Books packed with information for true lovers of gadgets


August 11, 1991|By Lita Solis-Cohen

The third edition of Linda Franklin Campbell's "300 Years of Kitchen Collectibles," (Books Americana $22.95), is like grandmother's cookbook with notes, old pictures and clippings tucked in between the text. If, at first, it seems as disorganized as a gadget drawer, just look in the index, which is a field map to this constantly expanding territory.

No glossy coffee table book, this big file drawer in paperback is useful. Where else could you find out that the Society for Apple Parer Enthusiasts has a newsletter available by sending a SASE to John Lambert, 3911 Morgan Center Road, Utica, Ohio 43080?

Ms. Campbell covers gadgets for coring, cutting, chopping, pitting, mixing, beating, stirring, churning, blending, separating, straining, draining, sifting, dredging, forming, molding, sharpening, decorating, measuring, weighing, storing, opening, washing, sharpening, cleaning, cooking, chilling, freezing, canning, drying, sweeping, dusting, washing, ironing, sewing, watering, mowing, and weeding. She has a short chapter on cookbooks and trade catalogs. Appendices help date items by U.S. patent numbers and there is a good bibliography.

The chapter on cast-iron baking pans by David G. Smith, an advanced collector, carefully catalogs dozens of styles and sizes of roll pans, corn stick pans, popover pans and muffin or gem pans. Ms. Campbell says this iron cookware can be worth from $50 to more than $250 a pan, but she does not tell you which pans are the prizes. Extremely useful, though, are the photographs and text that show how to spot reproductions by the even color of bright orange rust, the quality of the casting and the lack of a satiny smooth patina that old castings have.

The newest kitchen collectibles are electric appliances. Toasters are hot and generally range from $20 to over $300. Electric fans sell for from $25 to $200, but a hot-air kerosene lamp fan, the famous "Lake Breeze" with its wrought-iron base, has sold for $2,500 to $3,500.

Ms. Campbell's is not the only new kitchen collectibles price guide. Wallace Homestead, the collectibles division of Chilton, has two: "Kitchen Collectibles: An Illustrated Price Guide," by Ellen M. Plante ($14.95), to be published in October; and "Collectible Kitchen Appliances from Aerators to Waffle Irons 1900 to 1950," by Gary Miller and K. M. Scotty Mitchell ($17.95).

The latter is full of pictures of old advertisements for Westinghouse coffee makers (now worth $15); 1920s Landers, Frary, & Clark "Universal" coffee sets complete with tray, creamer and sugar ($125); and 1930s Manning-Bowman chafing dishes ($45). One can apparently put together a large collection of electric mixers, waffle irons or juicers, spending from $15 to $50 apiece.

The really rare early toasters, like the first successfully marketed electric toaster, the General Electric model D-12 introduced in 1906, and the first automatic pop-up toaster, the Toastmaster model 1A-1 made by Waters Genter Co., which appeared in 1927, cost a lot more. Mr. Miller and Mr. Mitchell price the GE

D-12 complete with its top rack and white porcelain base at $175 and the Waters Genter Toastmaster at $80. Ms. Campbell prices a GE D-12 with flowers on its porcelain base at $275 to $400, and the first pop up Toastmaster at $45 to $65.

Ellen Plante devotes the second chapter of her price guide to electrical appliances, but she doesn't price either of these models. Her book is a general history of cookware, popular everyday dinnerware, gadgets, woodenware, kitchen furniture, etc. Though better designed than Ms. Campbell's, it is not as jampacked with information, warnings about reproductions, or prices as Ms. Campbell's overstuffed tome.

How current can price guides be, anyway? Collectors continually marvel at the out-of-date valuations in price guides. Two new specialized, privately printed guides give the very latest prices in narrow fields. "Ice Cream Dippers Price Guide, 1991 Edition," by Wayne Smith, is the latest scoop on the prices of these dippers, which have risen, in some cases dramatically, since his book appeared in 1986. (It costs $4.95 plus $1.25 shipping, from Wayne Smith, P.O. Box 418, Walkersville, Md. 21793.)

Michael Lawlor, radio collector and sometimes dealer, was so bothered by misinformation and the omission of this hot area from other price guides -- a radio was a kitchen fixture by the 1930s but no kitchen guide includes them -- that he published "Lawlor's Radio Values: Catalin, Character, Mirrored, Novelty, Plastic," pricing all the sets pictured in the two books that have become the bibles of the field: Philip Collins' "Radios: The Golden Age" (Chronicle Books 1989) and John Sideli's "Classic Plastic Radios of the 1930s and 1940s, A Collector's Guide to Catalin Models," (E. P.Dutton 1990). Mr. Lawlor's radio price guide costs $14 postpaid from Bare Bones Press, P.O. Box 179, Santa Barbara, Calif. 93102.

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