Trash or Treasure: World War II poster collectible even without affiliation
“It was a wedding gift from my father’s best friend,” Brian Beaudin recently told expert Brian Thomczek at an appraisal session held at the Michigan Design Center in Troy. “We were married on May 24, 1987.”
The item in question? A 24-by-30-inch World War II poster, which has “Jam Handy” and “1943” written in pencil on the back. The front reads: “Here’s The Fellow Who Brings You Back Alive” and “The Gunner.”
Beaudin knew some history of Jam Handy, who lived from 1886 to 1983 and was a one-time Olympic swimmer. “He used to do World War II posters and other promotional items from a building near the General Motors Building downtown,” he explained to the appraiser.
Thomczek said he was familiar with the name and did some further research on Handy, adding that “He did a lot of film work and General Motors things. He did one for the 1966 Camaro.”
The website of the Antique Automobile Club of America Library and Research Center (aacalibrary.org) has works in their collection and additional information about the company and Henry Jamison “Jam” Handy.
“Of particular interest is the library’s collection of films and filmstrips produced for GM’s Chevrolet division by The Jam Handy Organization (JHO), whose clients also included schools and even Coca-Cola. While all but forgotten today, the company played an important role in Chevrolet’s history by educating throngs of consumers and salespeople alike,” the article from Matthew Hocker reads.
“Once upon a time, the future didn’t look too bright for the company’s founder, Henry Jamison Handy. During his freshman year at the University of Michigan in 1903, Handy was kicked out of school over an article he wrote as a campus correspondent for the Chicago Tribune…Instead of giving up on life in the face of rejection, Handy persevered and found success working for the Chicago Tribune. During his time in the advertising department, Handy studied consumers and how they were driven to make a purchase. He theorized that a key component in selling a product was to have well-informed and enthusiastic salespeople. After training his salespeople, Handy found his hypothesis to be correct, as sales of the Tribune subsequently increased. After leaving the Chicago Tribune, Handy built upon his experience by becoming a trailblazer in the world of educational films. In fact, he had gained such a high reputation that the American military commissioned him to create training films during World War I. After the war, he founded the Jam Handy Organization, which continued to produce educational films up until 1968. The automobile industry would become their biggest client, especially Chevrolet.”
Thomczek said the poster was interesting, but he’s not sure if it once belonged to Handy or if he signed it on the back. “It’s made of illustrator board and may have been an advertisement or something.”
Either way, Thomczek said, “Handy lived a pretty interesting life. He may have had this in an office there. I don’t think he created this, but even just as a World War II poster it definitely has value. Not too many gunners made it back from the war, so if you think about those sacrifices, this has even more value and it’s pretty incredible.” The one-time Jam Handy headquarters on East Grand Boulevard is now an event space.
Thomczek valued the poster at $150 to $200, adding that “it may be worth even more if we could definitely pinpoint the artist who made it. As an example of illustrator art, it’s very collectible at the moment.”
He also advised Beaudin to consider investing a little into it to keep it for future generations. “If you like it, it’s well worth getting it reframed.”
Beaudin said he’s glad the wedding gift has appreciated it in the more than 30 years he has had it. “At the time, we would have really liked the $50 instead.”
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About this item
Item: World War II poster
Owned by: Brian Beaudin
Appraised by: Brian Thomczek
Estimated value: $150-$200 at auction and up