Flag

With help from our fine readers, I’ve come across many fascinating topics and unusual collections. Your submissions wind up being a treasure hunt for both of us. Keep those questions coming… 

I have a U.S. flag with 13 stars and was told it was from 1850, but I have no proof or provenance. Are 13-star flags of any value? 

– Liz, Phoenix  

They are more common than you may think. The 13-star U.S. flag has approximately 21 variations, with some being worth more than others.

The traditional flag pattern credited to Betsey Ross consisting of 13 stars in a circle is by far the most noted in folklore. While no historical evidence links Ross to the design, the legend began as early as 1876, when descendants began recounting her as the designer in their family history. 

The transitions of star placements typically created the names for U.S. flag variations including Snowflake, Scattered, Oval with three central stars, Cowpens, the 4-5-4 and one the rarest and most sought-after, the Trumbull pattern. The Trumbull, featuring 12 stars in a square pattern with the thirteenth in the middle, was named after its creator, Revolutionary War patriot and artist John Trumbull.  

As pieces of patriotic history with varying availability and provenance, the value of U.S. flags can vary widely. A Betsy Ross-style 13-star flag with little documentation recently sold at an auction in Maine for $700; whereas a six-pointed Great Star pattern with a stronger validation sold for $4,000.  

I have a hand-painted mug featuring Gonzo from The Muppets by Sigma Tastesetter with the original box and tag. I have not been able to find a true value for this so-called treasure. I hope that with your knowledge and resources you may be able to help. 

 – Michael, Sun City  

This one made me giddy – I loved The Muppets as a child. The Great Gonzo or Gonzo the Great, as he used to be called, is the resident daredevil performance artisté on The Muppet Show. He is an odd-looking, unclassifiable alien creature with blue fur, bug eyes and a long, crooked nose. He takes pride in his uniqueness and enjoys everything he does, no matter how painful or ill-advised it may be.  

Sigma Tastesetter was a New York-based importer/distributor of giftware that started in the late 1960s. Later it became known as the Towle International Company that became a leader in Sesame Street and Star Wars products and other figural cookie jars. Most common of The Muppets mugs were Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog. Gonzo was made more scarcely and is now more difficult to find.

A comfortable, current fair-market value for your Gonzo mug would be $100-$200 depending upon condition.  

Tune in next month for the further questions by our readers. 

— Contact Tom with a question or an appraisal issue: damshill@yahoo.com or send your letter to 5525 N. 12th St., Phoenix, 85014.