Ralph Mallory Kovel (20 August 1920 — 28 August 2008) was an American author of 97 books and guides to antiques, co-authored with his wife, Terry Kovel. They wrote a nationally syndicated collectibles column that began in 1955.
Ralph was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1920. His family moved to Paducah, Kentucky, then Cleveland, Ohio, in the 1930s. He graduated from Cleveland Heights High School, then attended Ohio State University. He served in the United States Coast Guard in World War II. In 1950 he married Terry. Their children are Lee Kovel and Kim Kovel.
He and his wife became interested in antiques on their Bermuda honeymoon in 1950. Their first book came out in 1953.
He started his writing career with Terry in 1953. In the 1950s, he was in the export-import business and imported a variety of things, including the Lambretta motor scooter, the new bikini bathing suits European women were wearing, and specialty food products. He didn’t like the constant travel, so he started his own business as a food broker, representing packaged foods and other products to grocery-store chains and fast-food restaurants. He represented many of the new frozen food lines, like Stouffers, specialty items like Sweet and Low packets, and even live, bare-root fruit trees. Ralph sold McDonald’s fresh potatoes in 1956 by the carload when hamburgers were 15 cents and the chain said they would never use frozen French fries. He bought a small salad dressing company in Cleveland named Sar-a-Lee and soon was selling custom-made dressings to major fast-food chains for their newly popular salad bars. In 1987 his company was purchased by Sara Lee Corporation. and he became a senior vice president in the company’s foods division.
In 1970 Ralph started U.S. Brands, Inc., a fulfillment company that did packaging and handling for the Kovels books and newsletters as well as for many other businesses. He became part owner of an innovative aquaculture shrimp farm in the Bahamas in 1996.
Ralph was a salesman, an innovator, and an entrepreneur. He patented a dripless aluminum teabag called the teastir , and made an instant silver polish. When his children chewed the paper straws in their milkshakes, he developed the first plastic straw for McDonald’s by using the outer part of a plastic clothes line. He was a dedicated volunteer, working as a group leader and board member at a settlement house, a volunteer for public television, and a committee member for the Cleveland United Appeal. He even helped plan and cook fundraising spaghetti dinners.
Ralph continued working until the week before his final illness. Kovel resided in Shaker Heights, Ohio and died in Cleveland of complications from broken hip