Cerro Gordo County Iowa
Part of the IaGenWeb Project
Mason City, Iowa, Monday, March 12, 2007
By Jan Horgen
MASON CITY — Paper and pottery, calendars and creamers, glassware and gadgets. If you have something that bears a connection to Mason City, chances are it's a collectible.
"I couldn't begin to name all the things people have asked me about," said Shirley PIRKL, owner of Cobweb Corners and an avid antique collector.
During the first half of the 20th century, retail stores and manufacturers put out promotional items as a way to advertise. "Lundberg's had stoneware, bean pots and pottery. Sam Raizes had rulers, calendars, shopping bags, shoehorns — just a ton of things through the years," PIRKL said. "State Brand Creamery gave covered dishes. Mason City Brick and Tile used to put out little bricks for various anniversary dates."
Shawsheen Pottery, made from 1907 to 1910 in the south part of Mason City and marked with an SP monogram, is extremely collectible. Interest was revived by a 2005 Iowa Art Pottery Exhibit.
"Pieces of Shawsheen are very hard to come by," PIRKL said.
Giveaways — such as crocks, sugar and creamer or tea sets, glassware, calendars, pencils, baskets — are becoming more difficult to acquire.
Mason City native Jerry ANDERSON knows how hard it can be to find those unique pieces these days. If it says Mason City, he;s interested. It started at an auction where he "picked up a couple pieces" of glass. Today, 25 years later, shelves in most of his downstairs rooms are filled with unique pieces, all with some type of Mason City mark.
"It's the hunt I love, the challenge of finding something new and different," ANDERSON said.
Some of his favorites are pieces with buildings or structures that have long since been demolished — elementary schools, the old courthouse, the Central Park fountain.
"My guess is there is no one in Mason City that has as much of this glassware and china as I do," ANDERSON said. Then, shaking his head, he said, "I'm not so sure that's a good thing." Even the bags that held sugar from American Crystal Sugar and cement from Lehigh and Northwestern States companies are snatched up by collectors.
"Advertising memorabilia continues to be the most popular ongoing collectible," retired antique dealer Dave McGEE said. "Especially anything with Northwestern States Portland Cement Co., because it was owned by the MacNIDER family of Mason City."
Each year for many years, employees were given baskets marked with the company logo.
"These were good-quality baskets — for laundry or sewing, picnics or shopping, even collecting eggs," McGEE said. "Depending on the condition, these baskets sell for $75 to $250."
When it comes to advertising items, color and condition are the keys to value, say PIRKL and McGEE.
"DECKERS sold lard and over the years probably had 10 different version of the lard can," McGEE said. "These are very collectible. The more color, the better."
Consumable items — paper goods, calendars, pencils, pads — can command a good price from the right buyer.
"I know a guy in town who has paneled his family room in advertising yardsticks and rulers," McGEE said. "I've found some strange things tucked away in the eaves and attics of houses, sometime museum quality with the original packaging or in boxes from stores that have long since closed."
Even old dairy and soda bottles are marketable.
"There were a number of bottling companies in Mason City at one time and people want those bottles," PIRKL said.
That old Hermanson's Dairy milk jug or Mohawk Nehi pop bottle could be worth something to the right person.
Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, January of 2011
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