Measurements Aren't Exact in Evaluating Cookbooks

Times Staff Writer

Question: I have a large collection of cookbooks and wondered how far back are the first American collectible cookbooks. Could you also give me some dealer price ranges on cookbooks?--H.G.

Answer: Nailing down the very first American cookbook would be a problem, because we're told there were some limited-circulation books that didn't survive in collectors' hands.

But among the first cookbooks was one named "The Frugal Housewife," also titled "Complete Woman Cook" by Susanna Carter, published in Philadelphia in 1796. Also published that year was "American Cookery" by Amelia Simmons, produced in Hartford, Conn.

Collectors say books of that era were not very well written and food measurements were less than exact--certainly not up to the standards of today's precision recipes.

Dealer prices appear to be based more on scarcity and condition than age. For example, we recently saw a listing for "American Woman's Home" by Catharine E. Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe, published in 1869, for under $100. Another example we saw of a relatively old book for an arguably bargain price was called the "White House Cookbook," published in 1912, and listed for under $40.

Q: You've written on collectibles associated with aviation personalities, such as Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart. But isn't there a collectible market also in airline products, such as baggage stickers, pins and playing cards?--R.W.

A: The collectibles you describe have obviously been available for years, but they appear to have grown in popularity only recently. The upside of this situation is that it's difficult to judge value; the downside is that there appears to be plenty of airline collectibles available for the interested collector.

To make a point that the aviation field is emerging as a competitive field of collecting, we are told that a few years ago, one aviation collector's club in Texas bought an entire set of first-class dinner china from Braniff Airlines.

Dealers say collectors like to concentrate on items from commercial airlines that flew in the pre-jet period--that is, before the 1950s. All sorts of items are fair game at reasonable prices.

Date Book

It's "Sweet 16" for the International Plate Collectors Guild, which plans to celebrate its birthday Sunday, beginning at 12:30 p.m. in the Artesia Community Center, 18750 Clarkdale in Artesia.

For further information, call publicity chairman Louise England, (818) 288-0443.

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