It started with an old steel spoon that I came across. I knew I had a steel fork that I had tucked away for safe keeping in a wooden box somewhere and I wanted to put the spoon with the fork. So I found the box, opened it, and discovered all kinds of goodies that I had put away for safe keeping long ago.
After placing the steel flatware within the wooden box, I noticed in the corner a Larkin Co. lilac perfume box and wondered how much it might be worth today. This should be easy to find on the internet, I thought. So I looked…and looked…and looked some more. I couldn’t find one lilac perfume Larkin box anywhere on the internet. How can that be? I found Larkin lilac perfume in their 1915 Spring – Summer catalog, but that was it. As usual, it ain’t easy.
A little discouraged, I shifted my attention to the various tiny tin toys that were stored inside. Were they Cracker Jack toys? I wasn’t sure, as Cracker Jack didn’t mark all their toys. My eyes fell on a small green car with the number 348 on the hood. 348…348…that number rang a bell.
A recent Antique Roadshow program just had a car with the number 348 on the grill.
The show was a rerun of one that originally aired in 2012. The appraiser was Noel Barrett and he was amazed at the fact that this cast iron toy was accompanied by its original box. The car and box, from the 1920s, were in very good condition and he appraised them at a value of $6,000 to $7,000.
The figure driving this Arcade Manufacturing Co. car was Andy Gump. While the name was somewhat familiar, and I knew he was a cartoon character, I really didn’t know that much about Andy Gump.
Mr. Barrett mentioned that the cartoon was created by Sidney Smith and ran in the Chicago Tribune. The 348 car was given to Andy Gump by another of Smith’s cartoon characters, Old Doc Yak who had originally purchased the car for $3.48, hence the importance of the 348 on the grill. Doc Yak is illustrated below driving Santa Claus in the Old 348 in this 1913 cartoon:
Doc Yak (a goat dressed as a doctor) was an earlier cartoon strip and when Smith was planning on phasing out Doc Yak and introducing Andy Gump, he didn’t want to phase out the 348 auto, so he had Doc Yak give it to Andy. The Gumps strip ran for 42 years, from February 12, 1917 until October 17, 1959.
The plate number was very desireable. The little article above appeared in a 1916 issue of the Chicago Tribune. Hundreds of people had applied for license number 348 in Illinois. The Secretary of State decided Sidney Smith should have that license plate and sent it to him. You can see Sidney Smith standing next to his car with the 348 license plate in the second photo below.
And it wasn’t just the people in Illinois clamoring to obtain the 348 license plate; it was being sought by people all across the country. The number 348 was synonymous with Doc Yak and Andy Gump.
So it surprised me greatly when I searched my little green two seat 348 tin car on the internet and didn’t find one mention of Doc Yak or Andy Gump. It was listed as being a Cracker Jack toy from the early 1930s, which it could well be. The car itself doesn’t resemble the Doc Yak / Andy Gump car, true. But that number is a definite connection to those cartoon characters. And it appears that no one has made that connection. Incredible! Apparently it ain’t that easy.
My thought is that this car is not only a Cracker Jack collectible but more importantly, an Andy Gump collectible.