Antiques & Collectibles: Signed 'Goodnight Opus' is a book sale bargain

Values of authographed first edition, first printings of Berkeley Breathed’s book, ‘Goodnight Opus, with original dust jacket presently range from $65 to $75 when they are in new, unread condition.

Question: This large, author-signed book, "Goodnight Opus," was purchased for $5 at a public library sale about 10 years ago. Information on the second page includes "First Edition," a 1993 copyright notation and names Little, Brown & Co. as publisher. I know some autographed books are valuable and would appreciate as much information as possible about mine. - E.M., Haddonfield

Answer: Written and illustrated by Berkeley Breathed, "Goodnight Opus" is one of a number of best-selling children's books produced by the successful cartoonist during the past two decades.

Opus, the popular penguin hero of Breathed's "Bloom County" and "Outland" cartoon comic strips, joined with buddy Bill the Cat as well as a variety of other fanciful friends and funky family members to explore prevalent political, cultural and socioeconomic events from 1978 to 2008.

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Enjoyed daily and eventually only on Sunday by readers worldwide, Breathed's strips earned him a 1987 Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning. The scripts' popularity led to children's books, animated films and cartoon compilations as well as greeting cards, clothing, toys and other Opus and Bloom County items which presently are collected.

Your "Goodnight Opus," a rhymed tale of courage narrated by the penguin poet clad in pink bunny-jammies, will attract Opus fans as well as folks who collect first-edition children's books and autographs. Values listed for first-edition, 1st printing examples with original dust jackets and signed on the illustrated title page with Breathed's name only, presently range from $65 to $75 when they are in excellent, unread condition.

Question: I collect old copper and brass fire extinguishers and have been told if I polish away their tarnish, their value will decrease. I would appreciate your comments. - J.M., Cape May

Answer: There are numerous situations where experts advise owners of antique and collectible metal items not to remove patinas by polishing. However, many specialists who buy, sell, collect and display antique fire fighting equipment readily support removal of the dull, unattractive, rusty oxide or verdigris that appears on copper and brass used to make old fire extinguishers.

Copper examples featuring manufacturer's elaborate brass emblems dating from the late 1800s to the 1930s are considered especially desirable. Although many professionally restored and converted to lamps sell for as much as $250 to $450, most restored for display are bringing $75 to $200, based on age, size and manufacturer.

Ed and Sandy Burdge, officers of the Antique Fire Association of New Jersey, have restored a number of the extinguishers in their collection. Ed Burdge, who suggests metal polishes such as Never Dull, Brasso and Mothers Billet are excellent for restoration, adds most are available at automotive supply stores. The Burdges can be contacted online at or by email at

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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