Kovels – Antiques & Collecting: Week of Oct. 23, 2011

This 51-inch-high Gothic Revival armchair made in the 19th century seems to belong in a dark castle. It was offered for sale last year by Cowan's Auctions of Cincinnati. It looks like a chair owned by one of our readers - a chair that's supposedly haunted because it 'squeaks' in the night. Without a ghost, it's worth about $400 to $600.

This 51-inch-high Gothic Revival armchair made in the 19th century seems to belong in a dark castle. It was offered for sale last year by Cowan’s Auctions of Cincinnati. It looks like a chair owned by one of our readers – a chair that’s supposedly haunted because it ‘squeaks’ in the night. Without a ghost, it’s worth about $400 to $600.

We have heard many stories about “haunted antiques” through the years, and we often ask readers to send us their stories.

Clocks seem to be the most likely to be haunted. One reader’s mother bought a modern sunburst wall clock in 1952. It stayed on the kitchen wall. In 1982 her father died, and in 1992 her mother began dating. Whenever the boyfriend came over, the clock would make a “grunting” noise. According to the reader “Mother married and her new husband asked that the clock be thrown out, but I put it in the attic. In 2006 they divorced and I brought the clock into the kitchen. It is quiet now. Mother said she should have listened to the clock.” Several families reported having windup clocks that started ticking or chiming when family members got together weeks after a funeral.

But the strangest story we heard was about an antique glass necklace our reader inherited from her husband’s family. She told us that whenever she wore the necklace, she had an accident involving water – a glass tipped over, a vase broke, a drink was spilled on her, she even fell in a pool. Then one day her mother-in-law commented that it was nice to see her wearing her great-aunt’s necklace. Did she know that her aunt was a survivor of the sinking of the Titanic?

Haunted antiques seem to be more playful than malicious. No one has told us of a dangerous example. Many have suggested that returning the antique to a better condition or a more comfortable place in the house seems to solve the problem.

Do you have a haunted antique? Tell us about it at collectorsgallery@kovels.com.

Q: I bought an old wooden rocking horse for $50 at a garage sale. It’s 27 inches tall and the rockers are 32 1/2 inches long. The horse stands on a platform that has four metal wheels and two wooden rockers. It has a leather saddle and a real hair tail. I’m wondering how I should clean it. Should I use furniture polish?

A: Rocking horses with wheels were popular toys at the turn of the century. When a child was young, the toy could be used as a rocking horse. When the child was a little older, the rockers were taken off the horse and the child could “ride” the horse on its wheels. You can clean your rocking horse with a damp sponge or cloth with a solution of a mild soap and water. Don’t let the wood get too wet and don’t use furniture polish.

Q: When I was a kid in the 1950s, my dad used to smoke Kool cigarettes. I remember he got plastic penguin salt and pepper shakers whenever he bought a few packs. We must have had a hundred of those black and white penguins displayed on shelves in the china cabinet. I don’t think those plastic shakers are worth much, but they sure do bring back memories. Do you think any are still around today? Ours were thrown out.

A: Brown and Williamson Tobacco Co. began making a menthol cigarette called Penguin in 1931. The brand name was changed to Kool in 1933, but penguins remained the symbol for the cigarette brand and were pictured in ads and on advertising items. Several different versions of the penguins were used. Early versions were more realistic than the later cartoon-like penguins. At first the penguin didn’t have a name, then he became “Kenny Kool,” and in 1947 he was named “Willie.” Penguin salt and pepper shakers named Willie and Millie were first offered as premiums in the late 1940s. You could get a pair by mailing in two empty Kool cigarette packs and 25 cents. The plastic shakers were made by F & F Mold and Die Works (Fiedler & Fiedler Mold and Die Works Co.) of Dayton, Ohio, until the 1960s. Plenty are still around. In fact, they are the most common Kool collectible and are not worth very much. Collectors pay more for the original box, even if it’s empty. Value of a pair of Kool penguin salt and pepper shakers without a box: $10 to $15.

Q: I own an 8-inch Lenci doll dressed in a plain blue dress with a closed bottom. The dress zips open in the back and has a long blue cloth handle. The tag on the doll’s back says “Lenci, Torino, Made in Italy.” The only decoration is a pink collar and red bow under the doll’s blond-haired head. I have seen a lot of Lenci dolls, but wonder if this one was designed as a purse. What is it worth?

A: Lenci di E. Scavini, best-known as a manufacturer of felt dolls, was founded in 1919 in Turin, Italy. By 1927-’28, the company had introduced purses among the accessories it started making a few years earlier. The first purses were dressed more elaborately than yours, so yours was probably made later — perhaps as late as the 1950s. In the 1950s, Lenci also made small dolls with bag skirts to hold candy, but these had no handle. If your doll’s head is celluloid rather than felt, that’s another clue that it’s a later Lenci product. Most later Lenci purses sell for $15 to $40. Lenci changed hands during World War II and closed in 2002.

Q: Where can I find glass tops for a stainless-steel percolator coffee pot? I’m desperate to find a replacement top for my coffee pot.

A: You may find replacement glass tops at your local hardware store. You can also order them from Coffee Maker Outlet (800-251-8824), Classic Kitchens and More (717-840-9537), Amazon.com and other sources that you can find online. The glass “knobs” come in different sizes, so be sure to specify the size you need.

Tip: Put ceramic saucers or glass or plastic plant holders under vases of flowers or potted plants. There are also inexpensive throwaway plastic dishes that have a rim and are exactly the right size and shape for a plant.

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 email 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.

  • The Cook Is in the Parlour Cookbook, by Marguerite Gilbert McCarthy, 309 pages, Little, Brown and Co., Boston, 1947, $20.
  • Madame Alexander Maggie Mix-Up doll, dressed as Mona Lisa, green velvet gown with gold braid, long black veil over long brown hair, 1990s, 8 inches, $45.
  • Prohibition shot glass, image of menacing woman with ax, “Bread Not Booze,” loaf of bread says “Vote Dry,” circa 1917, 2 1/8 inches, $50.
  • Plastic confetti comb, hinged piece with colored rhinestones and teardrop stones, 1960s, 3 1/2 inches, $55.
  • Lefton butter dish, figural bluebird, big side-glancing eyes, long painted eyelashes, two pink flowers above left eye, pink face, burgundy bow, 1950s, 4 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches, $135.
  • Lake View spice tin, cinnamon, image of girl in blue 1920s bathing suit standing by lake with sailboat, white ground, red letters, 4 x 2 inches, $175.
  • Staffordshire soup tureen, Tournay pattern, blue and white transferware, circa 1885, 11 3/4 x 9 1/4 inches, $190.
  • Philco cathedral radio, wood case, AM and shortwave bands, four knobs, embossed trademark, 1935, 17 x 12 1/2 inches, $225.
  • Cotton chenille bedspread, double peacocks center, two shades of blue, red and yellow flowers, 100 x 91 inches, $295.
  • English oak mule chest, hinged, rectangular top, molded edge, three inset panels over two drawers, ogee bracket feet, 1870s, 36 x 55 x 21 inches, $3,440.

New! A quick, easy guide to identifying valuable costume jewelry made since the 1920s. “Kovels’ Buyer’s Guide to Costume Jewelry, Part Two,” a report on the most popular styles, makers and designers of costume jewelry. The report makes you an informed collector and may get you a great buy. Photos, marks, histories and bibliography. Special Report, 2010, 8 1/2 x 5 1/2 inches, 36 pages. Available only from Kovels. Order by phone at 800-303-1996; online at Kovels.com; or send $19.95 plus $4.95 postage and handling to Kovels, Box 22900, Beachwood, OH 44122.

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