Kovels – Antiques & Collecting: Week of March 7, 2011
The metamorphic library chair was patented in 1853. What an innovative idea for a chair. The skirtlike part peeking from the back of the chair can be flipped up to make a small set of steps. It is a chair to be used in a library when trying to reach books on a high shelf. Library chairs with steps were made as early as the 18th century, when Thomas Chippendale made steps that folded into a case. Benjamin Franklin attached a stepladder to the bottom of his library chair, and Thomas Sheraton made library steps that turned into tables. Dual-purpose furniture became even more popular in the 19th century. Dresser drawers opened to reveal a flip-down bed or a desk, a sofa turned into a bathtub and a piano turned into a bed and dresser. The designs for most of these pieces were patented. This type of furniture is not always easy to sell because today we have enough space to buy two pieces for two jobs.
Q: My mother left me a little hinged, heart-shaped porcelain box. It has a green base and a floral lid and is marked “Limoges, Castel, France.” Please give me some information about it.
A: Your miniature Limoges box was made by a company named Castel in the city of Limoges, France. It probably was made no earlier than the 1980s, so it’s not old or high-priced.
Q: I have several pictures signed “Saito” that I bought at the Japan Military Post Exchange while I was stationed in Japan in 1960-66. I was told they were by an “artist” and would not be allowed to leave the country. As military, we took the pictures home with our clothing, so no Japanese approval was necessary. Can you tell me what their value might be?
A: Your pictures were made by Kiyoshi Saito (1907-1997), one of Japan’s most well-known woodblock-print artists. He began working as a sign painter in Tokyo in 1932. Then he did oil paintings and woodblock prints, which are made by cutting a design into a block of wood. Kiyoshi Saito began exhibiting and selling his prints in Japan, Europe and the United States after World War II. Japan passed a law making it illegal to export “national treasures” in 1884 and enacted the related “Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties” in 1951. These laws seem to pertain to ancient works and not to the work of contemporary artists. And since Kiyoshi Saito exhibited and sold his prints in other countries in the late 1950s, it must have been legal to take them out of Japan. Today, a single original woodblock print by Saito can sell for more than $1,000.
Q: I have a pewter bowl with a scalloped edge that’s marked “K Pewter S” in a circle with the word “Plymouth” above the circle and “Made in USA” below it. Can you tell me anything about this bowl?
A: There is little available information about the maker of your pewter bowl. Pewter marked “Plymouth” with the initials “K” and “S” can be found selling for under $30 all the way up to several thousand dollars. One of the most expensive was a rare large centerpiece bowl designed by well-known architect and industrial designer Walter Dorwin Teague in about 1923. Teague (1883-1960) was one of the leading designers of the 20th century. He designed cameras for Eastman Kodak, glassware for Corning and Steuben, kitchenware for Pyrex, and lamps, lighters, pianos, radios, and car and truck bodies for other companies. Your bowl was probably made in the 1960s or ’70s, was not designed by a famous artist and is worth about $30.
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Q: I’m a new collector of Depression glass and would like to know something about patterns with the odd names “Boopie” and “Burple.”
A: Boopie is a stemware pattern made by Anchor Hocking Glass Corp. of Lancaster, Ohio, to match its dinnerware pattern called Bubble. To make matters more confusing, different names were used for Boopie and Bubble in ads in the 1960s. Boopie was originally called Berwick, but was also known as Inspiration. Bubble was originally known as Bullseye but was called Provincial or Early American Line in 1960s ads. It was made in several colors from 1941 to 1968. Burple is the name of another Anchor Hocking pattern. It was made in the 1940s in Crystal, Forest Green and Ruby Red.
Q: I have an old Pyrex bowl decorated with the signs of the zodiac. Can you tell me if others are collecting Pyrex yet and how old my bowl could be?
A: Corning Glass Works made the first Pyrex dishes in 1915, but it made only clear glass bakeware that could be used in the oven. In 1947 Corning started to make colored dishes, and in 1956 it put colored designs on the pieces. Corning was promoting the idea of “bake and serve,” or “from oven to table.” The first Pyrex patterns were Daisy and Snowflake. The colors were the most popular used by decorators at that time: pink, charcoal and turquoise. (I had a turquoise and charcoal kitchen in the 1950s.) More than 70 patterns followed. Zodiac, made in 1961, is one of the hardest to find today. There is a growing group of Pyrex collectors.
Note: Several months ago, we wrote about a red-painted iron Art Deco elephant nutcracker. A reader wrote that the nutcracker was made by Vindex Toy Co. and usually has a tail made from a piece of twine. An old Vindex toy catalog listed it as selling for $12 a dozen. This iron nutcracker is fairly common, and it also was made in brass or wood. Nutcrackers are collected by many people. The Nutcracker Collectors Club publishes a quarterly newsletter for collectors. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tip: Clean a clock face as seldom as possible. The brass trim may be coated with colored lacquer and brass polish will remove the color.
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.
- Railroad Pullman’s car scrub-brush, black bristles, silver-tone metal band, wooden handle, used by conductor to brush off seats, by Gert-Lumbard & Co., 9 x 2 1/2 inches, $85.
- Garden tea-party dress, sheer, floaty voile, sleeveless, attached caplet, buttery yellow, flower print in shades of brown, amber, gold and peach, 1930s, size 10, $90.
- University of Wisconsin Bucky Badger whiskey decanter, figural, mascot holding football, removable head, glazed finish, Heritage China, Ezra Brooks, 1974, 11 inches, $130.
- Pepsi-Cola straw container, “5 cents, Bigger-Better,” navy blue with image of blue-and-red Pepsi bottles on three sides, 1930s, 10 3/4 x 3 3/4 inches, $175.
- Eisenberg brooch, flower shape, blue sapphire surrounded by emerald-cut crystal rhinestones, gold wash, original velvet-lined box, 1940s, 5 inches, $395.
- Sterling-silver napkin ring, Miss Liberty holds a victory wreath, square napkin holder, small rectangular base, Reed & Barton, 3 1/4 inches, $400.
- Hooked mat, female hunter wearing snowshoes, rifle over shoulder, pine trees on each side, dark-blue sky, snow-covered ground, rust border, Grenfell, 9 1/2 x 7 1/2 inches, $430.
- American surgeon’s kit, mahogany brass-bound case, includes saw, tourniquet, snips and forceps, marked Frank Arnold, circa 1850, 16 x 7 inches, $690.
- L. & J.G. Stickley library table, No. 522, rectangular top over 2 drawers, corbel supports, lower stretched supports, thru-tenon construction, copper pulls, signed, 48 x 30 inches, $1,560.
- Simon & Halbig character child doll, No. 151, painted side-glancing eyes, open/close mouth, teeth, blond wig, braids, jointed, white cotton dress, 14 1/2 inches, $3,735.
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