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Making History With a Grain of Salt

Times Staff Writer

Question: I inherited a collection of old Planters Peanuts pins. Can you give me a little history on the company and what the pins might be worth?--T.P.

Answer: The company’s roots go back to nearly the turn of the century when Amedeo Obici and Mario Peruzzi founded the Planters Nut and Chocolate Co. in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., in 1906. Obici had a considerable background in the peanut business before entering the venture.

Initially, the firm produced Spanish salted redskins at the bargain price of 10 cents a pound (when a dime had some purchasing power).

It wasn’t long, however, before Obici developed a blanched peanut that became popular almost overnight.

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Planters items produced from 1906 to 1916 should have the Planters Nut and Chocolate Co. logo on them as a sign they’re authentic.

In 1916, a new trademark was developed--the popular monocled Mr. Peanut, the result of a company-sponsored contest.

Planters ultimately was purchased by Standard Brands, which later became a division of Nabisco.

Depending on condition and authenticity--there has been a problem with counterfeit items, according to some collectors--Planters Peanuts items can range in price from a few dollars an item (a tiny Mr. Peanut bank was listed in a catalogue for $4) to more than $100. (A Mr. Peanut display sign was on sale in a catalogue for $145.)

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As for pins, they are in relatively limited supply and, therefore, have some value. For example, a wooden Mr. Planter pin was listed in one catalogue for $15. Some flea market prices have placed pin values at less than $10 each. A few rare pins, however, have sold for much more.

The material a pin is made of can contribute significantly toward its value. A wooden Mr. Peanut pin in good condition, for example, will generally bring a higher price than one made of metal or plastic.

Even peanut containers can have value. An authenticated 1909 10-pound can of Planters has had a catalogue price of $30.

A number of other collectible items have been spawned by the company, ranging from belt buckles, buttons, key chains and pen- and-pencil sets to lamps, letter openers, T-shirts and wristwatches.

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Datebook

Collectors of Indian pieces and firearms will be interested in the Aug. 8 Butterfield & Butterfield auction in San Francisco.

Among the pieces to be auctioned in the American Indian part of the sale are two rare Hopi kachina dolls, a collection of Southwestern pottery--including Zia, Cochiti and Zuni pictorial pots--and several large Santo Domingo dough bowls. A basket collection will also be sold.

The antique and modern firearms auction will include percussion guns, Derringers, early cartridge arms, swords, cutlasses, Bowie knives and cannons. Of note are a group of naval weapons dating from the American Revolution to the Civil War.

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For auction information, call (415) 861-7500.


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