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Repair of Barbershop Pole Is Difficult and Often Costly

Times Staff Writer

Question: I have an old barbershop pole with a couple of cracks in the porcelain finish. Should I try to repair the cracks, or would any refurbishing destroy its value?--F.T.

Answer: Any time the porcelain is damaged on collectible barber poles, you have trouble.

For one thing, it’s hard to find an expert who can make the repairs. Secondly, the repairs can be extremely difficult--and costly--and you can still end up with a barber pole that has a “repaired look,” according to collectors. Your problem, if you want to resell the pole, is that appearance and condition count for a lot in your collectible area. So, given the high resale prices of poles in good condition, repairing it might be worth the gamble--if you locate a competent craftsman--in case you are interested in either selling it or putting it on display.

Recent dealer prices for barber poles, depending on the model, range from several hundred dollars to about $2,000.

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Traditional models with red, white and blue stripes with a ball-shaped porcelain top appear to be selling in the area of that $2,000 level.

For those getting into barbershop collectibles on a budget, however, one doesn’t have to have that kind of cash. Shaving mugs, brushes, razors, shop signs and the like are available at dramatically lower prices--many of them $50 or less, according to dealers.

Q: Should we save our New Year’s novelties? Do they have any collectible value?--R.B.

A: Items associated with Christmas, New Year’s, Thanksgiving and Halloween have attracted collectors. An obvious problem is dating them or, in some way, authenticating their age.

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Because many of these items are made of paper or otherwise flimsy material, collectors demand top condition before they’ll buy, say, a Halloween mask from another era for $40 or $50.

Rather than trying to collect items linked to a number of holidays, many collectors prefer to keep an eye out for post cards, buttons, noisemakers and the like associated with just one of these special days. As is the case in other collectible fields as well, the individual who chooses to specialize often becomes more expert in a chosen area, an obvious plus when you’re attempting to evaluate an item before you buy it.

Kenneth Smith, editor of the Jackpot, publication of the Amusement Token Collectors Assn., said he read with interest an earlier column on penny arcade machines. He said his organization meets the third Saturday of every month, from 1 to 5 p.m., at Mercury Savings & Loan, 22939 Hawthorne Blvd., Torrance. For further information, call (213) 478-7405.

Additionally, his organization has produced a hardcover book ($10 plus $1 for postage), with the very long title “Video Arcade, Pinball, Slot Machine, and Other Amusement Tokens of North America” (256 pp, indexed, 1984) by Smith and Stephen P. Alpert. The book is available from Alpert at P.O. Box 66331, Los Angeles, Calif. 90066.

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The volume, Smith wrote, “covers all (known) penny arcade machine tokens issued in the 19th and 20th centuries . . . with information about these machines and (the) companies that issued them.”


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