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Question: While going through containers filled with Christmas items after our late grandmother’s death, my brother and I came across several boxes filled with old Sears “Wish” Christmas catalogs, some dating as far back as the 1950s. Most are in good to very good condition. We would like to know how long they have been published, if they are collected and how valuable they may be. — D.T., Asbury Park

Answer: Founded in Chicago in 1893 by Richard W. Sears, the mail-order company issued thick catalogs that sold a wide variety of goods, including hardware, tools, clothing, dry goods, furniture, bicycles, sewing machines, housewares and homeopathic medicines.

In 1924, the firm opened its first retail store; five years later, there were 300 U.S. Sears stores and by 1954, Sears had become America’s leading retailer.

During the early years, Sears offered Christmas candles, cards, stockings, artificial trees and ornaments in its winter catalogs. In 1912, the first electric tree lights were sold.

In 1933, the first Sears wish book, titled “Sears Christmas Book Catalog” was published. Popular items that year were dolls, toy autos, a Mickey Mouse watch and Lionel trains.

Sixty years later, Sears stopped publishing the wish book. However, by 2007, it returned for awhile but was eventually replaced by an online version.

Some recent prices paid for Sears Christmas Book Catalogs in very good to excellent condition, published from the 1950s through the 1990s are: 1957 $120, 1960s $30 to $80, 1970s $70 to $90 1980s $25 to $70 and 1990s $25 to $33.

Question: I am looking for information about an old tin baseball shape bank on a red base our church received as a donation for an upcoming Christmas charity sale. “Philadelphia Athletics” and a facsimile “Connie Mack” signature as well as “Save with Atlantic” are on one side and an elephant is on the back. We would appreciate any background information that could be used for the sale as well as a reasonable asking price. — P.F., Bridgeport

Answer: Your 1940s tin lithographed coin bank was made by the J. Chein Company, an American toy manufacturer founded in New York by Julius Chein in 1903. The firm moved to Harrison, New Jersey, in 1907, to Burlington in 1947 and ceased toy manufacturing in 1979.

Chein produced character and wind-up toys, toy vehicles and noisemakers, as well as coin banks that frequently were offered by companies as promotional items. Your bank’s “Save with Atlantic” mark identifies it as one of Atlantic Petroleum’s stamped, tin litho giveaways.

The bank’s facsimile autograph is that of Cornelius “Connie Mack” McGillicuddy (1862-1956), a professional baseball player and later team manager and sole owner of the Philadelphia Athletics. The white elephant shown was the team’s mascot.

During the past year, several banks like the one you described, all without dents, scratches or rust, sold for $50 to $80.

Alyce Hand Benham is an antiques broker, appraiser and estate-liquidation specialist. Send questions to: Alyce Benham, Living section, The Press of Atlantic City, 1000 W. Washington Ave., Pleasantville, NJ 08232. Email: Letters may be used in future columns but cannot be answered individually, and photos cannot be returned.

Sports Reporter

I graduated from Rowan University in 2011 where I studied journalism. I covered local high school and college sports at the South Jersey Times and Vineland Daily Journal. I have been a sports reporter with The Press since July of 2013

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