Thinking Small Can Be a Form of Art

Times Staff Writer

Question: Toy soldiers are my specialty. In the field of miniature making, who was Richard Courtenay? H.W.

Answer: Courtenay, who died in 1964, was an English historian and model-soldier maker who produced exquisite military figures prized by collectors. Although he created several hundred military miniatures, he was best known for his beautiful, highly detailed knights, which are worth hundreds of dollars each. As you can imagine, these are not the toy soldiers many of us played with when we were children--much too valuable, to say the least, to place under the Christmas tree.

Q: In the area of collecting cowboy memorabilia, how can I date gun holsters? C.S.

A: Dealers say that Western holsters made prior to the 1870s were usually designed to fit a particular model of gun. Therefore, if you know the date that the gun was produced, you probably can also date the holster. And, as you probably know, there is plenty of documentation on when particular gun models were manufactured. Following the 1870s, gun models became more interchangeable with a number of holsters, and the manufacturing date of the leather holster becomes more difficult to trace.

Q: I still have my old nursing bottle, which dates back more than 50 years, and, as absurd as it might sound, I wondered if there were collectors who sought out such things. B.B.

A: Nothing is absurd in the field of collectibles. People collect everything, as we've described in this column over the years.

Older nursing bottles come in all shapes and sizes, with glass being the dominant material used in bottles produced in this century and assorted pottery designs used for older bottles.

You might come across some very ornate bottles with designs of animals and other objects embossed on the bottle, which add to their value.

If you get ambitious and want to expand the scope of your collection to include European designs, you may run across metal and pewter containers used more than 200 years ago. Their prices will be higher--if, indeed, you can find them.

More recently on the American scene, bottle collectors have located interesting baby bottles of World War II vintage, which draw attention because of their unusual shapes, the names of the extinct companies on the bottles and other gadgets such as built-in temperature gauges, which told how warm the milk was.

Bottle-collecting organizations probably would be the best place to start if you want to get your feet wet and seek to expand on the one already in your possession. Also, some of America's leading pharmaceutical houses also would be good sources of information.

Q: You recently wrote about old almanacs. Weren't there almanacs published by drug companies in addition to those produced by independent printers? C.S.

A: That's true. In fact, it is believed that there have been millions of copies of 19th-Century almanacs produced by pharmaceutical firms. Most appear to have been given away as product promotions and are valued by collectors.

Ronald L. Soble cannot answer mail personally but will respond in this column to questions of general interest about collectibles. Do not telephone. Write to Your Collectibles, You section, The Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053.

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