Q: I have some old flashlights dating from the early 20th century. Are there collectors of such things, and, if so where may they be contacted?
A: Collectors of flashlights can be reached through the Flashlight Collectors Newsletter, which offers an annual subscription for $10. Write to Bill Utley, 7616 Brookmill, Downey, Calif. 90241, or phone (213) 861-6247.
Q: I have countless Avon bottles. Is there a price guide I can consult to learn the value of such bottles, or is there an Avon collectors club?
A: Send for a copy of the 11th Edition of "Hastin's Avon Bottle Collectors Encyclopedia," by Bud Hastin, available for $21.95 postpaid from L-W Books Sales, Box 69, Gas City, Ind. 46933; phone (800) 777-6450. Also write to the National Association of Avon Collectors, in care of its president, Bill Armstrong, Box 68, West Newton, Ind. 46183, enclosing $15 for an annual subscription to its monthly publication, or send $2 for a sample copy.
Q: What can you tell me about old bawdy house tokens once used in trade for the services of ladies of the night? A dealer has some for sale but cannot tell me anything about them. Also, who deals in old trade tokens from stores, saloons and other establishments, and who can tell me the value of the various examples I've collected?
A: Bawdy house tokens found at flea markets or collectibles shops are, for the most part, modern "created-for-the-market" fantasy pieces often with legends or undocumented stories attached, although some dealers sell them as genuine original examples or authentic reproductions of originals.
Genuine tokens possibly used by houses of ill repute were most likely used at the bar for drinks rather than for the ladies' services. This is not to say that such trade tokens didn't exist, but unless such pieces can be proven to be authentic with positive documentation, one cannot assume they are real. Examples sold as copies are usually reasonably priced, and they can make interesting novelties. Bawdy house tokens believed to be authentic include French ones that portray a woman, but such tokens are scarce. Tokens from before 1950 have a denomination but little or no indication of the type of business they represent.
Write to token dealer Rich Hartzog, enclosing photocopies of the front and back of any tokens you wish to check out, in care of World Exonumia, Box 4143BFN, Rockford, Ill. 61110-0643. Also available from World Exonumia Press is the book "Trade Tokens of Illinois -- Second Edition," by Ore H. Vacketta, with pictures and prices of countless examples from Illinois dairies, groceries, pool halls, tobacco stores, saloons, clubs, taverns, cafes, etc. The book is $23.75 postpaid. Or call Mr. Hartzog at (815) 226-0771.
Among his original bawdy house tokens, Mr. Hartzog has two from Chicago establishments, one from the French Palace at 81 Union St., circa 1880, and the other dating from before 1910 embossed "Mme Fanny, 2026 Dearborn St." on the front and "1 on the back (probably used in trade for whiskey).
Saloon tokens along with pleasure palaces and related advertisments can be found in "Saloons of the American West," by Robert L. Brown, available for $18.50 postpaid from Sundance Publications Ltd., 250 Broadway, Denver, Colo. 80203; phone (303) 777-2880.
Tokens of various sorts, shapes and sizes can be found in a variety of materials, including brass, bronze, aluminum, copper, nickel, steel, white metal, fiber, rubber, silver, zinc, cardboard, lead, plastic, even glass. Two dozen brass brothel tokens (obviously reproductions) are offered for $17 postpaid by Charles Gardner, 7741 E. Shields, Fresno, Calif. 93727. Phone (209) 291-5620 for information and the availability of such "warehouse finds."
Anita Gold can be reached by writing Anita Gold, Maryland Living, The Sun, Baltimore 21278. Selected questions will appear in her column. The volume of mail makes individual replies impossible. When writing sources listed in this column, enclose an addressed, stamped envelope for replies.