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Jewish World Review May 14, 2003 / 12 Iyar, 5763

Anita Gold

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Consumer Reports

Picky, Picky, Picky Collectors; teddy value; egg trees; big band records | Q. When did people first start using toothpicks? Is it true that some were made of solid gold? Jeanette Murphy, Brooklyn, N.Y.

A. Toothpicks date back as far as Tudor times. They were not only made of gold, but of silver and animal horn as well. Rich merchants, and ritzy gentlemen often carried solid gold ones packed in leather cases, as a sign of prosperity. But if a gentleman "really" wanted to attract attention, he carried a gold toothpick concealed inside a gold holder with a sliding mechanism that forced the toothpick with its pointy picker to eject for picking teeth, and to retract back into the holder when the pickin' was done. Today, some jewelry firms still sell gold toothpicks for the man who has everything.

Still the most popular examples were wooden toothpicks like we use today, which were invented in 1867 by a Boston woodenware manufacturer. Before that, folks fashioned their own from tree branches. However (when 1930 rolled around) it was considered very impolite to pick your teeth in public, and although some people tried to cover up the operation with their napkins, it only made a bad situation look worse by calling attention to what was going on, and therefore if one had to pick his teeth, he needed to excused himself from the table to do his pickin' in another room.

Speaking of toothpicks, collectors of toothpick holders are picky, picky, picky people who adore such glass, china, and metal holders, and belong to the National Toothpick Holder Collectors Society which offers an annual single membership for $20 which includes ten issues of the Toothpick Bulletin per year (which feature a variety of informative articles with photos related to toothpick holder collecting - identification of patterns; comparing the old with the new reproductions; questions and answers; ads for buying, selling, and trading - as well as news from members, new discoveries, etc.) from the NTHCS Membership, Box 852, Archer City, Texas, 76351. The NTHCS will hold its 2003 Convention August 6-10 at the Holiday Inn, 201 S. 3rd St., in Quincy, IL. For more information, and convention details, visit website: An informative book which pictures, describes, and prices over 900 glass toothpick holders in gorgeous color, and includes line drawings to identify patterns, catalog pages, original ads, manufacturers, patent information, trade quotations, and reproduction information, etc., is "Glass Toothpick Holders - Identification & Value Guide by Neila & Tom Bredehoft and Jo & Bob Sanford available in a 248-page hardcover edition for $27.95 postpaid, from $27.95 postpaid from Collector Books, P.O. Box-3009, Paducah, KY

Q. When I was a second-grader back in the 1960s, I received a large teddy bear, which I kept on my bed for years, and which later I stored away with my other stuffed animals, dolls, and toys in boxes. Years later, when my sister-in-law gave birth to a son, she found the box containing my beloved bear, and proceeded to use it and my other toys (I had planned to keep for sentimental reasons for the rest of my life) for her own purposes. I regret her presumptuous behavior and tried to let it go - except for the bear, which was later found to have been torn beyond repair by their family dog. Needless to say, I am still repulsed by this bold and unauthorized use of my treasures. Would the large teddy bear from the sixties era, be of any real value today? What say you? Reader, Chapel Hill, NC

A. The real value of your teddy bear is the precious memories it left behind that are priceless. However, the bear's monetary value is another matter. To check out its value (before it was dog-attacked) and have it repaired, or restored as best as can be, send a photo of the bear in its present state including its length, color, type of eyes whether shoe button or glass, and any other features it may have, to Gigi's Dolls & Sherry's Teddy Bears, 6029 N. Northwest Hwy., Chicago, IL 60631. Identify yourself as one of my readers, and enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope for a reply, or phone Gigi or Sherry at 773-594-1540. Countless books on teddy bears (that'll tug at your heart) including "In Search of Teddy" by Joan Greene, the "American Teddy Bear Encyclopedia" by Linda Mullins, Cherish Me Always - Teddy Bears & Warm Fuzzies" by Steven and Mary Wikert", and numerous others can be found pictured and described in the Spring 2003 Hobby House Press Catalog that's available free by phoning 1-800-554-1447 to request a copy. And upon request from readers, here's my little teddy bear ditty I wrote to comfort children in these troubled times. "Oh, teddy bear Oh teddy bear, With all your cuddly charms, You make my world feel safe again, When you are in my arms."

Incidentally, readers of this column who are looking for an old doll, toy, or teddy - longing to recapture happy memories, can send me a description of the toy with permission to print their name, address, and phone number to be contacted.

Q. My great-grandmother, who is Swedish, once talked about having an egg tree in her house at Easter. What is an egg tree? Ingrid Gray, Munster, IN

A. The egg tree is an old, Norse custom, which was introduced in America by the Swedes and Moravians. It was a bare tree trimmed with color eggs to celebrate Easter. In the 18th century the eggs were blown or sucked out of their shells. The shells were then filled with wax or plaster and decorated beautifully.

Q. How can I find out the value of old shot glasses that my father-in-law collected and saved over the past 40 years? Marshall Clark, Munster, IN

A. Send for a copy of the "Encyclopedia of Shot Glasses" by Mark Pickvet which lists, illustrates, describes, and prices all types of shot glasses, available in a huge 8 1/2 by 11-inch, 336-page edition, for $33.45 postpaid from AMI Publications, P.O. Box 500, Western Springs, IL 60558. Incidentally, Al Capone's shot glass brought $150 at auction. Gulp!

Q. My uncle (who was a musician) left me a huge collection of mostly big band, classical, country, blues, and jazz records. How can I find out what they might be worth, and where can I sell them? Paul Maxwell, Virginia Beach, VA

A. Send for a copy of "How to Find Out the Value of Any and All Types of Old Records - With List of Record Buyers" available for $3 and a long self-addressed stamped envelope, from Anita Gold, P.O. Box 597401, Chicago, IL 60659.

NOTE: Don't miss the nationally renowned Country Folk Art Festival at Trinity University - Meyer Sports Complex, on Half Day Rd., (Rte. 22) 1/8 mile East of I-94 offering original antiques, and outstanding reproductions of American formal, period, and country, furniture, traditional artworks, folk art, pottery, and other irresistible pieces you'll be crazy about, that takes place in all its glory on Sat. May 31 from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. with an early buyer's preview admission of $20, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sat. May 31, and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sun. June 1 with a weekend admission of $8. Children under 15 admitted free. Stop and see David T. Smith's furniture, pottery, and "expressions of love" furnishings, figures, lighting, and other handmade original and authentic reproductions that'll leave you breathless. For show details, phone Judy Marks, at (630) 858-1568; travel and lodging (847) 317-7300, or to get an eyeful, visit

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Anita Gold has been writing this column for over 30 years. To comment or ask a question, please click here.


05/08/03: Collectors pumped up over gas & oil items; old soda pop bottles; info on collecting autographs
04/29/03: Collectors can tyg this one on; value of a weird PEZ candy dispenser
04/22/03: Identify Authenticity and Value
04/15/03: Patriotic Songs and Memories of Long Ago Wars
04/08/03: Restore Grandmother's jewelry and memories

© 2003, Anita Gold