Kovels – Antiques & Collecting: Week of Feb. 7, 2011

Worn blue paint can be seen on this country cupboard. The top part is shallower than the bottom, giving it the name stepback cupboard. It sold for $1,180 at a Brunk auction in Asheville, N.C.

Worn blue paint can be seen on this country cupboard. The top part is shallower than the bottom, giving it the name stepback cupboard. It sold for $1,180 at a Brunk auction in Asheville, N.C.

Where to put clutter? How to store extra dishes or clothes or memorabilia? These are questions that have been asked only since the beginning of the 20th century. Before that, storage was a very different problem. For most families, their textiles were their most valuable possessions and were just about the only thing that needed to be stored. The family had to shear the sheep, then clean, card and dye the wool, then make the thread and weave it into fabric. Hundreds of hours of handwork were needed to make a dress or a coverlet, and the family had few spares. Rooms were small, and furniture was placed out of the way. A single cupboard might be put against a wall or built into a corner. Cupboard tops had open shelves to hold dishes, glasses and pots. Bottom sections had shelves behind closed doors to keep fabrics clean and free of smoke. In the bedroom area, there might be a tall cabinet or cupboard with large drawers for clothing and bedclothes. By Victorian times, houses were being built with a few storage areas, even closets. And by the 1900s, people started wanting cupboards in their kitchens. “Country” furniture is popular today, and its simple, informal lines fit in modern houses. Country cupboards were often painted and had just a top molding and perhaps some door trim. Drawer and door pulls were wooden knobs, and hardware was made of iron. Collectors today pay a premium for pieces with original painted finish and original parts, including the back panels. Look carefully for replaced wooden parts, especially the feet or bottom board. Cupboard bottoms were splashed with water when the floor was cleaned and they often decayed. Examine everything else, too. It is easy to make a fake or a “marriage.” A good corner cupboard with attractive worn paint, even with replaced parts, sells for $1,000 or more. A complete cupboard with rich finished wood and trim can cost about $3,000 to $5,000.

Q: My small teapot is marked “Imperial Crown China, Austria.” What can you tell me about it?

A: The “Imperial Crown China” mark was used from about 1884 to 1914 by Bawo & Dotter, a New York importing company that sold china made in France and Austria-Hungary. It also owned a china decorating company in Fischern, now in the Czech Republic. The company may also have manufactured china in Fischern.

Q: My great-aunt gave me a cat-head pin in 1969. I still have it. It’s gold-plated or gold-tone metal with wire whiskers that stick out the sides of the face. The cat’s ears are decorated with red rhinestones. The pin is marked “Joseph Warner” on the back. Have you heard of him?

A: Your great-aunt gave you a very good piece of costume jewelry. Joseph Warner’s Warner Co. started making costume jewelry in about 1953 and closed some time in the 1970s. Not all Warner pieces are marked, and some pieces are simply marked “Warner.” Warner jewelry is well-made and popular. Your pin could sell for $50 or more.

Q: I have seen pictures of women wearing white gloves in the 1960s and before. I collect unusual gloves. When were they long? When did women stop wearing them inside at dances and parties?

A: Gloves were an important fashion accessory until the early 1900s. Elbow-length gloves worn with formal dresses were used as early as the 1500s. In the late 1700s, some women wore gloves to cover the entire arm. In the days of Mary Todd Lincoln, gloves were like shoes today. Women, including Mrs. Lincoln, had hundreds of pairs. Queen Victoria’s modest dress styles with long sleeves required wrist-length gloves worn both outdoors and in. Manicures and nail polish became popular in the 1920s, and because gloves hid fingernails, everyday gloves dropped out of fashion. But women continued to wear indoor gloves for special occasions. Today collectors of vintage clothes find couture gloves from the past 100 years for low prices. Most major designers, especially the French, made gloves. The 1940s Dior “New Look” included full skirts, belts and short multicolored gloves. In the 1950s and ’60s, many Americans traveling to France bought bargain-price high-fashion ladies’ gloves. Import duty was charged for a pair, not a single, so clever shoppers mailed one box of left-hand gloves home and another box of right-hand gloves to save money. White kid gloves and colorful embroidered or jeweled gloves were favored. The green gloves worn in 2009 by Michelle Obama at the inauguration caused favorable comment, but so far not a fashion trend.

Q: I inherited a set of brown Johnson Brothers dishes in the Old Britain Castles pattern. My grandmother bought them some time in the late 1940s. Is there any lead content that I should be concerned about when using these dishes? The glaze on some pieces has crackling. Are they safe to use?

A: Your dishes are safe to use. The glaze does not contain lead, but don’t use the dishes to serve greasy food or brightly colored food like beets. The colors will seep through the crazing and stain the ceramic underneath. Old British Castles, one of Johnson Brothers’ most popular patterns, was first produced in 1930. The 45 castles pictured on various pieces were copied from photos of engravings originally done in 1792. The pattern was made in blue, brown, green, lavender or mulberry, pink and brown multicolor. Blue and pink are still being made. Johnson Brothers started working in Stoke-on-Trent, England, in 1883 and is now part of WWRD Holdings. Old British Castles is being made in China.

Tip: Look at your home from the viewpoint of a trespasser. Do bushes hide the windows or doors? Are ladders lying around? Can a window be reached by standing on a table or air conditioning compressor? Does your fence hide the burglar from view while he breaks in?

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.

  • Round the World game, ship on cover, board with scenes of Statue of Liberty and New York City skyline, first person to reach New York City wins, Milton Bradley, c. 1910, $80.
  • Kopper Kettle Club cigar can, copper, image of large kettle on front and back, Joseph Weinreich, Dayton, Ohio, 1908, 5 1/2 inches, $460.
  • Federal tiger maple poster bed, later cypress headboard, turned vase-shaped posts, conforming rails, turned legs, ball feet, c. 1800, 74 1/2 x 51 inches, $625.
  • Madame Alexander Dionne Quintuplets dolls, each in diaper, nightshirt and bib with embroidered name, original bed, dotted Swiss pillows with pink felt blanket, 1936, 7 inches, $765.
  • Yellowware pitcher, bundle-of-corn shape, ribbed handle, green and ochre glaze, cover, unmarked, 19th century, 12 1/2 inches, $850.
  • Patchwork quilt, 12 squares of ladies in bonnets carrying parasols, each square in different colors with purple border, stitched and embroidered by hand, 1930s, 72 x 88 inches, $925.
  • Coin silver ladle, down-turned fiddle-thread handle, deep oval bowl, marked “Chaudron’s & Rasch,” Philadelphia, 1798-1820, 13 1/2 inches, $955.
  • Robbie the Seal plush toy, white mohair, excelsior stuffing, Steiff, 1950s, 36 x 39 inches, $1,200.
  • Quezal iridescent glass cruet, opal glass with green hooked feathers, signed, 6 inches, $2,300.
  • Cast-iron plantation bell, clapper, wheel, bracketed iron yoke, 19th century, 28 x 29 inches, $4,610.

Spot great costume jewelry faster than anyone and get the buys of a lifetime. Kovels’ Buyers’ Guide to Costume Jewelry, Part One” explains how to recognize midcentury costume jewelry, Mexican silver jewelry, modernist jewelry and other European and American pieces. Learn all the names you need to know, from Hobe and Sigi to Ed Wiener and Art Smith, from Coro and Trifari to Los Castillo and Spratling. And we explain how to recognize a good piece of genuine Bakelite. Our exclusive report, 8 1/2 x 5 1/2 inches, 48 pages, is filled with color photos, bios, background and more than 100 marks. It’s accurate and comprehensive and includes all of the information in our 2008 report on 20th-century costume jewelry. But it’s in a new, smaller and more convenient format. Available only from Kovels. Order by phone at 800-303-1996; online at Kovels.com; or send $25 plus $4.95 postage and handling to Kovels, Box 22900, Beachwood, OH 44122.

© 2011 by Cowles Syndicate Inc.