Send me an E-mail
(Please, no questions
 about value.)

Instructions for sending photographs of your pieces with your question.

Which department store originated the concept of selling artistic home furnishings?

Liberty & Co.
                     To see the answer

Arts & Crafts:
From William Morris to Frank Lloyd Wright

by Arnold Schwartzman

The author focuses on a British craftsmen, such as William Morris and Charles Rennie Mackintosh, who turned their backs on the mass production of the Industrial Revolution to form a ‘Round Table’ in order to establish a means of returning to hand-crafted products.

                                  More Books


How Was It Made? Block Printing William Morris Wallpaper

This video recreates the painstaking reproduction of a William Morris wallpaper design from 1875, a process that can take up to 4 weeks, using 30 different blocks and 15 separate colors.

Click on the title to view.

And look for other videos in selected articles.

Have Bob speak
 on antiques to your group or organization.

More Information

Can't find what
 you're looking for?

Go to our Sitemap

Find out what's coming in the
2024 Spring Edition

of the

"Art Deco World"


Share pages of this ezine with your friends using the buttons provided with each article.

Download our
Decorative Periods and Styles Chart

Read our newest glossary:

Antique Furniture Terminology
 from A to Z

courtesy of AntiquesWorldUK

Videos have
come to

The Antiques

Expand your antiques experience.

Look for videos in various articles.

Just click on the
arrow to play.


Argyle Chair
Charles Rennie Macintosh

Souvenirs from the 1939 New York
World's Fair Highly Collectible

by Bob Brooke


A grouping of items from the 1939 NY World's Fair.With so many souvenirs from the 1939 New York World’s Fair out there, how do collectors know what to look for? "You have to know what attracts you to the Fair as a collector," said Judith Schwartz of Twin Brooks Antiques of Bennington, Vt. "For me it was the Art Deco logo of the Trylon and Perisphere, so I decided that the things I would be acquiring would have to it on them."

For others, like Howard Rossen, author of the book World’s Fair Collectibles with Price Guide, who began collecting in 1965 when he was in law school, paper items, glass and china, and key collectibles have been his passion. While Rossen collects items from all the major world’s fairs, he enjoys collecting from the 1939 Fair the most.

Beginning collectors often purchase posters, ticket books, and other assorted paper items, as well as any of the hundreds of pinback buttons, mainly because of their relatively inexpensive prices. Advanced collectors like clocks and watches--the harder-to-find pieces. According to Schwartz, women often collect jewelry--bracelets, rings, necklaces with Fair emblems.

A 1939 New York World's Fair sewing kit."Any image of the Trylon and Perisphere on an item automatically makes it more highly valued," added Schwartz. "But collectors seem to be turning up their noses at the 1940 Fair items. This goes against what collectors would normally do. Since Fair attendance was down in 1940 and the Fair, itself, was surrounded by controversy, it seems logical that there would be fewer items on the market, thus making these items more valuable."

Schwartz said that anything a little bit different seems to be popular with collectors of World’s Fair souvenirs today. "The ubiquitous milk glass vinegar bottle and coins are passe now," she said, "but anything unique will sell in a second." For instance, a snow dome paperweight with black snow falling on a Trylon and Perisphere, or a plastic pencil sharpener, or a plywood jigsaw puzzle in its original box. They even sold birthday candles in the shape of the Trylon and Perisphere.

1939 NY World's Fair coinMost major manufacturers of fine china, novelties and toys made items for the Fair. The Arcade Toy Company made a four-piece metal tram with driver painted in bright orange and blue Fair-Corporation approved colors. RCA Victor created a splendid table model radio. Macy’s had a

Toyland Dutch girl doll made for them by the Alexander Doll Company. An assortment of ladies’ cosmetic compacts--from Girey, Elgin-American and Zekll--proliferated at the Fair. Even Parker Brothers got in on the act with a board game called Bobby and Betty’s Trip to the New York World’s Fair. And Whitman Publishing Company created New York World’s Fair Bingo.

Most Sought After Items
New York World's Fair GuidebookBut some of the items most sought after by collectors are a series of china plates attributed to Homer Laughlin, creator of Fiesta Ware. These attractive plates in purple and green sported stylized buildings around their rims and Deco logos. Also highly prized is a series of plates from the joint exhibit of management and labor. These pottery plates were made at the Fair, although everyone seems to think they were made by Homer Laughlin because they have the Fiesta Ware look. Some of the most beautiful ones were made by Cronin China Company, J&G Meakin, and Mason’s China Company of Great Britain. The latter created a stunning scalloped souvenir plate showing New York skyline.

Art Deco china display plates were also manufactured by the Edwin Knowles China Co. Even Tiffany and Company got in on the act with a pink and white china place setting featuring pictures of modern New York. There were also china pieces from Scammell’s Lamberton China Company(George Washington commemorative plates), Atlas China(scalloped plate), Paden City Pottery Co(salad bowl), Hall China(cobalt blue teapot), and Porcelier China(cream colored teapots and pitchers), plus hundreds of items made in Japan, including assorted lusterware, hand-painted porcelain, jasperware and imitation Wedgewood. The Libby Glass Co. made sets of eight juice glasses in a holder.

Fakes Galore
The market has spawned fakes, actually fantasies--items made to look like they were produced for the Fair but are actually new. Schwartz warns collectors about rings and cuff links that are surfacing, as well as paper coasters in the shape of the Trylon and Perisphere that sport a Coca Cola emblem. All are obviously in mint condition.

Rossen said that police badges have also been reproduced and again, some as fantasy pieces, since these are also popular with those who collect police memorabilia. "However, I’ve seen very few reproductions from any World’s Fair," he said.

Book of tickets from 1939 World's Fair.As for the market, both Schwartz and Rossen agree it’s sky high. "I assume it will level off somewhere," said Schwartz. "I bought four little cups for $185 that I thought were drinking cups, but it turned out that they were toothpick holders and sold them for $400. I find out later that I could have sold them for probably $400 a piece!"

Each year on Memorial Day Weekend, the World’s Fair Collector’s Society sponsors a show of only 1939 World’s Fair collectibles at the Andria Motel on Northern Boulevard just opposite Corona Park. "At this year’s show I saw only three or four rare pieces," said Rossen.

"Most of the rest was middle of the road stuff. But everything from that fair is getting much more collectible because ‘39 and ‘40 are so hot and there are so many new collectors coming in."

"It’s all supply and demand," he added. "The really good stuff is unavailable. In fact, I recently bought a duplicate piece for $700--a Remington typewriter in mint condition--and made a major investment. It’s only the fourth typewriter I’ve seen in 25 years!"

1939 NY World's Fair poster.Prices for paper goods can be as low as $5 for a postcard but can climb to $275 for a girl guide’s jacket and upwards of a $1,000 for a set of New York World’s Fair silver flatware by William Rogers Co. and over $2,000 for an RCA table model radio.

Schwartz’ advice for 1939 World’s Fair collectors: Start small and inexpensive. "Get an education while you’re learning and don’t exhaust your resources right away, " she said. "If you’re going to make a mistake, make one at the $5 or $10 level not at the $600 level."

The World’s Fair Corporation buried a time capsule under the Westinghouse Building so that future generations in the year 6939 would be able to get an idea of what life was like in 1939. Torpedo shaped and 7 ½ feet long and 8 ½ inches in diameter, it contained samples of plastics, metal and fabrics, numerous books and essays reproduced on microfilm, newsreels with instructions and a key to the English language. What they forgot to include was an assortment of souvenirs of the Fair, which while clear to fair goers at the time, would probably confuse generations to come.

To read more articles by Bob Brooke, please visit his Web site

< Back to Collectibles Archives                                          Next Article >

Antiques Q&A

Antiques and More on

The Antiques Almanac on Facebook

No antiques or collectibles
are sold on this site.

How to Recognize and Refinish Antiques for Pleasure and Profit

Book: How to Recognizing and Refinishing Antiques for Pleasure and Profit
Have you ever bought an antique or collectible that was less than perfect and needed some TLC? Bob's new book offers tips and step-by- step instructions for simple maintenance and restoration of common antiques.

Read an Excerpt

Auction News
Get up to the minute news of antiques auctions around the country and the world.

Also see
The Auction Directory

Antiques News
Read breaking news stories from the world of antiques and collectibles.

Art Exhibitions
Search for art exhibitions in museums and galleries around the world.

Home | About This Site | Antiques | Collectibles | Antique Tips | Book Shop | Antique Trivia | Antique Spotlight | Antiques News  Special Features | Caring for Your Collections | Collecting | Readers Ask | Antiques Glossaries | Resources | Contact
Copyright ©2007-2023 by Bob Brooke Communications
Site design and development by BBC Web Services