Question: My husband and I are hoping you can tell us something about an old Bakelite poker chip caddy and 200 poker chips we bought at a flea market. The marbleized bright yellow caddy is 7¼ inches long, 3½ inches wide and 4 inches high with eight chip slots, each filled with the colored chips. Two horizontal spaces between the chip slots hold complete packs of old, mint playing cards. Information about Bakelite and the caddy’s value is appreciated. — S.N. Mays Landing
Answer: Patented in 1906 by Belgian immigrant Leo Baekeland (1863-1944) an industrial chemist, versatile Bakelite was one of the first synthetic plastics manufactured for both commercial and industrial use. In 1910, Baekeland founded his first company, which later became the Bakelite Corp., located in Bound Brook, New Jersey.
Heat resistant, lightweight, durable and easily molded, Bakelite is considered the forerunner of today’s modern plastics and a material for which there have been thousands of uses. Bakelite favorites have included electrical and insulation products, telephones, toys, games, kitchen and tableware as well as scores of fashion items, especially attractive, fashionable jewelry.
Your circa 1920s-1930s butterscotch swirl color Bakelite poker chip caddy, complete with Bakelite chips and period playing cards, is a collectible frequently sought after by folks who search for Bakelite items or gambling paraphernalia.
Last year, several similar Bakelite poker chip caddies with chips and playing cards intact sold for $185 to $225 each.
Question: Years ago, I inherited some old kitchenware once owned by my grandmother. Among the items are four tin pie plates. All are 9½ inches in diameter and each has six small punctured holes. “FRISBIES PIES” is stamped in large letters on the bottom of every plate. Although my grandmother told me the pie tins were the very first Frisbees flying saucers, I paid little attention until an elderly gentleman recently said she was correct and that the old tins are collectibles. Can you explain this? — A.T., Bordentown
Answer: Your tin plates once held fresh pies made by the Frisbie Pie Co., founded in 1871 at Bridgeport, Connecticut, by Civil War veteran William R. Frisbie. By the early 20th century, Frisbie was delivering pies to a number of northeastern colleges and universities where students began using the empty pie pans to play freestyle recreational flying disc games. Soon, children and teens were throwing and catching the Frisbie tins in schoolyards throughout America while shouting “Frisbie.”
Fast forward to 1948 when Fred Morrison and partner Warren Franscioni began producing the first plastic Frisbie-type “Flying Saucer” discs. When their partnership ended in 1957, Morrison introduced a new model and sold it to the Wham-O toy company as the Pluto Platter. Wham-O later changed the flying aerodynamic disc’s brand name to Frisbee.
In 1967, a group of Maplewood, New Jersey, high school students invented the popular game of Ultimate Frisbee. By 1977, millions of Frisbees had been made and sold. Mattel Toy Manufacturers became owners of the Frisbees in 1994, and the Frisbee game was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 1998.
Many original tin Frisbie pie plates in good to very good condition can be purchased for $55 to $70 and a 1966 Wham-O Frisbee in very good condition sold for $120 in 2016.
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: [email protected]. Letters may be used in future columns but cannot be answered individually, and photos cannot be returned.
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