by Dr. Lori Verderame
Antique salesman samples (a.k.a. salesman’s samples, or salesmen samples) are small scale versions of actual commercial products that were used to sell a particular product. These small scale objects were used by salesmen to show new products to retail dealers, manufacturers, and customers. Commonly used in the 19th and 20th Centuries by door to door salesmen and manufacturers, salesman samples were made of various materials, showed extensive and important details, highlighted accessory pieces, and were demonstrated along with marketing brochures and advertisements.
At the height of their popularity and widespread use, many products were marketed by salesmen using these small scale product samples. In the early days, most small salesman samples actually worked just as the full scale product would work. However, after the 1920s, a good number of these salesman samples did not work but rather were used as visual representations of the product. This can help you date your salesman sample.
Types of Salesman Samples
Some of the long list of early products that were marketed and sold with the aid of salesman samples included kitchen stoves and other kitchen collectibles, chests of drawers, farm tractors, plows, and other equipment made by John Deere, tool kits, grist mills, rock crushers, ice boxes, steam rollers, general store scales, leather bound old books and Holy Bibles, Glascock coolers, Coca Cola coolers and Coca Cola bottles, bathtubs, model steam engines, cast iron skillets, cash registers, sewing machines, typewriters, shoes, toilets, etc. These samples were used to sell a product and to make the life of a salesman on the road much easier. The salesman could use the small scale product sample to make his sales pitch, demonstrate the fine attributes of his product to his potential clients, and then pack up the small item and hit the road to visit his next customer.
What to Look For
Depending on the type, condition, age, and origin of the salesman sample, these small scale models can be very desirable and expensive to collect. Rare salesman samples are the most collectible and many were made using the same blue prints and instructions as the actual full size product. Salesman samples still command high values on the antiques market.
It is easy to confuse a true salesman sample from toys or children’s items. Look for great detail and specific aspects of the product. These details are not what you would find on a small scale toy. Also, salesman samples of the same product made in many different colors are also very desirable. Salesman samples usually have product names on them and prominent company logos. Most salesman samples were made to 1/6 scale or 1/8 scale when compared to the actual product, machine, or piece of equipment.
Get an online appraisal report of your salesman sample from Dr. Lori.