Mr. Peanut's many fans may join his Peanut Pals

CURIOUS COLLECTOR

July 04, 1993|By Lita Solis-Cohen and Sally Solis-Cohen | Lita Solis-Cohen and Sally Solis-Cohen,Contributing Writers

Q: I've been collecting Planters Peanut memorabilia for several years and was wondering if there are any collectors' clubs.

A: Collectors can join Peanut Pals if they go nuts over Mr. Peanut, the Planters logo of a top-hatted monocled peanut figure with a cane, designed in 1916 by a 14-year old Virginia schoolboy responding to a corporate contest. Annual dues, $20, include a bi-monthly newsletter and an invitation to the group's annual gathering, this year scheduled for July 7-11 in Winchester, Va. For more information about "Peanut Pals," contact its president, Joe Stivaletti, 425 East 78th St., New York, N.Y. 10021, (212) 737-7352.

Planters Nut and Chocolate Co. was founded in 1906 in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. Since Planters' peanuts sold for a substantial premium over widely available imported Spanish peanuts (40 cents vs. 10 cents per pound), the company's founders realized that its packaging had to preserve the nuts' freshness and be distinctive enough to ensure repeat customers.

Until the invention of vacuum-sealed packaging, salted and roasted peanuts were dispensed from large glass jars into paper envelopes, and later into cellophane packages. Vintage foot-high glass Planters jars, which now generally fetch around $50 to $350 each depending on rarity and condition, often are what get Planters collectors started, according to Mr. Stivaletti.

Among the most sought-after Planters collectibles are relics from the company's defunct retail stores. A rare circa 1950s Mr. Peanut-shaped cast-metal penny scale (to weigh people, not nuts) recently sold at auction for $16,000. More common affordable Planters promotional premiums include circa-1930s die-cut cardboard bookmarks (generally $15 to $20 each), 1950s plastic Mr. Peanut-shaped banks ($10 to $60), 1960s plastic mugs ($12 to $50), and 1970s Mr. Peanut wristwatches (up to $50).

Many Planters collectibles are illustrated and priced in a helpful recent book, "Hake's Guide to Advertising Collectibles: 100 Years of Advertising from 100 Famous Companies" (Wallace-Homestead, $17.95), by pop culture auctioneer Ted Hake, of York, Pa., who often features Planters memorabilia in his sales.

Q: How old and valuable is my 10 1/2 -inch-high glazed ceramic fish-shaped pitcher? Its body is green and its mouth is pink; the tail forms its handle. An indecipherable mark is on the bottom.

A: Your "gurgling" pitcher by an unidentified American pottery is majolica, a type of tin-glazed earthenware, and dates from the 1870s or 1880s. It came in at least five graduated sizes and was a hot seller when new. Pitchers like yours are worth around $100 to $150 each and are among the most commonly found examples of American majolica, according to New York dealer Bonnie Heller.

Victorian majolica and its signature glazes were invented by English potter Herbert Minton, who introduced these decorative pieces at London's 1851 Great Exhibition. It became popular in America after the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia.

The mark underneath your pitcher probably is a decorator's symbol or an impression left from kiln supports. Among noted potters' marks found on 19th-century majolica are Minton and Wedgwood of England, and Griffin, Smith and Hill and George Morley & Co. of the United States.

By the turn of this century, excessive production and poor quality led to declining demand for majolica, which then quickly went out of fashion. It's now popular again.

Solis-Cohen Enterprises

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