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Collecting Not-So-Swanky Swanky Swigs

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Swanky whats? you might ask.

Well, for one thing, they're not as swanky as the name implies. They are, in fact, the fairly humble decorated glasses made as containers for Kraft Cheese Spreads — from pineapple to pimiento, Limburger to Old English to zesty Roka —decorated with tulips and spinning wheels. You may remember drinking milk from one in your grandma's kitchen. Today, they make a colorful and largely inexpensive collectible.

Kraft introduced them in the 1930s, though production was suspended not long after due to the shortage of paint needed for the war effort. Production resumed after World War II; they continued to be made until 1976 — one of the last patterns issued was a Bicentennial Tulip in 1975.

Measuring 4 1/2 inches — other sizes were made for distribution in Canada, and are referred to by collectors as Canadian — Swanky Swigs were decorated with a wide range of stylized motifs. They ranged from abstract dots, stars and checkerboard squares to a variety of flowers, animals, sailboats and nostalgic Gay '90s-type figures — including a character known as Bustlin' Betty. You might also recall a line depicting evocative if kitschy antique objects such as coal scuttles, lamps, kettles, coffee grinders, spinning wheels, bellows, cradles, clocks butter churns, coffee pots and trivets.

In addition, Kraft offered a series of Kiddie Cups, which featured groups of animals in autumnal tones of brown, green, orange and black. Some of the odd-couple combos were a deer and a squirrel, a kitten and a bunny, a pony and a duck, and a puppy and a rooster. There were also pigs, chipmunks, bears, birds and elephants.

In 1951, the company introduced smaller clear glasses with indented designs, while also continuing with the color silkscreen Kraft Cheese Spread Swanky Swigs. Those they discontinued in 1976, making only the clear indented glasses, until 27 years later when they made a few color-decorated Swanky Swigs.

These led the way for other decorated character glass containers, such as the Welch's jelly jar with images of Howdy Doody.

Swanky Swig lids form their own category of collectible advertiques. In cheerful tones of red, yellow and blue, they touted a variety of other Kraft products: Kraft Dinner, caramel candy, mustard, Miracle Whip salad dressing and Kraftone chocolate-flavored milk. Lids also advertised premiums the company was offering on radio and TV that Kraft was sponsoring. These shows included "The Kraft Music Hall" hosted by Bing Crosby and "The Great Gildersleeve." These sell for $5 and up, depending on their condition and the appeal of their written message.

Most Swigs sell in the $1-$20 price range, but there are exceptions. There were some special issues made in the late 1930s and early '40s for various entities, such as Lewis-Pacific Dairyman's Association and National 4-H Club Congress, that are valued at around $300-$350. Some of the earliest flower and other subjects can reach three figures as well. More typical are these prices recorded in the latest "Garage Sale Flea Market Annual" (Collector Books):

— Bustlin' Betty, blue, brown, green, orange, red or yellow, small size $4, large size, $8.

— Checkerboard pattern, white with blue, green or red, 1936, 3 inches, $20.

— Cornflower No. 1, light blue and green, 1941, 4 5/8 inches, $20.

— Kiddie Kup, black, blue, brown, green, orange or red, 1956, 3 3/4 inches, $3.

— Dots Forming Diamonds, any color, 1935, 3 1/2 inches, $50

Wildlife Series, black bear, Canadian goose, moose or red fox, large size, 1975, 4 5/8 inches, $20

— Texas Centennial, black, blue, green or red, 1936, 3 1/2 inches, $30

Linda Rosenkrantz has edited Auction magazine and authored 18 books, including "Cool Names for Babies" and "The Baby Name Bible" (St. Martin's Press). Visit her baby names website at http://nameberry.com. She cannot answer letters personally. To find out more about Linda Rosenkrantz and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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