Kovels – Antiques & Collecting: Week of Oct. 19, 2009

 Glass parlor fountains are very rare. This 21-inch-high brass and blown glass fountain made about 1880-90 sold for $640 at Cowan's Auctions in Cincinnati.

Glass parlor fountains are very rare. This 21-inch-high brass and blown glass fountain made about 1880-90 sold for $640 at Cowan’s Auctions in Cincinnati.

Some antiques are so rare and strange that they are classed as “what’s its” by collectors. Sometimes they are also so interesting they can sell for high prices. This year two different auction houses offered “Victorian glass parlor fountains” – items that were “what’s its” to most collectors. A few years ago, only 12 examples were known. Researchers have discovered that the fountains were patented by Joseph Storer in 1871. A metal stand holds a basin at the top, and underneath it a pair of glass globes attached to a hollow metal rod could swing back and forth. Water was put in the upper basin and forced down into the globes and a series of tubes, then up again as an 8-inch water spout or fountain. The globes moved up and down and the guests were delighted with the unusual centerpiece. The fountains, about 20 inches high, were held in a frame made by James Tufts of Boston, a silver-plate manufacturer. The invention was called a “perpetual fountain” or “automatic fountain.” A fancy ruby glass fountain with etched designs sold originally for $50 – very expensive for a Victorian table decoration.

Q: I have a Hoody’s peanut butter pail with a red lid. The pail pictures children on a teeter-totter. It’s in very good condition. What can you tell me about when it was made and the company that made it?

A: A.C. Hoodenpyle, a Dutch immigrant whose nickname was “Hoody,” began selling roasted peanuts in 1913. He opened a store in Oregon and began selling peanut butter under the name Hoody’s Famous Peanut Butter. The red 1-pound peanut butter tins pictured a girl and a boy in 1920s-era clothes on a seesaw that was balanced on a big peanut shell with the words “Hoody’s Goodies” on it. Tins had either a plain tin lid or a red slip lid. After Hoodenpyle died, Valentine Brown bought the company. Harvest Manor Farms, a snack food company in El Paso, Texas, bought the company in 1994. The brand name is still used. The tins are rare and the graphics are popular with collectors. A tin with a red lid is worth $400 or more. One with a silver tin lid was offered recently for $860.

Q: We still own the bookcase my husband’s mother bought for him in the 1940s, when he was a child. It was made by the Gunn Furniture Co. of Grand Rapids, Mich. Can you tell us something about the bookcase’s history?

A: Gunn Furniture Co.’s history can be traced to 1874, when William S. Gunn started selling furniture at his Grand Rapids hardware store. In 1890 he incorporated his own manufacturing firm, the Gunn Folding Bed Co. Because the popularity of folding beds was waning fast, three years later he changed his company’s name to the Gunn Furniture Co. and started making desks, bookcases, files and other office furniture. The woods he used included walnut, oak and mahogany. The firm was sold in 1953 to Bergsma Brothers Inc., also of Grand Rapids. Bergsma Brothers closed in 1985.

Q: I have a Titian Ware Royal Ivory plate by Adams that says Adams was established in 1657. Your Web site mentions that the firm was founded in 1769. Can you tell me why the date is different?

A: Several members of the Adams family operated potteries in the Staffordshire district of England. The earliest pottery operated by a member of the family was Brick House Works, established in Burslem in 1657 by Robert Adams and his son, John. William Adams & Sons was established in 1769 and operated the Greengates Works in Tunstall. The 1657 date was added to the William Adams mark in 1896 even though the date refers to a different but related Adams company. Adams became part of the Wedgwood Group in 1966 and some Adams designs continued to be made with the Adams backstamp. The Greengates Works closed in 1992.

Q: I am interested in learning the year my old brass NCR cash register was made and what it’s worth. It’s a Model 356G. The first patent date is May 23, 1893, and the last is Aug. 30, 1910. The serial number is 1283080.

A: National Cash Register Co., which dates to 1884, made your cash register in 1913. You can check serial numbers of all NCR cash registers at the Dayton History Web site, DaytonHistory.org. An NCR Model 356G cash register sold recently for $950.

Q: I have a 9-inch Chad Valley rubber doll with painted brown hair. The patent number on it is 517,252. Can you tell me when it was made and what it’s worth?

A: Joseph and Alfred Johnson founded a printing firm called Johnson Bros. in Birmingham, England, in 1849. In 1897 they added a plant in Harborne, outside of Birmingham, in the valley of a stream called Chad – hence the trade name “Chad Valley.” The company made toys at the Chad Valley plant and added doll production about 1917. Its dolls were all-cloth, usually with felt faces, velvet bodies and hand-woven wigs. Because your doll has painted hair, not a wig, it’s not as valuable as the best Chad Valley dolls. The patent number dates it to 1940. If it’s in excellent shape, it could sell for about $100. Chad Valley was sold to Palitoy, another British toy company, in 1978.

Tip: Clean the inside of a graniteware pot by filling the pot with water, adding a teaspoon of baking soda, and bringing it to a boil.

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.

  • Ideal Miss Goody Two Shoes doll, “The Doll Who Walks by Herself,” turquoise dress, white leather shoes, blue eyes, blond hair, 1965, battery, 19 inches, $75.
  • Toy Coca-Cola dispenser, plastic, red with logo, holds one bottle of Coke, pull lever to fill plastic glass, 1950s, set of four glasses, $100.
  • Baby gown, petite red-and-white gingham, applique stripes across front, 1880s, $125.
  • Brumberger tri-level toy service station and parking garage playset, No. 800, ramps, gas pumps, air pump, grease rack, 1960s, 14 x 24 inches, $130.
  • Shoot DuPont Powders advertising postcard, features Monora, 1910 champion show dog in pointer stance, 5 1/2 x 4 inches, $235.
  • Northwood glass pull-up plate, shell form, striped satin, blue on yellow, light crimson pulled feathers, signed, 8 inches, $350.
  • Tiffany sterling silver bowl, leaf and dart border with drake-head handles, hairy hoof feet, marked, 5 x 7 x 6 inches, $430.
  • Eero Saarinen Grasshopper chair, bentwood, upholstered in blue-gray fabric, plywood arms, circa 1955, 36 x 27 inches, $1,540.
  • Weller Eocean vase, straight form, painted storks flying, cream ground, signed “Chilcote,” marked, 6 x 10 inches, $2,070.
  • 1913 Barnum & Bailey “Famous Elephant Base-Ball Team” circus poster, 20 x 30 inches, $7,635.

Just published. 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 at your bookstore; online at Kovels.com; by phone at 800-571-1555; or send $27.95 plus $4.95 postage to Price Book, Box 22900, Beachwood, OH 44122.

© 2009 by Cowles Syndicate Inc.