48 Star Flag / eBay "Gambling"

Discussion in 'Flag Identification and Collecting' started by coasterville, Mar 10, 2011.

  1. coasterville

    coasterville Member

    Well, last weekend I was browsing through the world's largest flea market in the world, otherwise known as eBay. Didn't really know what I wanted, but then some 48 star flags caught me eye. I started looking through the offerings.

    If eBay were a real flea market imagine walking through it. First you start with the indoor stalls, these are the high rent, climate controlled booths. The vendors are regulars, some of which you have developed a rapport with. It would be wise to remember these guys are in it as a business and are for profit.

    You look around, you decide to venture outside to the shelterhouse. At least you are under cover, but you are outside. The rent goes down, and you get into your amatuer dealers.

    Forget that too, let's go out past the shelters to the painted cubes on the ground, outside, no cover, and fully exposed. These are the novices, here is where people who just want to get rid of stuff load up rubbermaid tubs and card tables. Some great deals to be had here, if you know what you are looking at.

    OK, back to me and Ebay. I saw a listing, no gallery picture, "48 Star American Flag" Price being $15.00 BIN. I click into the item. The item description isn't much more helpful "48 Star American Flag - 3x5"

    But there is a photo!

    Oh wait, its taken in bad lighting, from a distance, but the flag is sitting on a white bedsheet or tarp. That may be good in showing how white the stripes still are, or it may be hiding damage. There is no zoom or enlargement available. Seller is a 100% feedback seller, so they have that going for them, which is nice.

    But from what I can see the colors still look vibrant, the flag looks intact from header to fly. But what catches my eye is the box the flag comes in. It looks like it could be a period box. Blue box, drawing of an American flag in a big white circle with the word FLAG written under it, I think also in blue in a white block.

    I decide for $15, even if its a nice reproduction I'm ahead, and I need a 48 star flag for the collection. I throw 3 red chips in the pot. Expected delivery time is this coming weekend.

    Wish me luck.
  2. NAVA1974

    NAVA1974 Active Member

    Good Luck, Coasterville!

    eBay can be a great place to find bargains, or get royally taken!:p

    I won this little lot on eBay a couple of months ago and it was just described as "Victorian Scraps, flags."
    It turns out that above the paper die cuts are two miniature silk 38-star flags. The lot that cost me less than $3 was worth more than $50 because of those two little gems.:D

    On the other hand, whoever bought this "Antique Miniature American Flag 13 stars"
    and paid $159.49 got ripped off because it is a 1976 Bicentennial reproduction from a set of 48 flags that routinely sells on eBay for less than $20 for all 48 flags.:eek:

    Caveat emptor.

    Nick A
    Columbia Maryland
  3. coasterville

    coasterville Member

    Same thing can happen at trade shows. Especially with a slick talker. Back in college I had a guy who got me interested in collecting pez dispensers. We went to a collector show. Long story short they had a euro market set of the glow in the dark haloween ghosts. They wanted $25 for the set of four and they 'misrepresented' the product by saying that due to the glow in the dark dye the FDA would not allow them here in the USA. Thus was in July, three months later we walk into walgreens and see them for $1.29 each. Both of us were not happy

    He used to keep one of the items he got royally taken on with eBay next to his computer as a reminder against impulse bidding.

    In this case I really have no knowledge in the old flag collecting arena, but for $15 I'll take a chance. One thing is clear, there are enough 48 star flags out there in all sizes and descriptions for anybody that wants one.

    My thought process is that most people would have discarded the box shortly after taking the flag out. The bad photo also shows evidence the flag has been folded, so my hope is that somebody got the flag, maybe as a gift, tucked it box and all into a closet and now someone else, maybe the next generation were cleaning out, and just put it up on eBay to get rid of it. Worst case I can put it back on eBay with better photos and description and get at least $15 back.
  4. coasterville

    coasterville Member

    Well, today is the day, today my postal person delivered a plain brown box to my doorstep.

    I could tell by the return address that it should be my flag. Outer plain brown box was packed really well. Inside it, well packed to prevent shuffling. (As if you can damage a flag by shaking) I found the following box:

    48 Star Flag - Box top by Coasterville, on Flickr

    Okay, by the box top its a Defiance flag - and the manufacturer mark in the bottom corner is one I am familiar with: Annin.

    I look at the box front - savoring like a Christmas present:

    48 Star Flag - box edge by Coasterville, on Flickr

    I open the box and remove the contents - 1 flag, no brochures or other paperwork:

    48 Star Flag - Overview - in fine shape by Coasterville, on Flickr

    As you can see, the colors are still in fine shape. A close examination of the flag, going down each stripe one by one reveals no rips, no holes, no stains, no evidence of repair work. I mean it looks as if it was hardly ever used. The box top had a hand written note, all I could make out was "election flag" which might indicate it was given to somebody to commemorate and election.

    The construction of the flag appears to be cotton with sewn stripes and a dyed/printed canton.

    48 Star Flag - Canton - Dyed stars by Coasterville, on Flickr

    (continued next post as I think there is a 4 photo per post limit)
  5. coasterville

    coasterville Member

    SO I next go to look for markings on the flag, and find one in the header in about the usual place. Printed in that familiar purple mimeograph style ink "PIONEER 3x5" Hmm, the box said Defiance, and the one panel gave the 'brand' names for the nylon, cotton, and wool flags of the day and none said "Pioneer" Possible flag/box mismatch?

    48 Star Flag - manufacturer mark "PIONEER 3X5" - dyed canton by Coasterville, on Flickr

    I noted the canton is sewn all the way around. By this I mean, I looked at a modern day Nyl-Glo, and the header is attached to the flag by mean of a row or two of stitchwork between the grommets and the body of the flag. This flag the two rows of stitching form a rectangle all the way around the edge of the header.

    I took a careful peak at the 4 rows of fly end stitching - and it looks to be intact. I know that is usually the weakest part of a flag, and both fly end corners look to be near mint.

    48 Star Flag - fly corner detail - still in fine shape by Coasterville, on Flickr

    48 Star Flag - fly corner detail - still in fine shape by Coasterville, on Flickr

    So, for $15 I am very happy with my new flag which I guess is the most important thing. IF any of the more experienced flag collectors would care to fill me in on what I am holding, other than "a 48 star 3x5 flag" I'd much appreciate it.

    Advice also appreciated as this may be my first flag that has any real history behind it. After all, IF it is truly period, it is at least 52 years old. Any special care instructions I should note. When I do my annual summer weekly progression through the "Flags of Our Country" (Betsy Ross, Bennington, Star Spangled Banner, Grand Union) should I have any qualms about flying this flag? OR since it may be 52+ years old, perhaps I'll go the framed/shadowbox route with it.
  6. NAVA1974

    NAVA1974 Active Member

    Re: 48 Star Flag / Mystery deepens!


    "Pioneer" is a brand name used by Valley Forge Flag Company. Here's a picture from their 1934 catalog:


    The original price of your Valley Forge Pioneer Cotton flag was $11.00.

    PER DOZEN! :eek:

    Still, I think $15 for a mint-condtion 48-star flag is a steal. :cool:


    As far as flying the flag, I woul save that one until I found another eBay bargain, and save the better of the two flags, and fly the other. The retail cost of a new 3x5 flag with sewn stripes is at least $15 so it is not like you are paying more to fly a historic relic.

    Nick A
    Columbia Maryland
  7. csaanv

    csaanv Member

    Sweet! You scored!
  8. Robin Hickman

    Robin Hickman Well-Known Member


    GOOD JOB, DAVE !!! :D :D :D :D

    Robin Hickman
    Eugene, Oregon, USa
  9. Nice flag indeed! and a bargain!!
    I like it.. such vibrant colors :D
    I have a couple of really nice 48s...

    The best flag bargain I ever picked up was in 2006 with my big cotton 10x15 flag, sewn stripes, embroidered stars each nearly the size of my hand, flag in perfect condition, was never flown- probably due to its impressive size.. it had strong reinforced hoops at each end of the halyard,... $50 !
  10. csaanv

    csaanv Member

    My best flag bargain was when I bought a mint condition 50 star casket flag for $30 and when it arrived it was really a 49 star flag! Needless to say I left good feedback.
  11. NAVA1974

    NAVA1974 Active Member

    Good deal! 49 star flags are hot on eBay (when they are listed as 49s!)

    I have won a 44-star flag and a 46-star flag that were advertised as 48-star flags, and a 49 that was advertised as a 50. You can find some gems on eBay if you know what you are looking at.

    Here's a link to the 44-star flag:
    44 Star Flag 1891-1896 With Holder | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
    Clearly the seller just counted 8 stars in the top row and saw six rows...

    Nick A
    Columbia Maryland
  12. coasterville

    coasterville Member

    Great stories all. Yes, you have to know what you are looking at, and in some cases know better than the seller. Counting the stars in the photo gave you guys some great deals. Funny how people just assume 50 or 48 or whatever, too lazy to count them I guess. Their loss, your gain.

    Yes, casket size 48 star flags are very common on eBay. From what I have gathered here and other places, unless their is a verifiable story behind a particular 48 star flag, their only worth is sentimental or nostalgia, just so many of them floating around. A glance at eBay on any given day is enough to tell you there are enough to go around to anybody that wants one. Just have to wait and snipe the right one. (And avoid the $5.00 'reproductions', though I guess since all past flags are still valid flags with full force, they really aren't repros I guess.)

    I'm guessing the cause of the phenomenal deal on your car dealer size (ok, I'll be nicer, Perkins size) flag is not setting a proper minimum or reserve. Unless you get a business client, there just really isn't a market for flags of that size by the general hobbyist. I mean, you'd need what a 50' pole to display it properly astethetically, or have a large amount of wall space to dedicate to it.
  13. Robin Hickman

    Robin Hickman Well-Known Member

    Gee !!!

    Great eBay finds, one and all !!! :D

    It almost makes me want to go and hunt around and try to find my $1.25 eBay "bargain" U.S. Flag that arrived at my house last May. If I find it, I might take a couple of pictures of it and post them here.

  14. NAVA1974

    NAVA1974 Active Member

    Have you considered asking the seller if s/he knows how a Valley Forge flag ended up in an Annin box?:p
  15. coasterville

    coasterville Member

    No, and I didn,t think of that. So can we put a date range on the flag based on the pioneer brand?

    Maybe valley forge was out of boxes and borrowed some from annin. ;).

    Forgot to add the flag does have that musty smell you get with old fabric but you have to be close to it smell it, it's not strong at all but it helps reassure me it is an old flag.
  16. Robin Hickman

    Robin Hickman Well-Known Member

    Since you can buy "New Car Smell" in spray bottles, I wonder if they have "Old Flag Smell", too ????

    :D :D :D :D

    Robin Hickman
    Eugene, Oregon, USA
  17. :D:D:D:D!!!
    I like 'old flag smell!'

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