Collecting The Gold Dust Twins Black Americana

  • 01 of 03

    Politically Incorrect Advertising Memorabilia Still Holds Value

    Gold Dust Twins Advertising Cut Out
    Gold Dust Twins Washing Powder Cut Out Display, Ca. 1915, Sold for $1,560 at Morphy Auctions in December 2012. - Photo Courtesy of Morphy Auctions

    The Gold Dust Twins, nicknamed “Goldie” and “Dustie,” reportedly appeared in graphics for Fairbank’s cleaning products as early as 1892. These politically incorrect items are now considered to be examples of highly collectible Black Americana. They were featured on everything from die-cut store displays and product packaging to match safes and postcards for decades after their introduction.

    Early product packaging featured a more realistic depiction of two African American children surrounded by a mound of gold coins in yellow and black colors. Later boxes and canisters show the caricature adaptation of the twins switching to orange and black. Some items, like the rare and valuable advertising cut out dating to 1915 shown above, feature both forms of imagery.

    These caricatures were a part of American culture in the late-Victorian era moving into the early 1900s like so many other cartoonish depictions of a similar nature. But that doesn’t mean that everyone approved of them. According to Encyclopedia of African American History, 1896 to the Present edited by Paul Finkleman, "In 1914, the National Association of Colored Women challenged the manufacturers of the Gold Dust Twins soap powder to stop using stereotypical images of blacks on the labels of their products." Nevertheless, the images were used repeatedly in marketing campaigns through the mid-1950s. Gradually, cultural acceptance of this type of advertising imagery began to wane moving toward the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

    Today this type of memorabilia is valuable to those who seek both advertising collectibles and black memorabilia alike. The subject matter, obviously considered unacceptable for use today, provides a contrasting perspective many collectors of Black Americana want to exhibit in their collections. Since most of the containers featuring the Gold Dust Twins were discarded after the contents were used, scarcity increases their value. Condition is also a factor when determining value, since advertising items in general, and product packages like these made of paper or thin cardboard, were never designed to stand the test of time.

    Rare die-cut store displays in excellent condition can sell in the thousands. Other hard to find advertising examples in very good to excellent condition almost always sell in the hundreds, if not thousands, when marketed by knowledgeable dealers and auction houses specializing in advertising memorabilia.

    About the Example Shown Above:

    This Gold Dust Washing Powder display dates to around 1915. It is a rarely found example in excellent condition overall with very minor stains, edge and hinge bends, marks and wear including a few tape marks on top to support the flap wings. It measures 22 3/4" wide. This item sold for $1,560 (not including buyer's premium) through Morphy Auctions in 2012.

    Continue to 2 of 3 below.
  • 02 of 03

    Gold Dust Twins Shipping Carton

    Gold Dust Twins Shipping Carton
    Gold Dust Twins Shipping Carton. Photo courtesy of Morphy Auctions

    Although not as widely available as they were 10 to 20 years ago, advertising pages from old magazines hawking these products are some of the most affordable Gold Dust Twins items available to today’s collectors. These usually range in price from $10 to $40 or so depending on the complexity of the illustration, amount of color used in the illustration, and condition. 

    Occasionally you'll run across an original product package in good condition for less than $100 as well. These are most often washing powder boxes or scouring powder canisters, but other more unusual items surface from time to time reasonably priced. 

    This includes shipping cartons like the one shown here. While it is indeed in poor condition on one end, the graphics with the familiar slogan "Let the Gold Dust Twins Do Your Work" are in great shape making it attractive to collectors just the same.

    Selling for just $25 (not including buyer's premium) at auction, this is the type of bargain find most anyone interested in Black Americana, more specifially Gold Dust Twins memorabilia, can afford. 

    Continue to 3 of 3 below.
  • 03 of 03

    Gold Dust Twins Thanksgiving Postcard

    Gold Dust Twins Thanksgiving Advertising Postcard, c. early 1900s
    Gold Dust Twins Thanksgiving Advertising Postcard, c. early 1900s. - Photo courtesy of Morphy Auctions

    Memorabilia like this Thanksgiving postcard advertising Fairbank’s Gold Dust Twins Washing Powder, as offensive as it may be to many people, is as collectible now as it was 10 to 20 years ago. As examples of Black Americana, they represent a time decades ago when it was acceptable to use this type of imagery to sell products. The Twins were just another marketing ploy akin to the Cream of Wheat chef and Aunt Jemima.

    These days, the politically incorrect nature of Gold Dust Twins memorabilia drives the collector's market and its high value. Add in that this one includes Thanksgiving related imagery, and that makes it even more unusual, so the price goes even higher. Condition plays a part as well given that this example is noted in the auction description to be in very good to excellent condition.

    There is also great crossover appeal with this type of card. Collectors of advertising items appreciate these cards as do postcard collectors, along with collectors of Black Americana. This drives the competition to own them so competition can be fierce, and that handily bolsters prices as well.

    As an example, this particular postcard sold for $180 (not including buyer’s premium) at Morphy Auctions in October of 2014 falling right in line with the pre-auction estimate of $150-200. In comparison to other non-black Americana advertising postcards and trade cards from the early 1900s, that’s a hefty sum. Most would sell in the $3 to $10 range. Add the fact that the Gold Dust Twins are dressed like pilgrims, and the price skyrockets.