Q: I have four vintage lunchboxes that I think could be valuable. They are “The Rifleman,” “Disco Fever,” “Little House on the Prairie” and “Flipper.” I purchased all of them at thrift shops and never paid more than about $25 per lunchbox. I have an opportunity to make quite a profit. A neighbor has offered to buy the four lunchboxes for $300. Do you think this would be a good deal? – Rona, Tucson
A: Lunchboxes have become important – and sometimes pricey – collectibles. The first lunchbox to promote a character or theme was produced by Aladdin in 1950 and featured a lithograph of Hopalong Cassidy on its lid. Character lunchboxes are among the most popular and, as with most collectibles, condition is paramount. Many boomers collect lunchboxes from the 1960s and ’70s because they trigger childhood memories. This interest has triggered higher prices in recent years. For example, a Brady Bunch lunchbox generally sold for about $100 at the beginning of this decade. It currently lists for $575.
Before selling your lunchboxes, you should consider a cautionary tale. Last year, a Rocky and Bullwinkle prototype lunchbox was posted on eBay. It was offered for a “Buy It Now” price of $185. It was snapped up immediately by a seasoned collector. The box was worth $3,000 and because the seller did not do his homework, the lunchbox was sold at a fraction of its value. If you accept your neighbor’s offer of $300, you might make the same mistake. I consulted one of the better price guides: Warman’s Lunch Boxes Field Guide by Joe Soucy (Krause, $12.99). According to Soucy, your “Disco Fever” is valued at $150; “Flipper,” $350; “Little House on the Prairie,” $350; and “Rifleman,” $675. Because of the soft economy, they might actually sell for a little less than these stated values. Still, the boxes you have appear to be worth much more than $300 for the lot.
Before you make a decision, I suggest you contact Joe Soucy at Seaside Toys, 179 Main St., Westerly, RI 02891 or at 401-596-0962. Whether you are buying or selling in the marketplace, always do your homework to become a more educated consumer.
Q: I have a nice old Reed & Watson grandfather clock that is a family heirloom. Can you steer me to a good clock person who can clean and adjust it for me? – Paula, Tucson
A: Viki Watson is the owner of Ye Olde Clock Shoppe and she can help you. Her staff provides competent clock and watch repair at reasonable prices. Her address is 6342B N. Oracle Road.
Q: Can you recommend a good general price guide for antiques? – Suzanne, Green Valley
A: There are dozens of references, but one I especially like is The Antique Trader Antiques & Collectibles 2009 Price Guide, edited by Kyle Husfloen (Krause, $19.99). It features nearly 9,500 listings and more than 5,000 illustrations in full color. The guide is user-friendly and accurately reflects current values.
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FIND OF THE WEEK
This extraordinary hand-carved 19th-century laundry basket from Ningbo, China, features a graceful, elegant gooseneck design. This piece of superb craftsmanship is $120 at Eastern Living, 242 S. Park Ave., in the Los Barrio shopping district.