I’ve been running into a lot of new collectors of vintage and antique things at Listia; I kind of feel like I’m becoming a resident expert, both it terms of being able to help folks and because of the amount of time I spend at Listia. *wink* I don’t normally take the time to give detailed responses, let document (blog), all the requests but this time there was great merit in doing so…
This is the question from Sherry:
Hi my name is Sherry and I saw a comment that ya posted on another auction about ya writing about antiques and collectibles online. I have been in search of someone to talk to about some pictures I have that were left here years back. My nephew was living with me as well as his girl friend. When they broke-up she left plenty behind. My nephew thought I had burnt all that was left. He freaked out and said there were photo’s that cost a lot of money, because they were some of the Charmin Toilet Paper Girls.
By the style clothing that are being worn in the photo’s I can only assume they are from the 50’s – 60’s maybe older. I do not recall commercials from back then, so I have no idea if these are even worth anything. Is there away ya might be able to help me figure these photo’s out? Thank You in advance.
I was pretty sure what Sherry had were prints, but since she had called them photos I was glad she had sent me some scans (some of which I’ve included here).
What Sherry has are vintage promotional prints from Northern Paper Mills aka Northern Tissue. The series of prints was called American Beauties, illustrated by Frances Hook. (You can see her signature printed on the little girl’s shoulder that doesn’t have the kitten on the scan above.) Hook is most known now for her religious works, but her career began in commercial illustration for various advertisements as well as illustrations to supplement magazine stories. Her American Beauties begin to appear in the Northern Tissue advertisements in 1958 as the original Northern Girls. On March 23, 1959, the first rolls of tissue featuring the girls were shipped from the mill and tissue sales skyrocketed —
And prompting the corporate response to sell the prints.
The first American Beauty prints were available as a set of four: one baby girl and three little girls.
Not long after, the company released Northern Towel’s All American Boys, a set of three prints of little boys.
Not much later, Northern asked Hook “if she would take our little “American Beauty” girls and cast them into some fresh new poses” — for both the toilet tissue packaging as well as an additional print set (also four prints).
That would bring the total of American Beauty girl prints to eight. As far as I know, the All-American Boys series remained at three prints. Which brings the overall total of the Northern prints by Hook to eleven. All prints were available in multiple sizes: 11″ by 14″, 8″ by 10″, and 5″ by 7″.
You know I don’t like to discuss monetary values, but this is another opportunity to discuss some collecting basics…
Generally speaking, the larger the quantity of art prints (and anything else) made, the less the value they have. According to Georgia-Pacific, who now owns the Northern brand, “Offers for prints of the girls and Northern Towel’s All American Boys break records with 30 million sets of prints being sold by 1966.” Which means there were and still are a large number of these prints out in circulation.
However, as these pieces are advertising collectibles, they do have some cross-collecting appeal. Again, these prints are a bit less desirable as they were mass produced — as well as more likely to be saved — which means more of them are available.
Like most collectibles, these prints come and go in popularity; which means the prices go up & down. Because they are desired primarily for the nostalgia (“I had those prints in my bedroom!”) or a sense of nostalgia (“I love those vintage baby prints!”), their ability to match decor or gender of child for a specific room, the size of the prints (available wall space), and/or for the appeal of individual images themselves (one may look just like their son or grandson, etc.), prices can vary quite a bit for each print.
And, of course, condition of the print itself matters; not only in terms of tears, creases, spots, etc., but in terms of the color of the prints, such as fading of the colors or tanning of the paper itself which weakens the contrast of colors (and usually the strength of the paper itself). Those prints with spots and damages on the faces especially will likely have no interest (no value). However, someone, on Lista or elsewhere where you have no seller fees, might want these imperfect prints for altered art or collage projects.
Depending upon the condition of the paper, etc., right now they could be worth anywhere from $1 to $9 a piece in today’s market. How do I get that value range? Based on the information discussed above and years of dealing in collectibles — and by getting a “snapshot” of the market by using eBay. I looked at current sales of these prints as well as recent past (closed) auction sales values, searching for Northern American Beauty prints by Frances Hook, and variations on those words. I also checked searches for Charmin print — as a great number of folks mistakenly think these prints were put out by Charmin toilet tissue.
You can check eBay for current and very recently closed auction sales prices too — anytime, for anything. You can also use Price Miner. Checking periodically does take time, but that’s the best way to see if there’s an increase in demand or a decrease in offerings of these prints — both of which will mean higher prices. If and when that happens, you might want to list them for sale. The prices may rise again; a few years ago, I sold individual prints for $10 to $29 each. You just need nostalgia and or the appeal of sweet charming children to sweep back into home decorating again.
Additional image credits: Vintage Northern Girls Tissue ad via Jon Williamson; American Beauty Portraits Folder via undoneclothing; All American Boys prints photo via jwenck; Northern Paper Mills ephemera abut the prints via With A Grateful Prayer