Many companies today are looking at their sales figures and deciding how to change their products to attract more customers.
The same thing was true in the 1930s when Chase Brass & Copper Co. decided to make art-deco pieces for the home, along with the buttons, nails and thousands of other brass products it had manufactured since the company's founding in 1876. Chase's deco designs were a little more expensive than pieces by its competitors, but they were attractive, novel and in the latest fashion. The company made cigarette boxes, candlesticks, tea sets, hors d'oeuvres trays, lamps, bowls, bookends, newspaper stands, planters and more.
In the 1934-35 catalogs, the company offered the "Colonel Light." It was a lamp that looked like a soldier. The light bulb was the head, and the hat its shade. There was also a "Colonel's Lady" light. Each lamp is 9 3/8 -inches high on a 4-inch-diameter base. Lurelle Guild was the famous industrial designer who created these lamps for Chase. Collectors search for these lamps because they are amusing and useful and were made by a famous company and a famous designer.
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Q: I have a sterling-silver cigar case that was a wedding gift given to my grandfather by my grandmother in 1916. It has his initials, "FW," on the front. I treasure it as a family heirloom, but is it very valuable?
A: Cigar cases were made to keep cigars fresh and also to keep them from getting crushed. Cigar smoking was popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Although smoking is now banned in many places, cigar cases are still made. The value of your silver cigar case is about $125.
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Q: I have a beer poster that seems quite old. It pictures a nymph sitting next to a bottle of Schlitz beer. The label on the bottle says it is less than 1/2 percent alcohol. How old is this?
A: Your poster was probably made during Prohibition, between 1919 and 1933. A picture of a nymph might indicate it was made during the early years of Prohibition. The Volstead Act, or National Prohibition Act, was passed on Oct. 28, 1919, and prohibited the sale of intoxicating beverages. Beer that had less than 1/2 percent alcohol by weight was considered nonalcoholic and was allowed. Schlitz was one of the brewing companies that made "near beer" or "nonalcoholic" beer. The legal limit of alcohol content was raised to 3.2 percent on April 7, 1933, when the Cullen-Harrison Act was passed. Prohibition was repealed on Dec. 5, 1933. This poster has been reproduced in the past 20 years. If yours is old and large, it's worth hundreds of dollars.
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Q: Can you tell me if a pack of cigarettes made in the U.S.S.R that commemorates the Apollo-Soyuz flight is a collector's item?
A: The Apollo-Soyuz Test Project was the first joint space mission between two countries. Apollo docked with the Russian spacecraft Soyuz in July 1975.
Many souvenir items were issued to commemorate the historic event, including cigarettes. The cigarettes were a joint venture between Philip Morris, which provided the tobacco, and Tava, a Russian company that manufactured them.
The cigarettes went on sale in Russia on July 15, 1975, the day the Soyuz launched, and later in the United States. They were popular in Russia, but didn't sell well in the United States. Value of your pack of cigarettes: $5 to $10.