By Marsie Hall Newbold
Who: Laurel Abrams, 55, of Symmes Township, a retired teacher and collector of Royal Doulton Toby mugs.
On display: More than 170 of the colorful vessels bearing the faces of fictional and nonfictional characters such as Jimmy Durante, Louis Armstrong, Henry VIII, the Mad Hatter, Annie Oakley, Groucho Marx and Don Quixote.
Where: Most are in a large curio cabinet in the home she shares with husband Ron, a veterinarian; their son, Jordan, 12; a dog; a cat; a chinchilla; and a 20-year-old goldfish. The overflow tops an entertainment center.
Romantic remembrance: "My husband and I got started on our collection almost 33 years ago while honeymooning in Niagara Falls and Toronto," she explains. "I saw my first, Captain Hook, and wanted him as a memento. He cost all of $14 and Ron asked, 'What do you need this for?' "
When the couple returned to Cincinnati, they researched the mugs and found that they were coveted collectibles.
Cheers! The china mugs come in various sizes and have handles depicting something about the character. (For example: The Pied Piper's handle is a flute with a rat on it.) Long ago, in England, the prototypes were used as steins from which to drink ale.
"From time to time, a character is retired and the mold is broken," she says. "As a discontinued model, it becomes scarce and thus appreciates in value. Little did we know when purchasing Captain Hook that this was the case."
On the lookout: The Abramses add to their collection by visiting discount stores and buying from other hobbyists.
Like-minded folk: "When we first started out, we naively paid retail prices," she admits. "But then we started subscribing to a newspaper called Antique Trader and found people who wanted to sell duplicates or entire collections."
Captain Hook remains her favorite mug. "I often remind Ron that our $14 investment is worth over $800 today," she says.
Share your prize possessions with Marsie Hall Newbold by mail: c/o The Cincinnati Enquirer, 312 Elm St., Cincinnati 45202: e-mail:
email@example.com. Please include a daytime, weekday phone number.
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