Antiques & Collectibles: First edition children's cookbook is collectible

Books such as this collectible first-edition General Mills ‘Alpha-Bakery Children’s Cookbook’ published in 1987 currently bring as much as $35 to $50 while others sell for $12 to $18, based on condition.

Question: I paid $1 for this 7-inch high, 7-inch wide child's cookbook at a local thrift shop last year. It was published in 1987 and is in good condition. Please tell me about the book, if it is collectible and if so, what I should ask for it at my next yard sale. - H.H., Millville

Answer: Your Alpha-Bakery Children's Cookbook is a first edition of the soft-cover book published by General Mills, Inc., Minneapolis, Minn. Founded as the Minneapolis Milling Company by Illinois Congressman Robert Smith in 1856, the firm became General Mills, an American food product corporation a decade later.

Since 1866, the General Mills name has been associated with more than 100 well-known brands including Betty Crocker, Green Giant, Pillsbury, Nestle, Yoplait, Darden Restaurants and Talbots. Notable advertising campaigns have ranged from Betty Crocker coupons and catalogs developed in the 1920s to sponsorships of long-running radio and TV programs including Lone Ranger and Rocky and Bullwinkle shows.

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The Alpha-Bakery Cookbook, containing 26 recipes ranging from Apple Crisp to Zebra Stripe Cookies, was compiled with the purpose of engaging children in the process of helping with meal preparation as well as fixing school lunches and snacks. Designed to encourage homemade fun that promotes learning skills, accomplishment and sharing, the book covers everything from selecting a recipe to clean-up. Like-new first editions currently bring as much as $35 to $50, while many others sell for $12 to $18, based on condition.

Question: I own a 23-inch long, Steiff mohair riding bear with a working growler that was given to my great- grandmother on her third birthday in 1908. The bear stands on a metal platform with iron wheels and an embossed metal "Steiff" button is in its ear. Information is appreciated. - R.L., North Wildwood

Answer: Your highly collectible bear, once a toy enjoyed by privileged children, is a product of Steiff, a German toy company renowned for the extraordinary playthings it has produced since 1880. Founded by Margarete Steiff (1847-1909) an invalid since childhood, the family-owned firm's creations range from its initial offering - a felt elephant pincushion - through more than 125 years of quality animals made from mohair, plush and other fabrics.

Popular since presented at the 1903 Leipzig Toy Fair, Steiff bear designs are based on the handmade, plush American teddy bears created by a Brooklyn merchant's wife. Following publication of a 1902 Washington Post cartoon showing America's President Teddy Roosevelt sparing the life of a bear tied to a tree, the seamstress offered her fuzzy, excelsior-stuffed toys which quickly gained international popularity.

Currently, Steiff and other toy collectors are paying $1,200 to $1,400 for heirloom rider bears such as yours with functioning pull-string growler and an intact Steiff button if the piece has working wheels, original shoe button eyes and no dry rot, mohair loss or missing facial feature embroidery.

Alyce Hand Benham is an antiques broker and appraiser. Send questions to: Alyce Benham, Life section, The Press of Atlantic City, 1000 W. Washington Ave., Pleasantville, N.J. 08232. Email:

Letters may be used in future columns but cannot be answered individually, and photos cannot be returned.

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