In 1933, Charles Darrow, an unemployed heating salesman, was sitting at his dining room table at his home in Germantown, Pa., when he suddenly came up with an idea of inventing a board game with the object of buying and selling property, better known all over the world today as the game "Monopoly."
Darrow's original handmade version of the game, laid out with pen and ink on a flexible round piece of oil-cloth, and contain more than 200 pieces, including playing cards, hotels and bank notes, sold at Sotheby's Auctions in New York in December for $146,500.
Readers, long before Parker Brothers Games bought out the rights to Darrow's invention in 1935, making him the first millionaire game designer, Darrow produced 5,000 copies of the game himself that were sold in white boxes in 1934 to Wanamaker's Department Store in Philadelphia. A few of these games have surfaced through the years and sold at auction for high prices, but others are still out there worth hundreds of dollars just waiting to be found. If you happen to run across a plain white box in your attic, be sure to write me. I have a buyer with big bucks willing to take it off your hands.
Digging down in the mailbag:
Question: I read your article where, "A cow jumped over the moon," cookie jar made by American Bisque in Williamstown sold at auction in 2010 for only $416. I have a 2007 price guide book that tells me it's worth much more than that. Can you explain this? - D.E., Marietta.
Answer: Despite an increase of people collecting cookie jars, the prices on them have been declining for several years now. Many jars that sold for hundreds of dollars during the 1990s can now be had for a fraction of the cost. This is largely due to three reasons - 1. the large number of new jar designs on the market today; 2. a multitude of fakes and counterfeits flooding the market; and finally, No. 3. eBay. These jars are now showing up on eBay, often in multiples. The law of supply and demand takes over, and the prices for authentic vintage cookie jars decline in value.
Q: My brother has a "Superman" metal lunch box that he carried every day to Harmar grade school in the '50s. Can you tell me what it is worth, and where to sell it? - V.E., Marietta.
A.: Universal Products made a Superman metal lunch box in 1954. One of these lunch boxes sold in 2009 for $4,500 at Hakes Auction House in York, Pa. Is the lunch box in good condition? If it is, you may want to call Hakes Auctions at (717) 434-1600, or e-mail them at email@example.com. Let me know the results.
Q.: I have an old wooden smoking stand with a metal ashtray in the center of it. Can you tell me who made it from the photo, and what it is worth? - T.W, Devola.
A.: Patterns for wooden smoking stands were printed in magazines and craft books around 1930. Hobbyists used the printed patterns to cut the shape, then attached a base and either a metal ashtray or a piece of wood to hold the ashtray. Your 32-inch smoking stand, depicting a blackman bellhop, is worth $200.
Larry Koon is the author of several price guide books on antiques and collectibles. His column appears every Monday on Life. Send letters to Treasure in the Attic, c/o The Marietta Times, 700 Channel Lane, Marietta 45750; or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. When writing, send a complete description of the item, along with size, color, any markings on the item along with condition the item is in, and how the item was obtained, and any other information. If possible, send a photograph. Letters will be answered through this column.