Kovels – Antiques & Collecting: Week of Feb. 14, 2011

This 1880s child's plate has letters around the edge to teach the alphabet and a picture in the center to display a method of hunting seals. The plate sold at a Skinner auction in Boston for $148, below auction estimate, perhaps because the picture of a seal hunt is controversial today, Image courtesy of Skinner Inc., www.skinnerinc.com.

This 1880s child’s plate has letters around the edge to teach the alphabet and a picture in the center to display a method of hunting seals. The plate sold at a Skinner auction in Boston for $148, below auction estimate, perhaps because the picture of a seal hunt is controversial today, Image courtesy of Skinner Inc., www.skinnerinc.com.

Opinions change with time. Throughout the past 40 years, it has become popular to “think green.” But our ancestors hunted for food and killed buffalo, deer and passenger pigeons, making some species endangered and others extinct. It was proper to kill animals, throw garbage out into the backyard without composting it or play with the mercury from a broken thermometer, which today we know is dangerous. Toys reflected scenes of everyday life, so it is not surprising to find an antique child’s plate with what we consider a frightening decoration. Some small plates were made with the letters of the alphabet embossed on the border. These alphabet plates were popular from the 1780s to the 1860s. The letters taught a child to read, and the center design usually included a nursery rhyme, proverb or wise saying. Some plates pictured a mother or father doing everyday jobs like cooking or sewing or farming. Alphabet plates were made of pottery, porcelain, glass or metal and sometimes came with matching mugs.

One early-19th-century English plate that recently auctioned caused comment among the bidders. The transfer-decorated Staffordshire plate pictures hunters in a canoe surrounded by seals. The hunters are beating the seals to death with clubs so they can sell the fur. Canada banned hunting baby harp seals in the water in 1984, and Russia banned killing baby seals in 2009. Before various countries’ bans, hunting killed many baby seals and lowered the seal population, but the bans have brought seal herds back to a larger size.

Q: Twenty years ago, I bought two antique Windsor chairs from a friend for $1,500. A dealer recently appraised them for $1,250 each. I have been unable to find any information about the cabinetmaker. His mark is machine-carved on both chairs and reads “John M. Bair, Hanover, Penna.”

A: The machine-carved marks indicate that your chairs are not antiques. Bair’s Cabinet Shop, the name of John M. Bair’s business, operated from 1933 to 1964 in Hanover and later Abbottstown, Pa. So your chair dates to Bair’s early years in Hanover. Bair’s made high-quality reproductions of antique furniture, especially Colonial Revival furniture. So your chairs date from the 1930s at the earliest. They’re not antique, but that doesn’t mean they’re not well-made chairs worth the price you paid or more.

Q: I have a painting on tin of a black woman and a blond girl making a gelatin salad. In the bottom right corner it’s signed “Harry Roseland” and dated 1901. Can you help me determine the value of this painting?

A: Harry Herman Roseland (circa 1867-1950) was an American painter. He is known for his paintings of people in turn-of-the-20th-century settings. Your picture was used in an ad for Knox Gelatine. Prints were given to customers as premiums, tin signs with the image hung in grocery stores; and the original painting may have hung in the corporate offices. Charles B. Knox invented a gelatin powder in 1890 and founded the Charles B. Knox Gelatine Co. in Johnstown, N.Y., in 1896. Knox is now part of Kraft Foods. You have a print, not an original painting. A copy of your print in mint condition and framed sold online for $427 a few years ago.

Q: I have several records marked “Vogue.” The records have a picture printed right on the vinyl. I’d like to know something about them. Are they valuable?

A: Vogue picture records were made by Sav-Way Industries of Detroit from May 1946 to April 1947. Each record has a picture on both sides, sometimes signed by the artist. The records’ pictures were applied to an aluminum core and then covered with vinyl. Then the grooves were stamped into the vinyl. Most of the records were 10-inch 78 rpm, but some 12-inch 78 rpm records were also made. The first Vogue picture record was “Basin Street Blues” with “Sugar Blues” on the flip side. More than 70 different Vogue picture records were made. Sav-Way Industries claimed it was making 500,000 records a month in early 1947, but the company went bankrupt a few months later. It is still fairly easy to find Vogue picture records for sale. Most sell for $10 to $50.

Q: I am a collector of Occupied Japan ceramics. Another collector I ran into told me that Occupied Japan items were stamped in red, black or blue, and that a piece with a red mark is more valuable than a piece marked in blue or black. Is this true?

A: Florence Archambault, the author of books on Occupied Japan, says there is no evidence that what you were told is true. For one thing, marks on Occupied Japan items can be found in a variety of other colors, including yellow, green, gold and brown. The “Made in Occupied Japan” mark was required on Japanese exports starting in February 1947. In August 1949 the requirement was altered and ceramic exports could be marked “Made in Occupied Japan,” “Occupied Japan,” “Made in Japan” or simply “Japan.” That means that identical pieces can be marked differently. But collectors of Occupied Japan ceramics prefer pieces marked “Made in Occupied Japan” or “Occupied Japan.” The occupation ended in April 1952.

Tip: Some tea and coffee stains on dishes can be removed by rubbing them with damp baking soda.

Terry Kovel answers as many questions as possible through 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 e-mail addresses will not be published. We cannot guarantee the return of any photograph, but if a stamped envelope is included, we will try. The volume 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.

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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.

  • Mister Whiskers and the Wrigleybottom Jewel Robbery game, “A Crazy Crime Game,” 250 cards, 46 colored counters, booklet, Milton Bradley, 1937, 7 x 5 inches, $30.
  • American Tourister “Tiara” train case, white vinyl exterior, ice-blue quilted brocade lining, padded handle, four plastic feet, 13 1/2 x 8 1/2 x 8 1/2 inches, $70.
  • Gucci satchel purse, black patent leather, bamboo handle, brass holders signed “Gucci,” 1960s, 6 x 8 x 2 1/2 inches, $125.
  • Hull pottery ewer, Water Lily pattern, turquoise and pink flowers, marked, circa 1948, 5 1/2 inches, $165.
  • Mount Washington Crown Milano glass cracker jar, oval, creamy opal, gold scrolling band, flower sprays, lid, marked, 7 inches diameter, $460.
  • Union Leader cut plug tobacco store display sign, tri-fold, lithographed, features vaudeville star John Bunny smoking, 1914, 43 x 28 inches, $480.
  • Popeye doll, wooden, hands on hips, smoking yellow corncob pipe, blue pants, shirt with red collar, Chein, 1932, 10 3/4 inches, $500.
  • Paris porcelain bowl, white, apple-green border with gilt floral bands, hand-painted birds, footed, circa 1825, 4 x 8 inches, $955.
  • Sterling-silver center bowl, pair of stags base, antlers support fluted oval bowl, Cartier, circa 1950, 8 x 12 x 8 1/2 inches, $1,910.
  • Cast-iron bench, scroll crest, interlocking arches, scrolled arms, pierced seat, cabriole legs, scroll toes, Hinderers Iron Works, New Orleans, late 1800s, 35 x 42 inches, pair, $4,420.

New! A quick, easy guide to identifying valuable costume jewelry made since the 1920s. Kovels’ Buyers’ Guide to Costume Jewelry, Part Two, a report on the most popular styles, makers and designers of costume jewelry. The report makes you an informed collector and may get you a great buy. Photos, marks, histories and bibliography. Special Report, 2010, 8 1/2 x 5 1/2 inches, 36 pages. Available only from Kovels. Order by phone at 800-303-1996; online at Kovels.com; or send $19.95 plus $4.95 postage and handling to Kovels, Box 22900, Beachwood, OH 44122.

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