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St. Patrick’s Day memorabilia ripe for collecting

  • Published Tuesday, March 13, 2012, at 2:23 p.m.
  • Updated Friday, March 16, 2012, at 11:48 a.m.

St. Patrick’s Day has been celebrated in Ireland for more than a thousand years. The modern celebration on March 17 is a religious holiday in Ireland, with church in the morning, then a parade and dancing, eating and drinking later in the day.

American collectors are beginning to look for decorations and memorabilia from St. Patrick’s Day, often to join their more popular Christmas and Halloween collectibles. Get started on a St. Patrick’s Day collection before it gains on the other holidays. Look for green, the holiday’s color. From about 1910 to 1930, holiday candy containers were made in Germany out of cardboard or composition. A green pig, an Irishman’s head topped by a traditional hat, and children dressed in Irish costumes were popular shapes. There are many St. Patrick’s Day postcards from the 1910s and 1920s, too, and Avery Dennison and other companies made green crepe paper and cutouts for holiday tables. In the 1920s, the Japanese also made St Patrick’s Day memorabilia featuring the traditional shamrock, leprechaun and pipe.

More recent holiday pieces include a red-haired Irish Madame Alexander doll, a green Fenton glass set of bears with bowties and shamrocks, and even a limited-edition Longaberger basket. A 2005 Boston Red Sox green jersey, a Guinness T-shirt, a Franklin Mint sword and a Hamm’s beer stein all date from after the 1960s. Most of these items are still inexpensive. And most of them will be found not at auctions, but at ephemera shows, garage sales and flea markets. Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

Q: You recently wrote about the dangers of using old baby cribs. Can you explain? I have the one I slept in as a baby in 1942. I have that crib set up for my 10-month-old granddaughter for naps. Is the crib safe?

A: Your old crib is not safe. Nearly every crib made before about 10 years ago is not safe. The problems include slats that are too far apart, which can trap a baby’s head. Slats should be closer than 2 3/8 inches apart. Drop sides can crash down and throw a standing toddler onto the floor or trap a baby against the mattress. And many early cribs are covered in lead paint. A child chewing on the rails could swallow paint chips and get lead poisoning. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s homepage (CPSC.gov) has a “Cribs" link that provides all the safety information you need. Some collectors use old cribs to hold dolls or stuffed animals. It is illegal to sell old cribs.

Q: My sister recently received an antique German “napkin plate." It’s a small majolica plate with a design in the center that looks just like a square folded napkin. When were these plates popular?

A: Majolica napkin plates were made not only in Europe, but also in the United States. They were popular in the late 1800s and were used to serve cake. Today the plates sell to collectors for prices ranging from $90 to $150.

Q: Back in 1968, I bought a grandfather clock for $275. The plywood cabinet is 75 inches tall and 19 inches wide. It’s marked “F. Resch" inside and is also signed “Resch." The brass ornaments on the case were made in Italy. What can you tell me?

A: Your clock was made in Austria by Gebruder Resch (Resch Brothers), a clock-making firm that operated in Vienna from 1862 to 1871, then in Ebensee, Austria, from 1871 to 1901. Its production peaked in the mid-1880s, when it made 12,000 to 15,000 clocks a year. Today your clock would sell for a price in the thousands. Keep it in good working order.

Q: I would like to know the start and stop dates when items were marked “People’s Republic of China," “Occupied Japan" and “U.S. Zone" (on German china).

A: The presence of a country name on a piece of china helps date the piece. After the passage of the McKinley Tariff Act in 1891, china and other goods imported into the United States had to be marked with the country of origin. However, only one piece of a set of china had to be marked, and some pieces were marked with a paper label that could easily fall off. The mark “Made in [name of country]" usually means the item was made after 1915. Beginning in 1921, the country name had to be written in English. At the end of World War II, some new marks were used. The words “Occupied Japan" indicate that a piece was made in Japan between 1947 and 1952, when Allied forces occupied the country after World War II. Items marked “U.S. Zone" were made in Germany between 1945 and 1949, when Germany was divided into four Allied occupation zones. The People’s Republic of China was established on Oct. 1, 1949, and still is in existence.

Q: I inherited an old collar necklace and would like to know more about it. It’s 16 inches long and 1 1/4 inches wide with five rows of beads, each row slightly larger than the one above it. There’s a label sewn to the fabric backing that says “Handmade, A Top Hit Fashion, Baar & Beards, Inc., Japan."

A: Baar & Beards was a retail store established in New York City in 1941 by Sylvan M. Baar and Milton Beards. It specialized in women’s neckwear, including scarves and collar necklaces like yours. In the 1940s and ’50s, when “Your Hit Parade" was a popular radio and TV show, Baar & Beards started selling scarves with pop-music themes. It seems that the company used the brand name “Top Hit" for other designs, too, including costume jewelry collar necklaces they ordered from Japan. Top Hit necklaces sell online for about $25 to $100.

Tip: Forged glass signatures, including Steuben, Quezal and Tiffany, are appearing on newer glass. This has been true for years. Do not trust a signature. Be sure the glass is the proper shape and type to have been produced by the original factory. Some fake marks are written with a diamond-tipped drill; some are acid-stamped. All look real.

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