Uncle Sam has been an important symbol in the United States since the War of 1812. The name was first seen in print in a book written in 1816. Today's Uncle Sam, with top hat, striped jacket and beard, was drawn for a famous recruiting poster in 1917. The image was soon copied in books, games and toys. Patriotic Americans liked to shake hands with Uncle Sam at penny arcades in amusement parks. One famous Uncle Sam machine was a strength tester. For a penny, you could grab his hand and squeeze as hard as you could. The arrow on the dial told how firm your grip was. If you scored 300, a bell rang. The Uncle Sam grip test, 76 inches tall, is made of enameled iron and has an oak cabinet base. The first machines were made by Caille Brothers Co. in about 1908. It was copied by the International Mutoscope Co. in the 1920s and again in 1978 by a private company that sells the machines today. An old machine was sold by Showtime Auction Services in April for $26,400.
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Bell worth about $25
Q: I have a replica of the Liberty Bell that swings and rings. The bell is attached to a wooden block. Inside the bell it says, "J.I. Houck, Pottstown, Pa." Under the wooden block is a label that says "Bailey Banks & Biddle, Philadelphia." It's dated "1832 U.S. Pat. No. 2444611."
A: Your Liberty Bell is a bank, but it wasn't made in the 1800s. Jonathan I. Houck of Pottstown received a patent for his bell-shaped bank in 1948. Coins were inserted in the slot in the wooden hanger and dropped into the bell. Bailey Banks & Biddle was a famous jewelry store with branches in several cities. It traced its history back to 1832 (the date on your bank), when Joseph T. Bailey began working as a silversmith. Bailey went into partnership with George W. Banks and Samuel Biddle to form Bailey, Banks & Biddle in 1878. The company was bought by Zales in 1961, but the brand name was kept. Following other corporate changes, all Bailey, Banks & Biddle stores closed in 2009. Your Liberty Bell bank sells for about $25 today.
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Current prices are recorded from antique shows, flea markets, sales and auctions throughout the United States. Prices vary because of local economic conditions.
- World War II military canteen, round, patent date May 4, 1915, impressed around collar, Worcester Pressed Aluminum Co., U.S.A., 75/8 inches, $56.
- U.S. Marines & Korean War toy soldiers play set, plastic, four Marine soldiers carrying machine guns, five Korean soldiers with rifles, Marx, 1963, set of nine, $60.
- Elsie the Cow "Save for War Bonds" bank, paper over wood, Elsie and Baby Beulah holding coin, slot reads "push first coin through here," 1940s, 43/4 x 31/2 inches, $65.
- Confederate States of America $1,000 bond, 30-year bond at 6 percent interest, payment due April 1893, seven coupons in book, 22 by 17 inches, $145.
- Weeden toy car, No. 28 Locomobile, steam engine, American flag image stamped on side, red body, iron wheels, c. 1894-1901, originally $1.25, 9 by 5 inches, $1,380.