Copyright © Harry Rinker, LLC 2017

Forgotten Giants - Part III

Forgotten Giants is about our roots, those pioneers whose contributions laid the foundation of the antiques and collectibles business. These individuals blazed the trail and shaped the course of this fascinating hobby turned industry. The goal of the series is to resurrect these pioneers from obscurity and return them to their rightful place of honor by introducing them to contemporary appraisers, auctioneers, collectors, dealers, and others.

The initial columns will focus on the authors of reference books that were instrumental in establishing and defining major collecting categories and tradecraft philosophy. The following individuals have been honored: Part I -- Henry J. Kauffman and George Michael; Part II – Marion T. Hartung and Richard (Dick) Bueschel. As the series progresses, individuals from other aspects of the trade, such as editors and dealers, also will be honored.

[Author’s Aside: I had the privilege of knowing many of these individuals. Some served as my mentors. When appropriate, I will share my personal remembrances.]

When I assumed the editorship of “Warman’s Antiques and Their Prices” in 1981, I received two boxes of reference books from Stanley and Katherine Greene, Warman Publishing’s new owners. Included were copies of several glass reference books written by William Roy “Bill” Heacock. In the intervening years, I acquired all 27 glass books Heacock authored for the Rinker Enterprises, Inc., reference library.

William “Bill” Heacock, son of Arland Roy Heacock and Patty Gwendolyn Burt, was born on August 14, 1947 in Dallas, Texas. After graduating from L. D. Bell High School in Hurst in 1966, Bill worked for two years for Western Union Company. He started collecting American glass and documenting its many manufacturers, types, and forms. In 1971, Bill was located in Jonesville, Michigan, and started dealing in American glass.

In 1975, Heacock became a contributing editor for “Rainbow Review Glass Journals.” The first volume of his nine-volume “Encyclopedia of Victorian Colored Glass: Opalescent Glass from A to Z” was published in 1974. The series included: Volume I – colored pattern glass (a later reprint of the series replaced the title with a book on toothpicks); Volume II – opalescent glass (a Book II for Volume II focusing on opalescent glass followed later); Volume III – syrups, sugar shakers, and cruets; Volume IV – custard glass; Volume V – U.S. Glass; Volume VI – oil cruets; Volume VII – ruby stained glass; Volume VIII – more ruby stained glass; and Volume IX – cranberry opalescent glass.

As with many of the pioneer glass researchers and authors, Heacock believed in sharing his knowledge with the collecting public as quickly as possible. As expected, other collectors responded, adding to and correcting errors in Heacock’s research. Undaunted by this, Heacock revised many of his titles and distributed errata sheets to those who purchased earlier editions. I remember having to take care when taking a Heacock volume from the shelf for fear an errata sheet or two might drop to the floor.

Heacock was diligent in tracking down the records of glass manufacturers, visiting factories, and exploring the shards and other material recovered from waste dumps. He also went to great lengths to document reproductions, copycats, and fantasy pieces. Most of his glass titles contained a section on this material.

I spoke via phone with Bill on several occasions. He was most courteous, taking time to answer in detail every question I asked. His commitment to unconditionally sharing his knowledge was refreshing, especially at a time when knowledge was considered proprietary by most collectors and dealers.

Heacock helped found the Historical Glass Museum in Redlands, California. [See: http://historicalglassmuseum.com/aboutus.html]. He assumed the editorship of “The Glass Collector,” a quarterly publication based in Ohio, in 1976. In 1986, Heacock moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He died on August 13, 1988, a victim of AIDS. [For more information, see:

[Authors Aside: While writing this column, I spent time researching Heacock’s 27 book titles on the Internet. What surprised me was not their availability, but how inexpensive they were, most examples priced under $10.00. In this case, “Forgotten” means bargain prices. Anyone with an interest in late nineteenth and early twentieth century glass is well advised to take advantage of these low prices.]

Here is a trivia question. Name the antiques and collectibles author who was a press agent and then had his own press agency that helped develop comedic talents such as Rodney Dangerfield and Flip Wilson, wrote gags for Woody Allen, Victor Borge, and Joan Rivers, authored dozens of novels, some under the name of Brad Latham, created two syndicated comic strips, and developed gags for seven syndicated and magazine cartoonists? The answer is Richard O’Brien, born June 13, 1934 in Flushing, Queens County, New York.

O’Brien attended Brooklyn College and served in the United States Army. Early in his professional career, Richard became fascinated with toy soldiers and the history of the manufacturers who made them. O’Brien is best known for “Collecting Toys: A Collector’s Identification & Value Guide.” He edited eight editions, increasing the book size from 319 pages in the first edition to 766 in the eighth edition. O’Brien was one of the first price guide authors to use a Board of Advisors. Collectors were honored to write the chapter focused on their collecting specialty.

A sampling of O’Brien’s other titles included “Collecting Toy Cars & Trucks: A Collector’s Identification and Value Guide,” “Collecting Toy Soldiers: An Identification and Value Guide,” and “Collecting Toy Trains: Identification and Value Guide,” all of which experienced multiple editions. His “The Story of American Toys: From the Puritans to the Present,” published by Abbeville Press in 1992, is a favorite of mine.

O’Brien began his publishing career with Books Americana, a name long forgotten in the history of antiques and collectibles reference book publishing. When Krause acquired Books Americana, Richard transitioned to the new company.

Richard’s toy soldier research interests resulted in the publication of “Researching American-Made Toy Soldiers: 32 Years of Articles,” published by Ramble House. Articles included “The Women Behind Toy Soldiers” and “Solving the Mystery of Composition Soldiers,” a two-part series.

After the publication of the eighth edition of “Collecting Toys: A Collector’s Identification & Value Guide,” O’Brien sold his copyright to Krause with a stipulation that his name continue to be associated with the title. Collectors noticed an immediate difference between the level and quality of information in the titles O’Brien edited and those that followed. For toy devotees, the Toy Bible reference books remain those Richard touched directly.

O’Brien was a regular attendee at toy shows. His gregarious personality, exuberance, and willingness to take the time to talk to anyone who approached him endeared him to collectors and dealers. He appreciated the knowledge of others and gave credit where credit was due.

Once he decided to retire, O’Brien was able to achieve the unachievable – walk away from something he loved with no regrets. He moved to Beaufort, South Carolina, where, at the age of 64, he took up surfing on Hunting Island. O’Brien died on May 18, 2012.

[For more information, see: http://www.toydirectory.com/monthly/article.asp?id=4965; https://findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=90471722]

Each Forgotten Giants “Rinker on Collectibles” column focuses on two individuals. Future columns will focus on Dorothy Hammond, Ruth Webb Lee, and Albert Christian Revi.

Is there someone you would like to nominate for my Forgotten Giants series? I also welcome any personal remembrances you wish to share about your interactions with one of these Forgotten Giants. Email your recommendations and observations to harrylrinker@aol.com .

Harry L. Rinker welcomes questions from readers about collectibles, those mass-produced items from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.  Selected letters will be answered in this column.  Harry cannot provide personal answers.  Photos and other material submitted cannot be returned.  Send your questions to: Rinker on Collectibles, 5955 Mill Point Court SE, Kentwood, MI  49512.  You also can e-mail your questions to harrylrinker@aol.com. Only e-mails containing a full name and mailing address will be considered.

You can listen and participate in WHATCHA GOT?, Harry’s antiques and collectibles radio call-in show, on Sunday mornings between 8:00 AM and 10:00 AM Eastern Time.  If you cannot find it on a station in your area, WHATCHA GOT? streams live on the Internet at www.gcnlive.com.


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