Kovels Antiques & Collecting: Week of April. 27, 2015

This is a rare Venetian gondola chair made in the 19th century. It's carved and painted with gilt on a red background. The chair seat rests on a swivel

BEACHWOOD, Ohio – A gondola chair, according to furniture dictionaries, is a late 18th- to early 19th-century chair with a concave back and side rails that curve down to the seat. It has four legs and is upholstered on the seat and on both the front and back of the chair back and the arms. It is a chair type that still is being made.

But there is another more glamorous “gondola chair” that is less-publicized. The antique Venetian gondola chair is carved and painted or upholstered in leather. It has a high back that curves down to the seat. The sides of the back continue forward to form arms that are attached to the seat by another curved support. It has four splayed legs that start at the seat and slant away from the chair. This type of chair was made in the 1800s and got its name from its shape. The chair looks a little like the front of an Italian gondola. It may even have been a seat for a gondola passenger. The Venetian gondola chair is rare and even the leather-covered ones are expensive.

A carved and painted example sells for thousands of dollars. Neal Auction in New Orleans sold one in 2014 for $1,917.

Q: When I married in 1972, my mother gave me my grandmother’s dishes. There are 10 plates and one large serving plate. The large plate has a hand-painted rabbit on it. Two of the dinner plates are painted with rabbits, two with deer, two with gazelles, and two with cows. The backs of the plates are marked “LS & S, Limoges, France.” Are they worth anything?

A: This mark was used by Lazarus Straus & Sons, an importer and manufacturer in the United States. Lazarus Straus was born in Germany, immigrated to the United States in 1852, and began working as a pushcart peddler in Georgia. He opened a dry goods store there two years later. In 1869, he founded L. Straus & Sons in New York City. The company sold its china and glassware in Macy’s department store basement beginning in 1873. Members of the Strauss family became part owners of Macy’s in 1884 and sole owners in 1896. You have most of a set of game plates made in Limoges, France, and imported by L. Straus & Sons. These usually came with 12 plates plus a larger serving platter and were popular during the 1880s. Sets of game plates sell for about $375.

Q: I have a Dobro guitar that I got in 1956 when I was 10 years old. I think it’s a Rex Ampliphonic guitar or Dobro. I don’t know much about this guitar but some Dobro players have told me it’s definitely an antique.

A: Ampliphonic guitars, also known as self-amplifying or resonator guitars, were developed about 1927 by John Dopyera. He and his brothers founded Dobro Manufacturing Co. in 1928. In 1929, he was granted a patent for his design for a guitar with a thin metal body and three aluminum diaphrams (resonators) to amplify the sound. Dobro guitars sold under several brand names in the 1930s. The Gibson Guitar Corp. has had sole rights to the Dobra name since 1993. Good quality old guitars sell for high prices. Find an expert at a shop that sells guitars or an auction house to find out what your guitar is worth.

Q: I have a Western-style working saddle made in the late 1890s or early 1900s by the Nebraska Saddlery Co. of Fremont, Neb. The company is no longer in existence. The design on the leather was done by hand and the stirrups have the original copper encasement around the bottom. The cinch, tie straps, stirrup hobbles and sheepskin under the saddle are new. I’d like to sell it to someone who appreciates such a beautiful piece of work and can just throw this on a horse and go to work. Where can I find someone who can give me an honest appraisal?

A: A vintage saddle like yours might sell well at an auction that specializes in Western items. You should be able to get an idea of value from a store that sells new quality leather saddles. Most major cities have stores that sell equestrian equipment. Auction houses that sell Western style items can be found by an online search. Most are located in the western U.S., but have online sales and interested bidders.

Q: I’m interested in selling a Pachinko game machine, a four-reel nickel slot machine made by Wisconsin Novelty, and a Michigan Model 7 candy store cash register. I’ve searched online but haven’t been able to find any information or an estimated value for them. What’s the best was to sell them?

A: All of your items can be sold at an auction or antiques shop. You can check prices on our website, Kovels.com, or on auction websites. Look at a site like LiveAuctioneers.com to see which auction houses have sold similar items and contact them to see if they are interested in what you have. Some won’t take items below a certain value. Lower priced items can be sold to a dealer or antiques shop.

Tip: A glass flower frog, a holder for the flower stems in an arrangement, can be useful. Look for the round glass holders with many holes. Each hole can hold a marble so a group of about 5 to 15 stems can be displayed in different sizes of flower frogs.

Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel answer questions sent to the column. By sending a letter with a question, you give full permission for use in the column or any other Kovel forum. Names, addresses or email addresses will not be published. We cannot guarantee the return of photographs, but if a stamped envelope is included, we will try. The amount of mail makes personal answers or appraisals impossible. Write to Kovels, Auction Central News, King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019.


Current prices are recorded from antiques shows, flea markets, sales and auctions throughout the United States. Prices vary in different locations because of local economic conditions.

  • Thermometer, Mail Pouch Chewing Tobacco, New Larger Size, blue, silver, red, tin, circa 1950, 38 3/4 x 8 inches, $90.
  • Sofa, Empire style, figured veneer frame, upholstery, bulbous legs, brass casters, 33 1/2 x 90 inches, $345.
  • Pen, Montblanc, Boheme Bleu, fountain, retractable nib, black resin body, blue gemstone, 4 1/4 inches, $380.
  • Red Ribbon Beer tray, Old Dutch Lager, Hawaiian woman, Mathie Brewing Co., tin, 13 inches, $390.
  • Baccarat glass champagne coupe, Narcissus pattern, acid etched stamp, France, 20th century, 5 1/2 inches, seven pieces, $525.
  • Silver plate tray, Edwardian, pierced gallery, handles, footed, engraved, Daniel & Arter, 38 x 17 inches, pair, $615.
  • Terra-cotta figurine, bathing woman, rocky base, birds, nest overhead, France, 28 3/4 inches, $625.
  • Stoneware pitcher, cobalt blue flower, feathered swag, incised neck rings, strap handle, circa 1870, 2 gallons, 13 inches, $805.
  • Toy, Adam the Porter, pushing hand car, tin lithograph, hand painted, clockwork, Lehmann, 8 inches, $1,005.
  • Aluminum dish, cover, whale shape, red eyes, stand with swimming whales, A. Court, 1979, 12 inches, $1,465.

“Kovels’ A Diary: How to Settle a Collector’s Estate.” Our new week-by-week record of the settlement of an estate, from your first days gathering legal papers to the last days when you’re dividing antiques among heirs and selling everything else – even the house. How to identify pottery, jewelry and other popular collectibles. Tips on where and how to sell furniture, jewelry, dishes, figurines, record albums, bikes and even clothes. We include lots of pictures and prices and explain the advantages of a house sale, auction, selling to a dealer, or donating to a charity. Learn about how to handle the special problems of security and theft. Plus a free current supplement with useful websites, auctions lists and other current information. Available only from Kovels for $19.95, plus $4.95 postage and handling. Order by phone at 800-303-1996; online at Kovels.com; or write to Kovels, P.O. Box 22900, Beachwood, OH 44122.

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