Countertop Alka-Seltzer Dispenser, twentieth century

Advertising is intertwined with the popular culture and language of America. Everywhere you look there is an enticement to buy. From the late nineteenth century to the present day, there has been a persistent effort to persuade us that a certain brand of automobile, shaving cream, beverage, or patent medicine would be essential to our health and happiness.

Advertising became part of the American landscape a little over one hundred years ago when new upstart businesses, such as H. J. Heinz and Coca-Cola, ascertained that they had to invest money to promote their newly introduced, unproven products. Coke put its logo on a host of soft-drink-related glassware and tin trays. Heinz saw a growth in their sales after giving away thousands of small,
green-plastic-pickle pins.

When collecting advertising memorabilia, there are many categories and sub-categories a collector must choose from: gas station, automobile, tin can, diner, liquor, tobacco, general store, railroad, just to name a few. This counter-top dispenser for the famed effervescent antacid and pain reliever would fall under the specialty of drugstore collectibles. If the dispenser bore the image of Alka-Seltzer’s baby-faced spokesman “Speedy” it would also be of interest to the sub-specialty of character-related advertising.

Collections of apothecary/drugstore advertising memorabilia typically include bottles, tins, and signs for patent remedies. Their persuasive packages, with whimsical names and lavish promises of cure-alls, have long been popular collectibles. More recent drugstore memorabilia, like this circa mid-to-late-1930s Alka-Seltzer countertop dispenser, are especially familiar
and desirable.

Plop Plop Fizz Fizz, Oh what a relief . . . it will be for the owner of this handsome piece of American advertising history to know that the retail value of his Toronto junk-shop find would be $300 to $400.

Note of Interest:

Using the copyright numbers found on the base mount and the infinite power of the Internet, I was able to find that the patent for this “Tablet crushing and dispensing device” was applied for on February 25, 1933, by Dr. Miles Laboratories Incorporated, the makers of Alka-Seltzer.

Linda Dyer serves as an appraiser, broker, and consultant in the field of antiques and fine art. She has appeared on the PBS production Antiques Roadshow since season one, which aired in 1997,  as an appraiser of Tribal Arts. If you would like Linda to appraise one of your antiques, please send a clear, detailed image to Or send photo to Antiques, Nashville Arts Magazine, 644 West Iris Dr.,  Nashville, TN 37204.

Royal Crown Derby Porcelain Jar, England, circa 1887

As exhibited by this diminutive jar, rich colors and intricate gilding are the distinguishing features of England’s Royal Crown Derby Porcelain Company. The story of this manufacturer is similar to all of the other European porcelain factories, one of centuries of adaptation and changing fortunes in the flow of time and taste.

For Royal Crown Derby, their story began some time before 1750, when the Huguenot Andrew Planche established the first china works in Derby, which was best known for producing high-quality soft-paste figurines. Planche’s figures drew the attention of and a subsequent partnership with William Duesbury. By 1770 Duesbury acquired the Chelsea China Works, which resulted in the gradual transfer of skilled craftsmen to Derby. The opening of a London showroom in 1773 marked the beginning of Derby’s place in the market, and by 1775 King George III granted the factory the honor of being able to incorporate a crown into the identifying back stamp.

In the early 1800s, the factory started producing considerable amounts of “Japan Ware,” forms and styles that drew from the Japanese “Imari” pattern. This lavish design choice resulted in the company’s excelling in their ability to use gold in their decoration. The Imari pattern is widely favored and is still being produced today.

The company’s survival appears to have been secured in 1877 by the opening of the Osmaston Road factory. It was there that many new shapes and techniques were added to the inventory. Pieces with raised gilding and pieced decoration against the rich colors inspired by the Middle East played a major role in widening the appeal of Derby porcelain. It was not long after these innovations that Queen Victoria gave Crown Derby her seal of approval by not only awarding the royal warrant, but also by granting the title “The Royal Crown Derby Porcelain Company.”

Over the years, many factory marks and back stamps have been used to identify Derby porcelain. This footed covered jar displays myriad marks, primarily images and ciphers. The marks identify that the piece was made at their Osmaston Road factory in 1887.

It is important to note that nearly all the jars produced by Royal Derby Porcelain came with covers. Should you own such a jar but are missing the lid, you can expect its value to be diminished by half.

Luckily this fine jar is complete and without damage, and as such it would have a retail value of $250.

Brooklyn Dodgers Roster, Spring Training 1952, at Dodgertown, Vero Beach, Florida, autographed by Gil Hodges

The owner of this pamphlet discovered a small pile of discarded papers sitting atop a trash bin in a soon-to-be-demolished building over six years ago. He asked me to look at his find due to concerns about the value of a “Currier & Ives picture” found in the group.

Among the old newspaper clippings and valueless photomechanical calendar illustrations was this autographed “BROOKLYN Dodgers SPRING TRAINING 1952 at DODGERTOWN Vero Beach, Florida ROSTER.” Even with my limited knowledge of baseball, I recognized the pencil-scrawled name “Gil Hodges” written into a clear space below the printed text “Charlie Dressen, Mgr.” and above “COACHES:” as being significant. In print, his name appears on the facing page under the heading “INFIELDERS: . . .

The baseball memorabilia market is undeniably star-driven when it comes to pricing, and Gil Hodges was no one-hit wonder. Hodges was one of the most beloved players in the history of the Brooklyn Dodgers, a man who was never booed despite whatever slumps he was enduring. Gil Hodges

retired as a player after a pair of seasons with the Mets, and then in 1969, as their manager, he guided “the Miracle Mets” to what was considered the most improbable World Series championship.

Apparently Gil Hodges’ exceptional achievements during his baseball career are not the stuff that gets you inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Entry into the Cooperstown establishment seems more “stat” driven. As late as last year Gil Hodges was overlooked yet again for entry.

In a marketplace fouled with substantial numbers of forgeries and misrepresentations, I believe there are no concerns about this piece. All of its fellow discards, bits of calendars, news clippings, road maps, and auto brochures, were of like kind, condition, and age.

Genuine collectibles such as this spring training roster are almost accidental in nature. It was printed to be used and discarded, yet here it is today sixty years old, with its colors strong and its paper yellowed by time but supple. The original owner captured a little bit of forever in this 1952 keepsake, and the present owner saved it from destruction. In my opinion this Gil Hodges-autographed roster would have a retail value of $600 to $700.

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