Kovels – Antiques & Collecting: Week of Sept. 24, 2012

This medical-examining chair was made in the 1880s. It sold for $475 at a Skinner auction in Boston last year. Medical antiques are hard to find.

This medical-examining chair was made in the 1880s. It sold for $475 at a Skinner auction in Boston last year. Medical antiques are hard to find.

Sometimes an unusual piece of furniture is offered for sale, and many collectors fight over it. A “Dr. Byrne’s Medical Examination Chair” was offered by Skinner Auctioneers of Boston. The odd chair was clearly labeled with its name and the maker, S. Betz & Co. of Chicago. The red-painted steel chair also was marked on the footrests with the maker’s name and the words “Model 1901 Prof. A.H. Ferguson.” The chair has levers to adjust the back, footrest and height, and it can be flattened to use as a table with stirrups. It is about 56 inches high. Nineteenth-century medical chairs are not often sold. This one brought $475.

Would you buy a 1930 permanent-wave machine with a chair hood and dangling cords? Would you put a 1940s washing machine in your living room near a wall of polished steel school lockers? Few pieces of furniture representing technology (rather than decorative arts) have survived, but all of the ones we mentioned have sold at recent auctions.

Q: My child-size green lusterware tea set is decorated with white and pink flower blossoms. The set includes four cups and 3 1/4-inch-diameter saucers, a 3 1/2-inch teapot, and a sugar and creamer. Some of the pieces are marked “Made in Japan.” There’s not a chip anywhere. Age and value, please?

A: Many lusterware children’s tea sets were made in Japan during the 1930s. Your set was probably made then, or perhaps as early as the late 1920s. Your set is a small one, without plates. It would sell for about $35 to $50.

Q: I have an original Woodstock poster in mint condition. What is it worth?

A: The famous Woodstock Music and Art Fair was held near White Lake, N.Y., in 1969. The festival is considered one of the most important moments in American music history. The best-known Woodstock poster was designed by Arnold Skolnick and came in two sizes, 18 by 24 inches and 32 by 24 inches. It was printed on either heavy cardstock or very thin paper, and features a white dove perched on the neck of a guitar on a red background. The true “original” poster was designed by David Edward Byrd and shows a nude woman surrounded by cupids and flowers. When the location of the festival was changed, Byrd was on vacation and unreachable, so Skolnick was commissioned to create the new poster. Woodstock memorabilia are popular collectibles. An original Byrd poster in excellent condition recently auctioned for $468. The Skolnick version in near-mint condition sold for $1,156. But beware. Many reproductions exist.

Q: We bought an elaborately decorated silk robe while on a trip to Japan years ago. What is the best way to display this? Is it better to hang it up or to frame it?

A: If the robe is in good condition and not too heavy, it can be hung on a hanger. The Textile Museum recommends wrapping a wooden hanger in polyester quilt batting to support the shoulders. Cover the padding with washed muslin. If you are hanging it in a closet, you should cover it with washed muslin to protect it from dust. Archival storage items can be purchased at closet shops. Don’t display the robe where it will be exposed to sunlight or fluorescent light. Even incandescent lighting can cause fading over time. Extreme heat or cold also can damage textiles. If the robe is framed, special UV-filtering glass and acid-free materials should be used.

Q: I have an old Grover & Baker sewing machine. It has all of the original pieces and works well. What is it worth?

A: Grover & Baker Sewing Machine Co. of Boston was founded in the mid-19th century by tailors William O. Grover and William E. Baker. The company is known for inventing and patenting technology that revolutionized the modern sewing machine. Its inventions included the first portable sewing machine and fabric-feed systems. In 1875 the company merged with the Domestic Sewing Machine Co., and the Grover & Baker brand ceased to exist. Grover & Baker sewing machines are popular with collectors. In 2004 a Grover & Baker sewing machine sold for $1,397 at auction.

Q: I own a canceled check from Mae West’s personal account at California Bank in Hollywood. The check, in the amount of $25, is signed by West and dated Dec. 24, 1945. How much would it sell for?

A: Mae West, originally named Mary Jane West, was an American actress, screenwriter and playwright. She was born in 1893 in Brooklyn, N.Y. West started her career as a playwright and actress on Broadway. Her plays proved controversial and received mixed critical reception, but they were well-attended. In 1932 she was offered a contract with Paramount Pictures and made her debut in the film “Night After Night” with George Raft. West went on to star in many films, including “I’m No Angel” with Cary Grant. She stayed in show business for decades and has been named by the American Film Institute as the 15th-greatest female star in American cinema history. One of her signed checks drawn on the same bank recently auctioned for $96.

Tip: Store your trading card albums flat, not upright. This prevents your baseball cards or old valentines from getting bent or damaged. Check the album periodically to make sure the pages are not sticking together. If you notice any problems, replace the pages.

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.

  • Cambridge Glass Co. bud vases, Crown Tuscan line, peach color, 1930s, 10 inches, pair, $45.
  • Trench art vase, brass shell casing, scalloped top, hammered design at top, tri-footed, circa 1917, 3 x 3 1/2 inches, 460.
  • Planters Peanuts drinking glass, circus theme, Mr. Peanut as stilt walker, juggler, trapeze artist, leopard trainer, black and gold design, 1950s, 5 x 3 inches, $85.
  • Peters & Reed double bud vase, glossy red, blue, yellow and green on ivory, 1920s, 6 1/4 x 6 1/4 inches, $95.
  • Buster Brown Shoes flapper advertising doll, purple fabric body, elongated arms and legs, ads on front and back, 1930s, 28 inches, $125.
  • Daisy Target Special BB pistol, Model 118, steel, blue finish, .118 caliber, 1920s-40s, $135.
  • Sterling-silver berry serving spoon, Empire pattern by Towle, patented 1894, 9 1/4 inches, $180.
  • Swivel armchair, oak, shaped spindles, wide arms, sculpted seat, floor mount, circa 1915, 18 x 23 inches, $395.
  • Men’s dress tailcoat, wool, black, double-breasted, knee-length tails, two pockets in tails, circa 1840, 36-inch chest, $495.
  • Mickey Mouse Slip-Overs for Boys and Girls store display sign, cardboard, easel back, Mickey standing on clothing box, black, gold and white, 1920, 20 x 12 inches, $630.

Order the set: Buyers’ Guide to 20th Century Costume Jewelry, Part One and Part Two. Both for our special price of $34.95. These special reports help you identify the most popular makers and designers of costume jewelry. Spot mid-century costume jewelry, Mexican silver jewelry and European and North American pieces. Learn who Hobe and Sigi are and how to recognize a rare piece of Bakelite. Accurate, comprehensive and valuable whether you’re a serious collector or just a beginner. Available only from Kovels. Order by phone at 800-303-1996; online at Kovels.com; or send $34.95 plus $4.95 postage and handling to Kovels, P.O. Box 22900, Beachwood, OH 44122.

© 2012 by Cowles Syndicate Inc.


This medical-examining chair was made in the 1880s. It sold for $475 at a Skinner auction in Boston last year. Medical antiques are hard to find.

This medical-examining chair was made in the 1880s. It sold for $475 at a Skinner auction in Boston last year. Medical antiques are hard to find.