Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Some Tall Stacks souvenirs grow in value - eventually

By Marilyn Bauer
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Frank McElwain's print for this year ($275) depicts all the boats.
Closson's Gallery

Bobbleheads, Christmas tree ornaments, plates, T-shirts, bowling shirts - every Tall Stacks celebration brings a new line of commemorative items Cincinnatians like to collect, some hoping to make money eventually.

But which items are collectible? How does a pin or poster become a collectible. What is a collectible anyway?

Phyllis Weston of Closson's Gallery says that what makes an item collectible is its rarity. "If a print has been made in a limited edition or there is a finite number of a pin manufactured, then it is considered collectible."

That means the signature oil paintings created for every Tall Stacks event by Frank McElwain continue to increase in value.

"Frank McElwain did the first Tall Stacks painting in 1988," says Weston, who exclusively handles his work. "Every time he does a Tall Stacks painting, he does these prints. The price of the prints is determined by how much people are willing to pay for them. The first prints started at $150 and are now worth $2,000 - and that's just a print."

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This print for this year's event, which runs Wednesday through Sunday, is special, Weston says, because it contains all 17 boats. "They are authentic. When McElwain does a boat, he does it right." The cost of this year's print is $275, unframed.

But when it comes to the other Tall Stacks souvenirs, it is difficult to determine not only their current worth - they haven't been around long enough - but whether they will become collectible.

According to Alistair McAlpine and Cathy Giangrande, authors of The Essential Guide to Collectibles (Viking Press; $29.95), there isn't an object too mundane to be overlooked. Collectors are often obsessive; their passion fueled by online auctions and popular television programs such as The Antiques Road Show on PBS.

Dottie Hilvers, a dealer associated with Oakley's Duck Creek Antique Mall, says she hasn't had much call for Tall Stacks objects, although she carries pins dating back to 1988 in her booth. The pins run from 50 cents to $2.50, which may be an indicator of how long it takes for some items to increase in value.

Hilvers says eventually almost anything can become a collector's item. Buy what you like and then hold on to it. You never know.

McAlpine and Giangrande suggest reading a guide to collectibles and finding one that interests you.

It's possible you will find something that especially speaks to you.

E-mail mbauer@enquirer.com

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