What’s It Worth?: Shirley Temple cups, bowls and pitchers

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What’s It Worth?: Shirley Temple cups, bowls and pitchers

What’s It Worth?: Shirley Temple cups, bowls and pitchers

Q: I am interested in the value of this blue Shirley Temple set — a cereal bowl, drinking glass and small milk pitcher. The etched face of Miss Shirley is truly visible on each piece.

A: Who has the most appearances on a box of Wheaties? Well, it’s Michael Jordan with 18, but our gal Shirley Temple is second in line with 12.

From 1934 to 1942, General Mills gave out millions of sets of Shirley Temple breakfast bowls, mugs and milk pitchers to consumers who mailed in a couple of cereal or biscuit box tops. (Photo courtesy of Jane Alexiadis)
From 1934 to 1942, General Mills gave out millions of sets of Shirley Temple breakfast bowls, mugs and milk pitchers to consumers who mailed in a couple of cereal or biscuit box tops. (Photo courtesy of Jane Alexiadis) 

Shirley Temple was born in 1928 and by 1934 she had won a special Academy Award for “Outstanding Personality.” Her trademark 56 curls, her dimpled cheeks and her dandy song-and-dance performances cheered the Depression-era population.

Shirley’s rise to stardom coincided with the rise of prepackaged (and hygienic!) ready-to-eat breakfast cereals. General Mills was a major player in this industry, introducing Wheaties in 1924 and following up with Bisquick baking mix in 1930.

General Mills’ executives and marketers were a savvy group. They developed brand loyalty by introducing Betty Crocker coupons in 1929. They understood the value of radio: The first commercial jingle ever performed was in 1926 when a barbershop quartet in Minneapolis sang, “Have You Tried Wheaties?”

They recognized brand ambassadors and created Jack Armstrong, “All American Boy,” as product spokesman. Jack’s success in capturing imaginations led to General Mills developing a Jack Armstrong radio show, which offered tie-in premiums in exchange for box tops.

The company expanded the scope of Wheaties’ popularity in 1934 when they began featuring real-life celebrities like Lou Gehrig and “America’s Sweetheart,” Shirley Temple.

With the purchase of two boxes of Wheaties, consumers could receive a cereal bowl printed with an image of Shirley Temple. A mug was given away the purchase of a large box of general Mills’ Bisquick and, to encourage children to drink more milk, a small milk pitcher giveaway rounded out the set.

Hazel Atlas Glass — maker of ubiquitous household items like canning jars, medicine bottles and lamp bases — was commissioned to produce the Shirley Temple set. Her image was transfer-printed onto honeycombed blue glass. Millions of sets were produced from 1934 to 1942.

I’ve seen three different images on this glassware and your set contains one of each. Your mug features the youngest version and your bowl a second but still early image. Your milk pitcher sports 7-year-old Shirley in her 1936 role in “Captain January.”

These sets are sure to bring fond memories for any contemporary of Shirley Temple. My mom and her twin were born the day before the stock market crashed in 1929. Mom remembers these cobalt blue sets but swears she never had one.

Like so many things, your set has more nostalgic than monetary value. Individually, the mug, bowl and pitcher sell in the $5 to $10 range. A full set of the three pieces can command $30 to $50.

Jane Alexiadis is a personal property appraiser. Send questions to worth@janealexiadis.com.

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Published at Thu, 24 Aug 2017 18:00:50 +0000