Kovels Antiques & Collecting: Week of Dec. 22, 2014

This Santa is a bit thinner than usual so he can fit in his vintage tin car. It's a windup toy made in Japan before 1940. The toy sold for $37,760 – more than three times its presale estimate – at a 2013 Bertoia auction in Vineland, N.J.

This Santa is a bit thinner than usual so he can fit in his vintage tin car. It’s a windup toy made in Japan before 1940. The toy sold for $37,760 – more than three times its presale estimate – at a 2013 Bertoia auction in Vineland, N.J.

BEACHWOOD, Ohio – Santa Claus traditionally arrives in his sleigh, but children born in the past 100 years or so have wondered why Santa doesn’t use faster, newer ways to make his Christmas Eve journey. Writers and toymakers have modernized the Christmas story in several ways – with a train to the North Pole, an airplane, an early car, modern cars and even Santa in a rocket or spaceship. Of course, some still wonder how he can go around the world in one night while stopping to deliver gifts. One rare toy made in prewar Japan has Santa in an open car that’s decorated with pictures of toys, children and a Christmas tree. Santa is seated with his bag of toys. The car has a clockwork drive wound with a key. It can zoom across the floor. The 7-inch-long toy sold for $37,760 at a 2013 Bertoia auction.

Q: Our family has complete collections of both Bing & Grondahl and Royal Copenhagen Christmas plates. We understand only a limited number of these plates have much value, but we would like to know the value of the collection as a whole. Is it greater than the sum of its parts?

A: Bing & Grondahl, a Danish porcelain factory, began making annual Christmas plates in 1895. The company became part of Royal Copenhagen in 1987. Royal Copenhagen, another Danish porcelain factory, had introduced its own series of Christmas plates in 1908. Many of the old plates can be found on the resale market. The first Bing & Grondahl Christmas plate, “Behind the Frozen Window, 1895,” sold at auction for $2,320 in 2012. The first Royal Copenhagen Christmas plate, “Madonna & Child, 1908,” sold for $2,722 in 2011. But most Christmas plates sell for about $20. Only the very earliest plates and those made during World War II are rare and sell for more. We have never seen a complete set of either company’s plates offered for sale.

Q: I have a Bols Ballerina liquor bottle with a figural windup ballerina inside. When it’s wound up, it plays music and the ballerina spins and moves her legs. A label on the bottom says “Le Bleu Danube” and “Bottle and Unit Made in France.” The liquor has evaporated a little, but the ballerina works perfectly. The label says “Sale Distributors for the USA, Brown Forman Import Company, New York 16, New York.” Does this bottle have any value?

A: Bols Ballerina bottles were made between 1957 and 1978. They came filled with different kinds of liquor made by Lucas Bols, a Dutch distillery. Two versions were made, with the ballerina wearing either a red skirt or a white skirt. The Bols family opened a distillery in Amsterdam in 1575, making Lucas Bols the world’s oldest distillery brand. There have been several changes in ownership, but the company is still in business. Brown-Forman offered the Bols Ballerina bottle as a Christmas item in 1959. It was produced in limited quantities at that time but proved so popular that thousands more were made. Collectors like unique bottles. A full bottle in its original box sells for the highest price. Your partly full bottle without the box is worth about $50.

Q: We inherited a bird’s-eye maple bedroom set that has been in the family for years. It consists of a bed, dresser, dressing table, rocking chair and straight-back chair. There is a sticker on the back of the dresser that reads, “The Upham Mfg. Co., Marshfield, Wisconsin, Manufacturers of Chamber Suits [sic] and Side Boards.” The drawers to the dresser have little locks and we have the keys. Can you tell us anything about this furniture?

A: William H. Upham and his brother, C.M. Upham, built a sawmill in Marshfield in 1879. In 1881 they opened a furniture factory and veneer mill. Upham Manufacturing Co. was incorporated in 1883. By 1890 the company included a flour mill, grain elevator, general store, railway, waterworks and electric light plant. The 1904 Furniture Journal said the company sold “cheap, medium and high grade chamber suits, odd dressers, chiffoniers, sideboards and buffets.” Upham Manufacturing was in business until 1927. Your furniture was probably made in the late 1890s or early 1900s.

Q: Are my old Budweiser Christmas steins worth anything?

A: Budweiser has issued an annual Christmas beer stein every year since 1980. The ceramic steins are made in Brazil. Today only the oldest, sold in 1980 and 1981, sell for more than $100. We have seen a 1980 stein listed for $130.

Tip: Coffee and tea stains can be removed from the inside of silver or porcelain pots or cups with warm water and a denture-cleaning tablet. Use a five-minute tablet in two cups of water, let it stand for 10 minutes, rinse and dry. If some loose residue remains, clean it with a wet brush.

Need prices for your antiques and collectibles? Find them at Kovels.com, our website for collectors. You can find more than 900,000 prices and more than 11,000 color photographs that help you determine the value of your collectibles. Study the prices. Go to the free Price Guide at Kovels.com. The website also lists publications, clubs, appraisers, auction houses, people who sell parts or repair antiques, show lists and more. Kovels.com adds to the information in this column.

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

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.

  • Depression glass salt and pepper, Doric, pink, $25.
  • Fireplace surround, cast iron, wreath, leaves, S. Thompson, c. 1880, 35 inches, $315.
  • Popeye bag-puncher figure, pipe in mouth, tin, windup, Chein, 7 inches, $480.
  • Keno goose game, mahogany balls, turned wood, supports, c. 1880, 22 1/2 inches, $540.
  • Enterprise coffee mill, No. 750, cast iron, countertop, 1 wheel, red, blue, gold, 21 inches, $560.
  • Santa Claus nodder, composition head, fur beard, wood body, Germany, 11 1/2 inches, $590.
  • Decoy, trumpeter swan, sleeping, carved, white, black paint, Chesapeake Bay, 32 inches, $1,140.
  • Chanel necklace, bronze, 12 plaques, 4 mounted stones, rhinestone surround, marked, box, 1997, 24 inches, $2,390.
  • Bookcase, L. & J.G. Stickley, oak, gallery top, paned glass doors, shelves, c. 1910, 55 x 49 inches, $3,200.
  • Cane, oak, turned, carved names of 55 men executed at Auburn Prison, 1890-1916, A. Lamb, 31 inches, $7,340.

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ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE


This Santa is a bit thinner than usual so he can fit in his vintage tin car. It's a windup toy made in Japan before 1940. The toy sold for $37,760 – more than three times its presale estimate – at a 2013 Bertoia auction in Vineland, N.J.

This Santa is a bit thinner than usual so he can fit in his vintage tin car. It’s a windup toy made in Japan before 1940. The toy sold for $37,760 – more than three times its presale estimate – at a 2013 Bertoia auction in Vineland, N.J.