I recently picked up the Pepsin Horned Owl pinback to complete the series. I’ve run across conflicting accounts of what constitutes a full set so thought I’d share my findings.
The most authoritative account I’ve seen of the series was in Hake’s Buttons and Sets. They say there are 25 pins in the set. I have an old Whitehead & Hoag advertisement listing a number of different sets they had for sale. One was “Rare and Handsome Birds” – 21 in set (45 cents).
I believe W&H’s “Rare and Handsome Birds” is the exact same set as Pepsin’s unnamed bird series which were produced by Whitehead & Hoag as well. Hake’s checklist includes duplicates of 2 images – the Bob-O-Link and the Baltimore Oriole. The only difference between the 2 pairs is corrections of minor misspellings in the bird’s names. These should be considered variations and not full members of the set.
That still leaves Hake’s with 2 more images in the set than in the W&H ad. I believe the Game Rooster and the Sea Gull, which Hake’s includes, were not part of either sets. The text on both is half again as large as the text on the other 21 pins. The Sea Gull isn’t really rare or handsome. I’ve run across another Whitehead & Hoag produced pinback with the same Sea Gull image but advertising ‘Sea Gull Floating Soap’.
I think the Gull and the Rooster were W&H stock images, maybe used in some other series but not the “Rare and Handsome Birds”. I’ve collected Pepsin bird pinbacks for a number of years and have never seen another image other than the 23 shown here. It would be natural to assume all belonged in the same series. The pins are the same size and quite similar overall.
Here’s the checklist for the “Rare and Handsome Birds” series as named by Whitehead & Hoag. I know of no reference showing Pepsin named their set. I’ve seen all 21 images with Pepsin back labels and most but not all with W&H only labels. I assume I’ll find them all eventually.
A master set would include both Pepsin and Whitehead & Hoag only back labels. I believe all 21 were issued in both ways. Then there’s the 2 spelling variations. I haven’t seen enough backs to know if the misspellings are found in both back types. Maybe not.
Then there’s the demoted Rooster and Gull. If you’re going to collect the set you might as well include them. I don’t think Pepsin put out any other pinback images featuring a bird. I’d like to know if someone knows of more.