from the latter part of the decade that collectors really, really want to have. To be fair, more recent sales put it closer to the $100 to $200 range for boxed, mint examples, but still, that’s much more than just about any other action figure from that particular era.

I have a couple of reasonable theories.

1.) It’s definitely a short-run figure, and I’m basing that on personal experience. I remember seeing piles of figures on clearance at Kay Bee, including the aforementioned Slash Fang. However, maybe I saw Necrosan in a store once if at all when it was a new toy. While scalpers of the day added to the rarity of certain infamous figures like the first Princess Leia, the truth is that they’ve all been very easy to obtain and aren’t worth much at all. Necrosan is one of the few domestically action figures of the 1990s that is legitimately rare.

2.) Primal Rage is picking up steam as a collectible. When I started collecting Primal Rage toys about six years ago, it was because I remembered them fondly, but it was also because they were so darned cheap, even on eBay! I could pick up large lots for $20 plus shipping without difficulty. It seems like people have come to appreciate the line (anything with dinosaurs seems to be collectible these days, if the prices on Dino Riders and Jurassic Park toys are to be believed), and so if they want a complete series of figures, then they have to track down Necrosan.

3.) He provides some of the only evidence that a second game was planned. Now, for years, Primal Rage 2 was sort of an urban legend and almost no information on the game could be found. However, my favorite arcade currently in operation, Galloping Ghost, installed a copy of Primal Rage 2, and now, you can see gameplay videos of the unreleased arcade game. Many unproduced games have found second lives through emulators, but while you can finally play Primal Rage 2 today, you couldn’t back in 1996 like what had been planned. The fact that Necrosan got released as a tie-in for a game that never got produced is pretty remarkable, as is the fact that…

4.) He is just plain crazy and horrifying. What parent would encourage their children to play with this thing? It absolutely looks like it came straight from Clive Barker’s nightmares. You have a dragon WITH ITS SKIN RIPPED OFF, revealing its innards, it’s musculature, and it’s skeletal structure. Yes, there’s a ton of merchandise today for Attack on Titan’s Colossal Titan, but all of it is meant for adult collectors, not children. I think it’s appealing to those who like monster figures, and that includes plenty of collectors out there.

A face only a collector could love...

A face only a collector could love…

Now, I think all of these reasons provide a more than plausible explanation as to why Necrosan has gotten to be such an expensive action figure lately. I think some combination of the four reasons is responsible for this, but I couldn’t tell you which ones carry the most weight for the people willing to spend that kind of money for it.

As for me, I bought it for $15 at a toy show last summer. I knew that was a fair price – I think maybe it was selling for $50 to $75 at the time – but I didn’t realize how much of a bargain it would be in the long run. It goes to show that the market is constantly in flux, so if you really want something for your collection and can comfortably afford it, it’s best to do so as soon as possible, because you don’t know when it’s going to become the next impossibly expensive thing that everyone else has to have!

Posted in 1990's, Action Figures, Ben, Halloween, Monsters, Toys, Weird | 4 Comments

2014 Road Trip Blog: Franklin Pierce Ballot & Herbert Hoover Decal

Very early in the trip, Jim struck political gold outside of Galena, Illinois.  The same dealer had a number of good political items, and Jim purchased two of them.  Jim was off and running.  Surely, this was a sign that he was going to find lots of things to add to his presidential campaign memorabilia collection.  Sadly, it was not a sign.  Indeed, aside from a couple of pinbacks, these were the only items he found.  Still, it isn’t every day that one finds something from the campaign of Franklin Pierce.

website-Franklin-Pierce-balFranklin Pierce was the Democratic candidate in 1852 running against Winfield Scott, the last Whig candidate.  Successfully elected, he has gone down in the history books as one of our worst presidents, usually joined at the bottom of the list with his successor James Buchanan and Warren G. Harding.  This paper ballot out of Virginia was typical of those used in the mid-nineteenth century.  Notice that the voter is choosing electors, not directly voting for the president. Technically, we still do that; we just don’t see the list of electors anymore. This marks only the second Franklin Pierce item in Jim’s collection, so he was quite pleased to find it.

website-Hoover-decalThis window decal from 1932 has great graphics and an ironic message.  Clearly, the elephant is oblivious to the angry donkey coming at him.  By 1932, the country was mired in the Great Depression with no relief in sight, and Herbert Hoover was receiving most of the blame.  Referencing the old adage, “Don’t change horses in the middle of the stream,” this decal did little to stop the juggernaut that was Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Americans wanted change, and they swept FDR into the White House by a landslide.

Posted in 1800's, 1930's, Americana, Carol, Jim, Political | Leave a comment

2014 Road Trip Blog: Vintage Photos

I scour flea markets and shops for many things, but I’m always drawn to vintage photos.  I look for unique images of all eras, but I particularly like photos that tell a story of some sort, photos of children with their toys, holiday photos, and amusement park/tourist attraction photos.  The main prerequisite is that they be cheap.  I rarely pay over $5 for a photo; I’m thrilled when I find snapshots for a quarter and fifty cents.

This trip did not yield as many photos as I wish it had, but I’m sure Jim would say that I found enough.  Here are some of my favorites.

website-cc-trip-photos-1These two snapshots were found in the same bowl and were priced at a quarter each.  I suspect they came from the same family and possibly the same trip.  I love the guy standing next to the giant ox/long horn steer.  We found several giant tourist attraction statues on this trip, particularly in North Dakota, so I could relate to this snapshot.  The second photo shows some sort of cheesy tourist trap.  I wonder what the shrunken body inside the building looked like?  Was it a real deal or some fake thing?  I also love the old Coca-Cola sign.

website-cc-trip-photos-2I like family snapshots if they tell a story.  Both of these fit the bill.  The top photo of the dad and his two sons is dated 1960 and appears to have been taken on Easter.  Everyone is very nattily dressed, especially Dad.  You have to wonder if he was ever seen in public again wearing that coat.  The second photo is a genre that I have several examples of – people holding birthday cakes.  I’m wondering why there are two cakes here.  It must have been a big party.  I like the look of pride on both the boy and the grandmother.

website-cc-trip-photos-3This little boy looks happy enough to be dressed in his sailor suit and Mary Jane shoes, but he sure wouldn’t survive a minute in today’s world.

website-cc-trip-photos-4This is a real photo postcard with no identification whatsoever.  It’s a beautiful family portrait from the early 1900’s.  You can’t help but wonder how life turned out for this family.  The little girl is so sweet and serious about posing nicely for the photographer.

website-cc-trip-photos-5This is a large sepia photo that measures 7 1/2 by 9 1/2 inches.  It was found in a shop in Helena, MT priced at $3.  It was taken by a photographer from North Columbia, California.  North Columbia was a gold rush town in the Sierra Nevadas.  This photo probably dates to the 1880’s.  The house looks sturdy and somewhat prosperous.  I suspect the three people in the center are a married couple and their young son.  I wonder if the young man on the left is their other son.  The other three gentlemen could be relations or workers who board with them.  Clearly, everyone is dressed in his/her finest clothes and there are several pocket watches and/or fobs on display.  If only photos could talk, what stories could they tell?

website-cc-trip-photos-6This wedding photo from Sumner, Iowa was found in a shop in Montana.  Having been to Iowa and knowing that Iowa was settled by immigrants from European countries like Norway and Czechoslovakia, I was intrigued by the bride’s elaborate wedding veil, clearly an indication of her ethnic origin.  Unfortunately, I don’t know what that is.  To me, the photo is a visual reminder of the many people who came to the United States looking for a better life, with marriage being the real starting point for a family.

website-cc-trip-photos-barbLast, but not least, here is the photo that I can most relate to.  I call it “The Barbie Girls.”  These young ladies are probably about two years younger than me because they are posing with their new bubble-cut Barbie dolls.  I never got to that point with my Barbie “collection.”  I had one and only one doll, and she was a ponytail version.  The bubble-cuts came out in 1961, so I believe this photo dates to about that time or possibly 1962.  Note that a couple of the girls even have shirts that match Barbie’s black and white striped bathing suit.  Also note that one poor girl who doesn’t even show in the photo is holding a fake Barbie!  My heart goes out to her.  This little snapshot was one of my favorite finds at the gigantic Gold Rush Days Flea Market in Oronoco, MN.

Posted in 1800's, 1900's, 1920's, 1940's, 1950's, 1960's, Carol, Photography | 2 Comments

Plundering Antique Shops From Ohio to Montana – and Back!


It’s been a while since we have posted anything on Collectorgene.  Please forgive this lapse.  Jim and I were on a four-week road trip that took us 6700 miles through nine different states.  Except for New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Idaho, we antiqued in all of them.  In fact, we combed through shops in Ohio and Illinois both coming and going.  To be fair, most of our trip was spent taking in the sights of five different national parks, learning about history at several national monuments, visiting numerous museums, and even visiting relatives.  Still and all, out of 32 days on the road, we probably stopped in at least one antique shop or mall 20 days or more.  Many people marvel that we enjoy road tripping as much as we do.  We believe that being antique hunters adds an extra dimension to the trip that makes it even more fun.  And while we do come home with t-shirts and postcards and refrigerator magnets documenting where we’ve been, most of our souvenirs are of the vintage kind.  This trip was no exception.  The back of the minivan was loaded with bags.

Now that we’re back home and somewhat settled in, we hope to post several blogs that show at least a portion of the “stuff” that we found out west.

Posted in Carol | Leave a comment

Shoe Shine Boxes – Part II – More Shine Is Just Fine

Just over two years ago, I wrote my first article about shoe shine boxes, those humble survivors of life in urban America.

Since that time I have added a few more examples to my collection which I would like to share with our readers.  I am still somewhat picky about what enters my collection, and I also remain somewhat cheap as well.  These three examples ranged in price from $25.00 to $40.00 and I think are among the best ones I have found.

I particularly like the one with the shoe painted on the side complete with “shine” lines on the toe included to exemplify the quality of their work.  Who wouldn’t want shoes with shine lines emanating from them?

I also like the one that wants to almost shame you into getting a shine.  I think the phrase, “Your Shoes are Showing” is a take-off on, “Your Slip is Showing,” something husbands would have to tell their wives before leaving the house in the morning in the 1930’s, 40’s or 50’s.  “Hav Ya Shind Em,” however, is the icing on the cake with this one. The bad spelling only adds to its charm.   I purchased this in Florida from a dealer who told me that this box had recently come out of the ghetto of Flint, Michigan.  I have no reason to doubt him.

The last one is painted silver to give it a classy look to go with the classy shine you would have gotten.  This is the box of an upscale establishment.  Either that or they were just using up a can of radiator paint.

I still feel that shoe shine boxes are great Americana and remain underpriced.  They are great folk art for the budget minded.

After each purchase, I still get the same question:  “Are you starting a new business?”

For more examples of shoe shine boxes, please see my first article right here on The Collector Gene.

Posted in 1920's, 1930's, 1940's, Advertising, Americana, Hand Made, Historical, Jim, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Fighting the War in Europe on the Homefront With Humor – Poking Fun at Hitler

Today marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day, a somber yet triumphant anniversary to be sure. Thousands of American troops became casualties as they stormed the beaches of Normandy in a successful effort to wrest control of Europe from Hitler and the Nazis. Thankfully, less than a year later, the war in Europe was over and democracy prevailed.

However, for nearly five years prior to that moment, all Americans were caught up in World War II. Sacrifices were made not only by the men and women in uniform but by ordinary citizens back home. When confronted with stressful circumstances, many human beings rely on humor to get through. Here, then, are some of the more humorous/fun ways that Americans dealt with the war in general, the European conflict more specifically and Adolf Hitler especially.

The term, “Kilroy Was Here” and the accompanying cartoon/caricature of a bald-headed man with a big nose peering over a wall or fence is well known even today. It became very popular with WWII GI’s. Research turned up no definitive explanation of Kilroy’s origin, so I’ll leave it be. But how can anyone not like this wooden Kilroy gag on its original card?

We found this in an antique shop in California two years ago. Notice that it says, “Kilroy IS Here.” That seems appropriate for the GI’s landing on the continent of Europe on June 6, 1944. Also note where the woman on the left has positioned her Kilroy.

“Put the Yanks in Berlin” is a simple marble game produced by Modern Novelties of Cleveland, Ohio. Though not dated, it is clearly from war time because the inside lid of the box mentions the strategy being pursued to defeat Hitler and the Axis in Europe. Clearly, the colorful graphics both inside and outside the box are what make this game desirable.

It was easy to direct a lot of anger at Adolf Hitler, but that also led to a lot of novelty items that poked fun at him being produced.

We’ve owned the “Let’s Pull Together” button for about 40 years now. It’s a great mechanical pinback that shows Uncle Sam with his sleeves rolled up hanging Hitler from a tree. When you move the little lever on the left side of the button, Hitler goes up and down on his rope.

Last but not least is the “Hotzi Notzi.” This novelty pincushion shows Hitler bending over with a large padded posterior ready to take some pokes.

World War II was no laughing matter, but Americans found ways to inject humor into the serious business of war, and that has made collecting WWII homefront items a lot of fun.

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