Q: We inherited several boxes of antique trains, accessories and tracks. I think they are from the late 1930s or early '40s. I have no idea of their value or whom to contact for any more information. Can you help?
A: I assume the goal is to sell, but to achieve top dollar, our reader first has to do some rudimentary digging. Those toy trains could be either a burden or a bonanza.
In the vintage toy world, certain electric toy trains are as prized as boy toys go. Looking at recent auction results, a vintage circa 1947 Streamline Electrical Train by Marx Toys sold, with its original box and extra tracks, for $250. A generic set from the same era in its original box brought $80.
Smart collectors know that when it comes to toy electric trains, specific makers, gauges and models matter. They know that parts and accessories also sell. A Marx/Lionel/American Flyer transformer from the late '40s recently brought $26 on eBay.
Specific trains bring astounding amounts. A very rare Marx Army Train from the 1940s, complete and in its original box, sold for $1,952 on eBay. I hope that's one train our reader has.
The reader needs to start by examining completed prices on eBay, looking for trains and accessories similar to hers. With that kind of dollar potential, I suggest paying for short-term use of worthpoint.com - a database that covers years of eBay and similar auctions. Don't forget the free auction database, liveauctioneers.com
If online research does not appeal, approach trusted local antique toy dealers and take their word on value. Check them out first. Do not consign the toys to a general local auction unless/until you have a firm personal idea of value.
Q: Is my "The Household Magazine" from April 1932 worth much? Inside is a picture with a nurse smoking a Camel cigarette.
A: I wonder if you have the date right. Yes, Camel cigarettes did launch a doctor-centered ad campaign, but it was in the mid-1940s.
Definitely considered non-PC today, ads then featured professionals in medical settings, wearing lab coats. Slogans included, "The Doctor Recommends" and "More Doctors Smoke Camels than any Other Cigarette, According to a Recent Nationwide Survey."
By contrast, 1932 issues of the reader's magazine featured Jean Harlow touting Lux soap.
Vintage tobacco ads are collected today, vintage magazines less so. Most of the value in old magazines lies in their ads or celebrity photos. On worthpoint.com we found that most Camel tobacco/medical personnel ads sold for $12 to $16.
Q: Is my purse valuable? It has "New York" written on it, also the skyline (are the Twin Towers on it?), the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, an astronaut, a sailor, and sequins. Made in China.
A: The reader answered her own question. Kitschy purses made in China never have significant value. The bag is fun, not fashion.
On a positive note, if it is vintage or retro (to use an alternative term), it may appeal to a fan of vintage. In that case, value is under $25.
I can't spot the towers, and their presence would not affect value significantly. They would be a good talking point for the seller, period.
Danielle Arnet welcomes questions from readers. She cannot respond to each one individually, but will answer those of general interest in her column. Send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or write Danielle Arnet, c/o Tribune Media Services, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 1400, Chicago, IL 60611. Please include an address in your query. Photos cannot be returned.