A previous column discussed collecting firefighting memorabilia. Police memorabilia is also very popular with collectors. We were fortunate enough to be commissioned to sell Eliot Ness’s credentials which were purchased by the National Law Enforcement Museum in Washington, D.C. for $46,000. There are many other options available to collectors on a tighter budget.
Badges are one of the mostly highly sought after types of police memorabilia. Older badges are typically more desirable because fewer exist. Rare ones can easily sell for hundreds of dollars. Badges were made with a nickel alloy, brass and sometimes sterling silver. Hallmarks on a badge can help you identify it and assist with determining the age.
Patches are also popular with collectors and are typically less expensive than badges. Some patches can sell for as little as a dollar. However, an advanced collector may pay hundreds for rarer examples.
There are many cross collectibles in the field of police memorabilia. For example, baby boomers will remember tin police motorcycles and police cars. These are popular with both police and toy collectors. Better pieces can bring thousands of dollars.
Coca Cola issued a metal police crossing guard holding up his hand to slow traffic in school zones during the 1950’s. The back of the sign pictured the company logo and bottle and told drivers to resume speed. The base also had Coca Cola logos. Coke memorabilia is highly desirable. We auctioned one of these signs that brought a figure in the high hundreds as advertising and police collectors competed for it. Ours had some chipping and had been drawn on with a magic marker. A better example could easily have brought a figure in the thousands.
Police call boxes are popular with some collectors. They are also cross collectibles because many fire memorabilia buffs want them as well.
Photographs from the early 1900’s and prior appeal to those interested in police history and also to buyers of local memorabilia if the officer’s city or town is documented. Wanted posters and mug shots of criminals can bring huge sums. Forbes reported an auction price of $85,000 for a Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid wanted poster. The Old West has always been of interest to collectors and memorabilia related to lawmen like Wyatt Earp and outlaws like Jesse James sparks a great amount of interest.
There is a huge market for vintage comic books. 1960’s and earlier “Dick Tracy” and “Police Comics” are highly sought after. Other Dick Tracy collectibles like friction cars and Tommy guns still command strong prices.
Many police collectors also want the tools that officers used such as nightsticks. At one of our auctions, we sold a wooden noisemaker that was used by officers to warn of trouble or when they needed assistance. It was similar in function to one of the vintage tin Halloween noisemakers. It was held by the handle and spun around the wrist to make noise. A police museum purchased it for a figure in the mid-hundreds.
Keep putting your detective skills to work and search for any police memorabilia or other items that you may want to learn more about. Email us a picture and they may end up in a future column.
If you have any questions about antique auctions and estate sales, call Wayne Tuiskula, Auctioneer/Appraiser at 508-612-6111 or email us today.
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