Be careful when using old reference books. Modern research methods, excavations and old documents that were unknown for years have led to changed histories.

The Chinese Export porcelain dishes that picture the signers of the Declaration of Independence originally were thought to be made about 1820 when they copied an 1817 painting by John Trumbull. The men posed while signing the document had Chinese faces, because the decorators probably had never seen a Caucasian man.

Full sets were made in this pattern. Collectors and museums paid high prices for examples in the 1950s to 1970s.

When the existing examples were studied, slight differences in the decoration led to the belief that this design was made for much of the 19th century.

It probably was available during the 1876 Philadelphia celebration of the Centennial of the Declaration of Independence. This led to lower prices, but large or unique pieces remain popular and high priced.

A punch bowl with a diameter of 11 1/2 inches sold several years ago at a Skinner auction in Boston for $5,228. It pictured 13 blue stars, the men in groups, and a spread-winged eagle with a body that looks like the Union Shield.

I heard a story that the first “Star Wars” toys were offered for sale before they were made, so the company sold an IOU letter for the first toy characters and more. Is that true? How long was it after the movie was shown before the toys were for sale?

The first “Star Wars” movie was released May 25, 1977. Kenner Products, a Cincinnati toy company, had bought the rights to make toys based on the film. But there was not enough time to make small plastic figures, just board games.

The popularity of the movie signaled that the toys would be bestsellers, so they sold an IOU for $11.99 that could be redeemed at Christmas for an early-bird box of puzzles, stickers, membership in the Star Wars Club, Luke Skywalker’s autograph and future delivery of the four figures. The toys were delivered in March 1978.

Of course the early-bird box, the contents, and the first toys are the Star Wars collectors “holy grails.” It is said that a package in great condition would sell for $7,500 or more.

There have been eight movies and more, and another movie due later this year. Their popularity adds to the fame and price of the memorabilia.

Current Prices

Advertising card, Washburn-Crosby Flour, cow and calf, food bags, 6 x 4 inches, $10.

Bank, Swiss cottage, tin lithograph, Stollwerck’s Chocolate, key lock, roof, 3 1/4 inches, $90.

Doll, A.M., black pottery head, sleep eyes, open mouth, curly wig, grass skirt, 14 inches, $120.

Swimsuit, woman’s, magenta and green geometric design, Gottex, 1960s, size 6, $325.

Tip: Use a credit card to scrape hardened candle wax from a table.

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