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Gresham man discovers his model airplane is worth $3,500

by: PHOTO BY JIM CLARK  - Dick Ehr spent the past six weeks researching and restoring his 1933 model airplane with his son, Stu.Weighing more than 6 pounds, Dick Ehr’s 79-year-old model airplane was never meant to be a toy. “It’s almost as old as I am,” Ehr says.

However, it’s wasn’t a relic that Ehr grew up with. The two had separate lives until about 30 years ago, when Ehr stumbled across a mismatched box of knickknacks at an auction in Portland.{img:1477}

Ehr purchased the $20 box. He doesn’t remember anything else from the box. He does remember wondering about the model plane, which came with no information. Onto a shelf it went. Years passed. Then, about six weeks ago, Ehr’s son, Stu, became interested it.

Stu had grown up with a passion for aviation. He’d had many toy and model airplanes and visited museums. Now, the 56-year-old wanted to know what exactly this plane was.

The father-son team didn’t have much to work with. “We had part of a label,” Stu says.

Dick asked a friend who had retired from Boeing about the plane, but the former employee couldn’t tell him anything.

The two sent emails to various members of airplane associations. They heard back from Anthony Lawler, a model airplane collector whose planes have been exhibited in many museums, including the San Francisco Airport Aviation Library and Museum.

“The model was made circa 1933 by A.C. Rehberger in Chicago,” Lawler says. “One-hundred were offered for sale to employees back in ‘33-’34 for about $10 each.”

Dick remembers that in 1933, $10 was a lot of money. It would be the equivalent of about $177 today, according to the inflation calculator on the Bureau of Labor Statistics website.

by: PHOTO BY JIM CLARK  - The Boeing Model 247 was the first modern passenger airliner. It held 10 passengers. In 1933, 100 models of the plane were sold to Boeing employees for $10.According to the information found on Boeing’s website, the full-size Boeing 247 was “was an all-metal, twin-engine airplane and the first modern passenger airliner.” Seventy-five were built, and it took 20 hours and seven stops to fly from New York to Los Angeles. It could transport 10 people.

Dick Ehr remembers flying in a similar model, a Douglas DC-3, on his way back home from serving as a combat construction specialist in the Army. He said the 247 was the first that really paid attention to passenger comfort. “It was like switching from a Model T to a Cadillac,” he says.

After finding out what it was, Ehr set to restoring his plane. “It was a lot of rubbing and using a Dremel tool with a spinning buffer,” he says. The Dremel is a little power tool, like a screwdriver, with a soft, spinning tip, that buffs. Sometimes it took the detailed work of a Q-tip.

Now the model is shiny and rests on a stand Ehr made for it. It also has stickers identifying what it is. Ehr downloaded original sticker signs from a website and printed them from his home computer.

Dick Ehr says his model plane — $10 in 1933 — is now worth about $3,500. “When you take an object like this and explore its history, it’s fascinating and fun to do,” he says.

His son adds, “It was a great experience that brought us closer together.”

Stu encourages others who have mysterious objects lying around their houses to “become a history detective and dive in.”

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