Kovels – Antiques & Collecting: Week of Feb. 23, 2009

This carved oak desk was used by a U.S. congressman sometime after 1857. It was probably made in Boston. It auctioned for $10,158 at Sloans & Kenyon in Chevy Chase, Md.

This carved oak desk was used by a U.S. congressman sometime after 1857. It was probably made in Boston. It auctioned for $10,158 at Sloans & Kenyon in Chevy Chase, Md.

Want to buy a House of Representatives seat? You could have in November at a Sloans & Kenyon auction in Chevy Chase, Md. But it was an old seat – or more correctly, a desk. The Doe Hazelton Co. of Boston made 262 desks for the U.S. House of Representatives as part of a remodeling project in 1857. Each was an individual desk in the Victorian style with a lift-lid, drawer, cast-iron inkwell and appropriate carving of stars and stripes, latticework and trim. The desk, 34 3/4 inches high at the back of the slanted top, was made to hold an open book or papers at the best angle for reading and writing notes. Each had a matching carved and upholstered armchair. When the House of Representatives was redecorated again, the old desks and chairs were given to representatives or sold. The desk that sold recently brought more than $10,000. A chair from the same era, made by Bembe & Kimbel, auctioned last year for $19,600.

Q: My electric clock has a girl on a swing that goes back and forth in a space below the clock face. It was made by Mastercrafters Clock and Radio Co. Is it valuable?

A: Your clock, called “Girl on a Swing” or “The Swinging Girl,” was made of a urea plastic compound. The design patent was issued in 1949. At least two versions of the clock were made. One shows the girl in front of a house with a thatched roof and a white fence. There are also flowers and trees in the design. The thick plastic fence is in front of the scene that’s glued to the inside of the clock. The other version has a scene that shows a ranch house. There is a light that can be turned on or off that illuminates the girl and the background. Ads for the clock said the light can be used as a night light. Mastercrafters, a Chicago company, made many clocks with different swinging figures. It also made many other types of motion clocks. Your clock, if working, sells for $50 to $75.

Q: I found some Batman Cola bottles in the basement of a friend’s house. The labels say “Cott Quality Batman Sparkling Cola.” When were these made?

A: Batman first appeared in Detective Comics in 1939. Batman appears on a wide range of collectibles, including cereal boxes, clocks, cookie jars, lunch boxes, mugs, Pez dispensers, rings, toothbrushes, toys, tumblers, wristwatches and yo-yos. Cott Batman Cola was introduced in 1966 by Cott Beverage Corp. The company was founded by Solomon and Harry Cott in Port Chester, N.Y., in 1923. Cott Cola is currently being made by Cott Corp. of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. Cott Batman Cola was sold in bottles and cans. They are rarely found today.

Q: I have what looks like a painted iron doorstop shaped like one of the ships used by Christopher Columbus. It has two flat pieces of metal sticking out the back that hold it up. In the center of the back is a U-shape bracket that seems to have held something. We have it on a shelf as a family heirloom. Can you guess what it was used for? It has been in my family since at least the 1930s.

A: You may have a lamp. A small light socket with a cord was held in the U-shaped bracket. The lamps were made from the 1930s to the 1950s. Later ones were kept on top of a television set to add a glow. It was thought then that a TV screen would strain your eyes if you watched in the dark. Your “heirloom” is worth about $100 as a lamp, so try to find a new socket that would fit.

Q: I collect chalkware figures and busts marked “Universal Statuary Corporation.” Can you tell me when they were made?

A: Chalkware (plaster) figures were popular from the 1920s through the ’50s. Some were inexpensive molded pieces given away as prizes at carnivals. Some were made as display figures for restaurants and stores. And some were designed with care to be used as home decorations. Jack and Leo Lucchesi founded the Universal Statuary Corp. and made all kinds of plaster items in Chicago. At first they made piggy banks and inexpensive plaques, but by the late 1930s they were making large store displays, life-size Indian statues, ornate “Italian” wall plaques and other plaster pieces designed for the “Early American” home. By the 1950s, chalkware was out of fashion and the Lucchesi brothers were making plastic pieces. Collectors like chalkware, especially large Indian figures, busts and wall plaques. The Lucchesi family sold the company in the early 1980s.

Tip: Do not display or store silver on shelves painted with latex paint. It encourages tarnish.

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.


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.

  • Girl Scout lunch pail, tin, green, image of Scout leader, girls playing sports, bail handles, circa 1930, $75.
  • Chuck Taylor Converse All-Star basketball shoes, text with star appears on side and heel, unused, 1960s, size 9 1/2, $115.
  • Sweeping Mammy toy, tin windup, Mammy holding broom, shakes about while sweeping, Lindstrom, 1930s, 7 1/2 inches, $230.
  • English backsaw, brass button with profile of George Washington circled by “Exported Solely by W. Graves & Sons,” circa 1790, $305.
  • Betty Boop string-holder, painted plaster, black hair, side-glancing eyes, hole in mouth, circa 1930, 6 x 7 1/2 inches, $465.
  • Arts & Crafts-style armchair, windowpane cutouts on wings, original leather upholstery and brass tacks, 42 x 32 x 26 inches, $490.
  • Mount Washington jack-in-the-pulpit glass vase, pale green stem with leaf and vine design winding around, 15 1/2 inches, $2,105.
  • Tin reindeer cookie cutter with large stylized antlers, late 19th century, 8 inches, $2,105.
  • Ivory miniature memorial picture, two figures at grave, “Hope Lies beyond the Grave,” Feb. 14, 1799, aged 25 years, 1 3/4 x 1 1/2 inches, $3,515.
  • Stiegel-type molded glass flask, amethyst, Diamond-above-Flute pattern, circa 1770, $7,020.

To fill in your set of dishes, flatware or goblets, send for a copy of the Kovels’ booklet “Matching Services – Dinnerware, Flatware, Glassware” (more than 200 companies). Send $4 and a long, self-addressed, double-stamped envelope to: Kovels, P.O. Box 22900, Beachwood, OH 44122.

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