A reader named Chris wrote that in his grandfather’s attic he found a paper American Express card. He wanted to know if it was old or valuable. We talked to the archivist at American Express and learned that the very first American Express credit card was issued Oct. 1, 1958.
It was made of paperboard. More than 500,000 were issued by the end of the year, each for a fee of $6. On May 1, 1959, the paper was replaced with a purple plastic card that was used for the next 10 years. In 1969, the word credit was removed from the card and it became a “Money card.” There are many collectors of credit cards.
The first paper American Express card is very rare and desirable. Because most of us destroy our old cards each year, the collectors have to search for past examples. Chris forgot to include his address when he wrote so we hope he, or anyone else with this “missing collectible,” will write to us in care of The Times.
Question: Who is “A. and H. Lejambre”? I am told they made a very Oriental-looking table that is at least 100 years old.
Answer: In 1825, Jean Pierre Alphonse Lejambre, a Frenchman, started a furniture shop in Philadelphia, Pa. When he died in 1843, his wife Anna continued the shop. About 1853 she took her son Alexis in as a partner. The company made all sorts of furniture. After the death of Alexis in 1865, Anna took her son-in-law and cousin Henri Lejambre as a partner. The company became A. and H. Lejambre in 1867. The firm made furniture in the then-popular French taste, some in English reform style, which included pieces with a Japanese influence. The firm went out of business by 1907. The furniture and decorative objects favored in America during the 1870s and 1880s in the style of the Aesthetic Movement are just beginning to interest collectors. A new book, “In Pursuit of Beauty” (Rizzoli: $60), has been written in conjunction with the Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibit in New York City. It is filled with pictures of household furnishings, paintings, buildings and information about the artists and craftsmen who created them.
Q: My gold watch is marked “14K, Essex, Guaranteed 20 years.” I took it to a jeweler to sell it. He tested it and offered a low price because he said it was not made of gold, it was only gold-plated. How could it be if the mark says “14K” or 14 karat gold?
A: The jeweler was correct. The mark 14K or 10K on a watch case does not mean it is solid gold. The guarantee was for the case, and not for the works or watch. It was a guarantee that the gold surface would not wear off during those years. The mark was used until 1924 when the government required the cases to be marked with the karat mark and the words gold filled or rolled gold plate. If the case was solid gold, it would probably be marked with the karat and the words “warranted U.S. Assay.” There is a difference in quality between gold-filled and rolled-gold watch cases. The gold-filled case was made from a bar of base metal rolled under high pressure and temperature between two bars of gold. This case could be guaranteed for 30 years. The rolled gold was made from a very thin layer of gold bonded to another metal. This would last only about five years. Of course the best watches were made with solid gold cases.
Q: How did they use an “orange spoon”?
A: Oranges were first available in the North in the 1870s. The orange spoon was introduced by the 1880s. The orange was either peeled with the proper knife, a peeler, or the top was removed and the inside was eaten with a teaspoon. The orange spoon with a pointed tip was made to make it easier to remove the sections. Oranges were also cut in half and eaten with a spoon. Clever manufacturers made all sorts of dishes and spearing devices that kept the halved orange in place on the plate.
Q: Every year I look at the small glass figure stored with the old ornaments and wonder which of my relatives owned it originally. It is a pressed glass piece about 5 inches high. The bottom is open. The glass shows Santa Claus with one foot in the chimney. He has a bag, a cap, and a fur-trimmed suit. There are remains of paint on the glass.
A: You have an old glass candy container. Montgomery Ward & Co. offered the Santa filled with candy for 69 cents in 1930. Several versions of the bottle are known, some with USA on the side of the chimney, some with the letters V over G. Victory Glass Co. made a Santa in the chimney in 1925. Since this was a toy given to young children it probably belonged to a relative who is about 65. If you want to know more about glass candy containers you will find sketches and histories in “The Compleat American Glass Candy Containers Handbook” updated by Adele Bowden (6252 Cedarwood Rd., Mentor, Ohio 44060, $27.45 by mail).
Q: I have an old “Jolly Green Giant” doll. When was that trademark first used?
A: “Symbols of America” by Hal Morgan (Viking Press: $35) says the Green Giant was born in 1925 as a trademark for canned peas. The Minnesota Valley Canning Co. had a new type of pea and wanted to call it “Green Giant.” The trademark attorney was worried that the name was descriptive and could not be protected as a brand name. He suggested a picture of a giant should be added to the label. The bushy-haired giant in a fur wrap was trademarked. In 1935, the giant was redesigned and had green skin and his leaf cloak. Several Green Giant dolls have been made.
Current prices are recorded from antique shows, sales, flea markets and auctions throughout the United States. These prices vary in different locations because of the conditions of the economy.
Sterling silver candle snuffer, pineapple finial, long handle, $28.
Depression glass water pitcher, Cameo Green, $40.
Christmas lights, Mickey Mouse & Friends, Noma, eight lights, plastic shades, $75.
Seth Thomas mantel clock, black marble, porcelain dial, visible escapement, $175.
RS Prussia bowl, hidden image, blown head of woman, flowers, pink border, green trim, 9 1/2 inches, $225.
Lion bank pull toy, cast iron, iron platform, cast iron wheels, 19th Century, 4 3/4 x 5 inches, $250.
Daum Nancy perfume, blue frosted to clear, mistletoe pattern, matching stopper, 5 inches, $550.
Wurlitzer jukebox, model 1400, $750.
Gebruder Heubach 8192 doll, child, open mouth, brown sleep eyes, curly wig, 28 inches, $1,250.
Deacon’s bench, Windsor-style, Pennsylvania, 78 inches, $1,650.
Hundreds of magazines, newspapers, and newsletters are written about antiques. For a complete list of general and specialized publications, send $2 and a long, self-addressed, stamped envelope to: “Publications for Collectors,” Kovels, P.O. Box 22900, Beachwood, Ohio 44122.