Antiques & Collectibles: Railroad spoon is a souvenir of hassel-free travel

Silver-plated, iced-tea spoon, circa 1926 to 1936 and made by the Joseph Heinrichs Corp. for use in the Santa Fe Railroad’s Fred Harvey Dining Cars, are currently valued at $15 to $22, when in excellent condition.

Question: The 7 1/2 -inch iced-tea spoon shown in my photo was given to me by a friend who believes it was part of a place setting used on the famous "Super Chief" train. The end of its handle is marked "Chief" and "Joseph Heinrichs" is stamped on its back. Can you tell us anything about it? - A.N., Turnersville

Answer: Your spoon's marks indicate it was among thousands of silver-plated flatware and hollowware items used to serve meals to folks traveling on Santa Fe Railroad passenger trains. Touted as the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railways "rolling boudoirs," ATSF Pullman sleeper trains with dining cars were especially favored by Hollywood stars and other celebrities before the advent of everyday air travel. Santa Fe's Chief and Super Chief trains traveled the Chicago to Los Angeles route and back twice weekly. The Chief, which made its inaugural run in 1926, ceased operating in 1968 and the 1937 Super Chief ended service in 1971.

Entrepreneur Fred Harvey founded the Harvey House restaurant chain and hotels at the turn of the last century, and his company later delivered excellent, affordable, graciously served Fred Harvey Dining Car meals on Santa Fe trains until the mid-1900s. From the mid-1920s, various silver-plated items used in the dining cars were provided by the Joseph Heinrichs Corp. of N.Y. and Paris, a firm that made kitchen and tableware items for restaurants, hotels, railroads and steamships before declaring bankruptcy in 1937. The logo that appears on your spoon indicates it was made for a "Chief" dining car and its American Craftsman style "hammered" decoration typifies a metalwork motif popular from 1910 to the 1930s.

Collectible railroad flatware sales indicate your spoon is valued at $15 to $22, when in excellent condition.

Question: I own the entire Bradford Exchange "The Few, the Proud, the Marines" collection. When I called Bradford about the set's value, they described it as "antique" and suggested I contact an antiques dealer. Information about the set would be appreciated. - J.B., Mays Landing

Answer: Founded in 1973, Bradford Exchange - presently the Bradford Group - initially limited its merchandise to collectible plates. Since then, the company's lines have expanded to include art, jewelry, coins, dolls, tabletop and home decor items.

Offered by Bradford Exchange during the first decade of the 21st century, your set is one of several "limited edition" Marine collections acquired piece-by-piece over a year or so. One of several U.S. Marine Corps sets designed by artist and illustrator, James Griffin, yours consists of a dozen wooden stands, each displaying an upright rectangular ceramic plate behind a small, cast metal group of figures. Every illustrated plate with its companion sculpture depicts a significant WW II U.S. Marine battle including Iwo Jima, Guadalcanal, Okinawa and the Solomon Islands.

Although originally sold for $39.95 apiece, most of these USMC plate-and-figure collectibles with authenticity certificates can be purchased for $9 to $20, while one Solomon Islands example recently sold for $32. "For Sale" notices in local Veteran of Foreign Wars, American Legion and Marine Corps League publications have been suggested as a possible way to contact folks who may want to buy your collection.

Alyce Hand Benham is an antiques broker, appraiser and estate-liquidation specialist. Send questions to: Alyce Benham, Life section, The Press of Atlantic City, 11 Devins Lane, 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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