Valentines that we send today can be printed on heavy paper, homemade using paper lace and trim or e-mailed via a digital greeting-card service. The idea of a valentine dates back to the Middle Ages, when men gave handwritten verses to their girlfriends. In the early 1800s in Pennsylvania, people started to make paper valentines from a single sheet of paper that was skillfully cut into hearts, flowers, animals and other designs. Often these valentines had added ink highlights. A different type of paper valentine was put together by Esther Howland of Massachusetts in 1850. She used paper lace, colored paper, built-up layers and sentimental verses. Printed cards followed, but there were still added pasted pieces.
If you want to collect vintage valentines, here are a few suggestions: Valentines that pop open to make 3-D scenes are expensive. So are the very old handmade cut-paper sheets that are fragile and required great skill to make. Buy valentines in good condition. They are hard to repair. If the valentine is not signed, it is worth more than one with a personal message written on it. Penny dreadfuls and other valentines that are comic and insulting do not sell well. Save the valentines you get this year. It is a free start to a new collection.
Q: Can you tell me anything about the Wrighton Furniture Co.? I have an armoire made by that company and haven’t been able to find any information.
A: Wrighton Furniture Co. was an English firm that made traditional styles of furniture during at least the 1940s and ’50s. Today’s prices for the company’s armoires, which seem to have been a Wrighton specialty, are $100-$200.
Q: A couple of years ago, your column pictured a porcelain figurine of a female tennis player. She was wearing a white outfit with gold-colored highlights. I have a 15-inch figurine just like the one you pictured, but her outfit is light blue with dark blue highlights. I also have the matching male tennis player. Would the pair sell for twice as much as a single figure?
A: Your figurines were made by Gebruder Heubach of Lichten, Germany. The company was in business from 1840 to 1925, but its tennis figurines probably date from the 1880s or ’90s. They were hand-painted and so can be found in various color combinations. A pair should sell for more than twice as much as an individual figure, but other factors are also important. Are the figures in excellent condition, with no chips or cracks? Are they marked? If the answer to both questions is yes, the pair could sell for about $500.
Q: I love to collect old valentine cards, mostly from the 1950s, but I also have a couple from the early 1900s. I’m keeping them in an album in protective sleeves, but I would love to display them without tearing them up. Can you give me some suggestions on how to display my collectible valentines?
A: We displayed some antique valentines in deep frames with spacers between the glass and the valentine and hung a group of them on a wall. Choose a frame with a glass or archival plastic cover, and use an acid-free mat. Thicker valentines look best in a shadowbox. If the card needs to be fastened to the mat, use archival corners. If it has an inscription inside that you want to save, or information on the back that would help to date the card, you can make a photocopy of it and put it in an envelope attached to the back of the frame, or even display it next to the front of the card. There is a club with a newsletter and Web site for valentine collectors: National Valentine Collectors Association, P.O. Box 647, Franklin Lakes, NJ 07417, ValentineCollectors.com.
Q: I have a set of china that was handed down to me by a family member about 25 years ago. It is marked “Harmony House Metro China, Elizabeth, made in Occupied Japan.” I would like to know something about it.
A: Harmony House dinnerware was made for Sears, Roebuck & Co. by several different factories from 1940 until the early 1970s. Makers in the United States included Hall China Co., Harker Pottery, Homer Laughlin China Co., Laurel Potteries, Salem China Co. and Universal Potteries. Pieces marked “Occupied Japan” were made in Japan between 1947 and 1952. You can find extra dishes for your set at some of the replacement services.
Q: I have a radio that has colorful figures of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs on the front. A window with shutters is behind them, and there is a squirrel on top of one of the shutters. The tuning and volume knobs are shaped like acorns, and a jewel on Snow White’s dress lights up when the radio is turned up. I have had this radio since the early 1940s. Is it valuable?
A: The movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was released in 1937. Emerson made two versions of the Snow White radio in about 1938-39. The larger version shows more of the cottage and is usually not painted. Emerson Phonograph Co. was incorporated in 1915. It is now called Emerson Radio Corp. and has headquarters in Parsippany, N.J. If your radio is in good condition, it could sell for $1,200 to $2,000.
Tip: Don’t clean a cloth doll’s body with water. Use cornstarch or talc. Rub it into the fabric, then gently brush it away after four hours.
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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.
- Scaasi hot pink jumpsuit, silk twill, short sleeves, pockets, inverted pleats at waistline, back zipper, lined, 1960s, size 6, $180.
- Staffordshire Historical Blue plate, dark blue, The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, impressed label, shell border, 1940s, 10 inches, $235.
- William IV cut glass vase, Strawberry Diamond and Fan pattern, square base with a reverse-cut sunburst, 1860s, 9 1/2 inches, $480.
- Needlework map of England and Wales, by Maria Leach, Crediton, Devonshire, 1808, silk on wool, oval, vine and leaf border, signed, 23 x 19 inches, $500.
- Tammany Hall mechanical bank, coin is deposited in Boss Tweed’s coat pocket, black suit, yellow vest, red chair, late 1800s, 5 1/2 inches, $690.
- Quadroon Tobacco pouch, cloth, image of woman with fan, 1883 tax stamp, 4 1/2 x 3 inches, $770.
- Louis XV-style center table, kingwood and rosewood, rectangular top with scalloped edge, leather inset, one drawer, cabriole legs, early 19th century, 30 x 31 inches, $900.
- Tete Jumeau No. 10 doll, open mouth, cork pate with sandy human hair, blue paperweight eyes, ball-jointed composition body, 23 inches, $1,380.
- George III sterling goblet, repousse acanthus bandings, molded rim and foot, engraved, Dublin hallmark, 1812, 6 inches, pair, $1,440.
- Tole coffeepot, side spout, two handles, original floral design on green ground, American, 1850s, 12 inches, $2,458.
Here’s the best book to own if you want to buy or sell or collect. The new full-color Kovels’ Antiques & Collectibles Price Guide, 2010, 42nd edition, is your most accurate source for current prices. This large-size paperback has more than 2,500 color photographs and 47,000 up-to-date prices for more than 700 categories of antiques and collectibles. You’ll also find hundreds of factory histories and marks and a report on the record prices of the year, plus helpful sidebars and tips about buying, selling, collecting and preserving your treasures. Available online at Kovelsonlinestore.com; by phone at 800-571-1555; at your bookstore; or send $27.95 plus $4.95 postage to Price Book, Box 22900, Beachwood, OH 44122.
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