Kovels – Antiques & Collecting: Week of July 5, 2009

This 15-inch Staffordshire figure of Benjamin Franklin in Colonial dress was made in 1876 for the Centennial celebration. It sold for $1,180 at a spring Early American History auction in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.

This 15-inch Staffordshire figure of Benjamin Franklin in Colonial dress was made in 1876 for the Centennial celebration. It sold for $1,180 at a spring Early American History auction in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.

Before there were photographs and television, some of the best likenesses of important people were created by makers of ceramics. English Staffordshire potters made many versions of a figure about 15 inches high with a head that was altered to look like Benjamin Franklin or George Washington. This group of figures came in white or multicolored finishes. Both the Washington and Franklin figures held a tri-corner hat and an open printed book. Franklin’s hair is longer than Washington’s and two different faces were used, both based on famous portraits, so today we can easily distinguish the two Founding Fathers. But in past centuries, few would have been familiar with what the men looked like. Most of these figures date from 1876 and were made to celebrate the U.S. Centennial, although collectors and many experts in the 1950s believed they were made in the early 1800s. Figures that look like Franklin but are inscribed “Washington” sell for high prices, probably because collectors like “error” pieces.

Research in recent years has proved that many bandannas, plates, bedspreads, figures and other Americana items that look like they were made about 1800 were actually made for tourists during the Centennial year of 1876.

Q: My family inherited a Windsor chair from my husband’s great-grandfather. It’s maple and marked “Bent & Bros. 1867, Gardner, Mass.” I would like to know something about the company.

A: Brothers Samuel and R.L. Bent founded Bent & Bros., a chair manufacturing business, in Gardner in 1867. That’s why the company used the year 1867 in its mark. A third brother, Charles, joined the firm in 1868. Bent & Bros. was one of several successful Gardner furniture companies. It managed to stay in business through the 20th century and closed just a few years ago.

Q: My antique music box is stamped “Mechanical Orguinette Style F” on the top. There’s a crank on the side that turns the paper music rolls. The metal mounting roll is 7 3/4 inches wide. Any idea how old it is and what it’s worth?

A: The Mechanical Orguinette Co. was founded by William B. Tremaine in 1878 to make small, hand-cranked, roll-operated instruments. During the 1880s, orguinettes (also called organettes) were popular across the country. Many were sold via mail order. In 1887, Tremaine organized the Aeolian Co. to make much larger instruments, including chamber organs and player pianos. The Mechanical Orguinette Co. was merged into Aeolian that same year, so your instrument dates from the 1880s. We have seen organettes the age and style of yours sell for $350 and up.

Q: I bought an 8 1/2-inch divided glass baby dish at a garage sale. Embossed around the plate’s border are the phrases, “See-saw Margery-Daw” and “Where are you going – my pretty maid.” There’s a “Tiara Exclusive” paper label on the back. I also have the box it came in, which says, “100th Anniversary, Greif Bros. Containers, 1877-1977, Zanesville, Ohio.” Can you tell me something about this dish and its value? It apparently was never used, since the paper label is still on it.

A: Tiara Exclusives was an in-home party-plan business based in Dunkirk, Ind. It was founded by Roger Jewett in 1970 and was quite successful for several years. The business closed in 1998. Tiara products were made by different glass manufacturers, including Lancaster Colony Corp. and Indiana Glass Co. Some Tiara pieces were new designs, and others were copies of older glass patterns. Most Tiara pieces were identified only by paper labels, so it’s fortunate the plate you found still had the label attached. The plate must have originally been a gift from Greif Brothers to celebrate its centennial. Greif Brothers is an industrial packaging manufacturer based in Delaware, Ohio. Your plate sells online for $5 to $15.

Q: About 65 or 70 years ago, I was given a small (3 1/2-inch) drinking glass decorated with a black drawing of “Baby Beulah” and a poem about her on the reverse side. The printing is also black, and there’s a black line around the base of the glass. A red line circles the top of the glass. Please tell me its history.

A: Your juice glass pictures Elsie the Cow’s daughter, Beulah. Elsie was introduced in Borden milk ads in 1939. Two Borden mascots, Elsie and her husband, Elmer, celebrated Beulah’s birth in 1942. Drinking glasses featuring Elsie, Elmer, Beulah and Beulah’s little brother, Beauregard, were introduced in the 1940s. Borden continued to use various sizes of drinking glasses decorated with the cattle characters as advertising promotions at least into the 1950s. Today a Beulah juice glass in excellent condition sells for $10 to $30.

Tip: Wicker should not be left outside in the yard. If the wicker is painted, it may survive a few seasons on a porch. Unimportant wicker furniture can be repainted about every three years. The paint will preserve it. Use two coats of paint and a coat of marine varnish; or for a natural finish, use a single coat of marine varnish.

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.

  • Piano cover, “General MacArthur American Hero,” green-and-yellow fabric, says “Land of the Free & Home of the Brave” and “Spirit of 76,” image of U.S. Capitol, 7 x 35 inches, $35.
  • Window war banner, “Son in the Service,” cloth with gold fringe, white ground with red star in center, 5 x 9 inches, $55.
  • “Soldier Boys” gum card wrapper, waxed paper, advertises a series of cloth flags available for 25 wrappers, Goudey Gum Co., 1930s, 4 1/2 x 6 inches, $115.
  • World War I trench art lighter, made from brass bomb casing, 7/8 x 3 3/4 inches, $130.
  • Spencer Fireworks Headquarters catalog, spring 1937, featuring Buck Rogers, 40 pages, 6 x 9 inches, $145.
  • Beetle Bailey “Private Zero” bobbin’-head figure, in uniform, King Features copyright, 1960s, 7 1/2 inches, $150.
  • Uncle Sam Bubble Pipes, figural pipes of Uncle Sam wearing red, white and blue hat, box lid with child in Navy uniform blowing bubbles, late 1900s, four pipes in box, $175.
  • Auto license topper, “War Worker – Cleveland Towmotor Co.,” beige ground, black center, red letters, 4 1/2 x 11 inches, $290.
  • Victory Glow bulb, standard socket, “V” with lightning bolt inside bulb, glows purple, 1940s, 4 inches, $310.
  • Daybed, maple and pine, painted blue, peaked headboard, turned legs and posts, 1850, 33 1/2 x 27 1/4 inches, $530.

Buy American! “Kovels’ American Collectibles, 1900 to 2000” is here. It’s the newest and best guide to your 20th-century treasures – everything from art pottery to kitchenware. It’s filled with hundreds of color photographs, marks, lists of designers and manufacturers and lots of information about collectibles. The collectibles of the 20th century are explained in an entertaining, informative style. Read tips on care and dating items and discover how to spot a good buy or avoid a bad one. And learn about hot new collectibles and what they’re worth so you can make wise, profitable decisions. The book covers pottery and porcelain, furniture, jewelry, silver, glass, toys, kitchen items, bottles, dolls, prints and more. It’s about the household furnishings of the past century-what they are, what they’re worth and how they were used. Available at your bookstore; online at Kovels.com; by phone at 800-571-1555; or send $27.95 plus $4.95 postage to Kovels, Box 22900, Beachwood, OH 44122.

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