HistoryBuff.com September 2010 Newsletter
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Determining When a 20th Century Collectible Was Produced

For many collectibles, determining when it was produced is fairly easy. For coins, the date is right there on it. For books, it is on the backside of the title page. For stamps, pottery, ceramics, sterling silver, and many other collectibles, there are reference books where it can be looked up. But what if there is not a reference book about the collectible?

If the item in question has the box present, usually the name of the company that produced it as well as the city and state where the company was located and possibly the street address is on it. Here are some tips to aide in determining when the 20th century collectible was produced:

  • If the address does not have a ZIP code, it was produced before 1964.

  • If the city has a zone code, e.g. Chicago 12, Illinois, it was produced between 1943 and 1963.

  • If the state is abbreviated with more than two letters, such as Penna or Mich, it was produced between 1943 and 1963.

  • If the state is fully spelled out with no ZIP or zone code, it was likely produced pre-1943.

    Once you have narrowed down the probable production years, search city directories for that company. If the company has been around a long time, such as Lionel, and the box includes a street address, it can be narrowed down further. Often, long-term companies expanded or moved several times in their production history. Knowing the street address can narrow down the years further. With the advent of the Internet, searching city directories is much easier because there are literally hundreds of city directories online. http://sites.google.com/site/onlinedirectorysite/Home/usa has hundreds of city directories. You need to know the county the city is located, but you can determine which county the city is located by going to http://resources.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/townco.cgi.

    If there is no online directory for the city and years you need, often by contacting the public library in that city, you can send an email request for the information you are seeking - Start and end year of the company at a specific street address. If that fails, contacting the area historical society may be able to obtain the information. Failing that, a free classified ad at http://craigslist.org/ may be the answer. Although the ad is free, you might want to offer $10 or so for someone to do the local research.

    In 1980, while working at a hospital, I was fortunate to meet a lady that was 104 years old but still had all of her faculties. She had broken her hip. She still lived alone, but her 80-year old son took her shopping every week. A favorite question I like to ask people that are older than I am is who is the first president they recall from memory and NOT by studying from school. The president she named was Benjamin Harrison but her most memorable one was William McKinley. She was standing just a few feet from McKinley when he was shot in 1901 - and she was 25 years old at the time! (She had been retired since 1940.) I couldn’t help but be in a state of awe over the fact that in her lifetime, technology went from horse and buggy to man on the Moon.

    Recently, I began to think about how far technology has come in my lifetime. We bought our first television in 1956. It was a black and white and housed in a large cabinet. The TV needed to be fixed a couple times per year. (The tubes would often burn out.) Today, people can watch TV most anywhere on something about the size of a pack of cigarettes, but much thinner and it does not need to be plugged-in. For better or worse, even in the 1960s, most people only had a choice of at most 3 or 4 channels. Today, with the advent of cable and satellite, 150 channels or more can be accessed.

    Even in my teenage years, sending a letter took several days to travel just a few states away. Now, a letter can be sent across the world in a matter of just seconds. Long distance calls in the 1960s were almost unheard of. The rates were something like a dollar per minute - This is when minimum wage was about a dollar an hour. Today, many are able to make all the long distance calls they want for as little as $30 a month - When minimum wage is nearing $8 an hour!

    My first experience with a computer was in 1960. Utah State University was conducting research into whether or not learning by using a computer would facilitate the process. The room we were in had a dozen computers that ran on what I now know as DOS. (Black screen with green text.) Being curious, one day I went into an adjoining room. The room, about the size of a typical living room, was filled with electronics. I know now that it was the mainframe it took to run the twelve computers. Today, a much more powerful computer can fit in one’s pocket!

    When I was a child, telephones had no push buttons or even a dial on them. To make a phone call, you picked up the receiver and waited for an operator to come online to make the call for you. Our telephone number was MJ284. Although telephone technology made advancements, it wasn't until the mid-1990s that the technology leaped forward at a much faster pace. Today, a telephone can fit in your pocket and you can make and receive phone calls from almost anywhere on Earth. You can also run your choice of dozens of applications on it - much like a sub-micro-computer, which, in fact, it is. You can also take and receive photos on them, play games and music from your own customized selection, and more. What next?

    Regardless of your age, stop and think back of the improvements in technology that has taken place in YOUR lifetime. You might be surprised at how much technology has improved in your lifetime!

    HistoryBuff.com Update

    Traveling Abraham Lincoln Museum

    A reminder that I will be setting up my traveling Lincoln Assassination Museum at the Chicago land National Civil War Show and Sale in Wheaton, Illinois on September 18. It will be held at the DuPage County Fairgrounds. I will also be giving three different presentations: 1) Little-known Facts About the Lincolns and the Civil War; 2) How to Determine Authenticity of the April 15, 1865 New York Herald and the July 2/4, 1863 Vicksburg Daily Citizen Wallpaper Editions; and, 3) Tad Lincoln - The Original Dennis the Menace. (This one is especially for kids.) I hope to see you there.

    Online Newspaper Archive

    I recently had the scripts for the Online Newspaper Archive upgraded and now am in the process of relinking the images to the date and event. Thus, for now, when clicking some of the newspapers, the image will not show. I hope to complete the relinking of images in the next couple of weeks. (There are over 700 images to edit and produce thumbnails.)

    Special Notice About This Newsletter

    Here's a tip to ensure that you receive each and every monthly newsletter. I send out the notice that the new issue of my newsletter can be read online somewhere between 10 PM on the 9th of the month though 10 PM on the 10th. On average, about fifty newsletter notices bounce back to me as "Over Quota." Thus, if you go into your email account a few days before the 9th of each month and delete a quantity of emails you have saved, it will clear room for the newsletter notice. Likely, most of these emails are SPAM, so deleting them will not cause any harm.

    As a result of my appeal for donations in the previous issue, Edmund A Totman, Robert Sauerbrey, Ellen M. Charland, Pablo Baum, and Carol Loven made one-time donations. Thank you.

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    August Contest

    CONTEST ONE QUESTION: United States flag protocol mandates that if a flag of a state or another country is flown on the same pole or in the same vicinity as the American flag, the American flag should always be the highest. There is one exception to this rule. What is this exception.

    ANSWER: My original answer was when flown at the United Nations. However, another answer kept coming in and I confirmed the second answer as correct also: A church pennant may be flown above the American flag during services conducted by a naval chaplain while at sea for Navy personnel. Thus, I accepted either answer.

    CONTEST TWO QUESTION: What are the two places that the "shot heard 'round the world" refer to?

    ANSWER: My original answer was Concord and Lexington. However, other answers kept coming in too so I researched them and confirmed they were also correct. The other accepted answers were: Ralph Waldo Emerson's "Concord" Hymn referring to the beginning of the Revolutionary War; When Archduke Franz Ferdinand was shot forcing Europe into WWI; and, Bobby Thonsons walk-off home run to clinch the 1951 National League Pennent for the New York Giants

    One-hundred-thirty-two people entered the contests. This time, only two people had the incorrect subject heading on their emailed entry. However, seventeen people failed to select a prize if they won. Six people selected a prize from Contest One but answered the Contest Two question.

    The August Contest Winners Were:
    • Lisa Loftis - Missouri
    • Arlena Thomas - Idaho
    • Nique Ropp - Oklahoma
    • Woodrow W. Pea, Jr. - California
    • Sandra Goodwin - Massachusetts
    • Richard Miller - New York
    • Lindsay Wood - California

    This Issue's Questions:

    To enter Contest One, answer the question: Currently, a United States President can only serve two terms. What is the maximum number of years a Vice President can legally serve?

    To enter Contest Two, answer the question: What is the oldest military academy in the United States?

    Contest Rules

    • Contest entry deadline is Monday, September 20, 2010. Later entries will be disqualified. Winners will be notified by email within 72 hours after the contest deadline. Winners' names and states will be published in the next issue of the HistoryBuff.com newsletter.

    • To enter Contest One or Contest Two, email your answer to curator at historyreference.org

    • To enter Contest One, use "Contest One Entry" for the emailed contest entry subject heading and answer the Contest One question. Any other subject heading will be disqualified.

    • To enter Contest Two, use "Contest Two Entry" for the emailed contest entry subject heading and answer the Contest Two question. Any other subject heading will be disqualified.

    • Subscribers may enter both contests, but only win one prize.

    • If entering both contests, entries must be sent in separate emails.

    • If answering the Contest One question, select your prize from the Contest One prize list.

    • If answering the Contest Two question, select your prize from the Contest Two prize list.

    • From subscribers entering the contest, submitting the correct answer, correct subject heading, submission received by the deadline, as well as advising which ONE contest prize they want to win, SEVEN will be selected to win ONE of the contest prizes below.

    • Subscribers to this newsletter that won a prize in my trivia contests in the last 90 days are ineligible to win.
    August Contest One Prize List
    (Select ONE of the two prizes below if enterering Contest One)


    Roy Rogers Double Feature


    Ozzie and Harriet
    Episodes of the classic 1950s TV series

    August Contest Two Prize Selection

    (Select ONE of the prizes below if enterering Contest Two)

    DVD Movie

    The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery (1959)

    Staring Steve McQueen



    Epsodes of the original 1950s TV series

    Original Historic Newspapers

    Merchantile Advertiser and New-York Advocate historic newspaper from 1835

    Boston Daily Advertiser from 1861

    Original National Daily Republican (Washington, DC) historic newspaper from 1871
    That's it for this issue.

    Rick Brown

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