Kovels Antiques and Collecting: Week of Oct. 19, 2015

The skirt on this late-18th-century chair hides a potty. The seat was removed when the chair was used. A servant probably emptied it each morning. The chair sold in June 2015 at a Cowan's auction in Cincinnati for $184.

The skirt on this late-18th-century chair hides a potty. The seat was removed when the chair was used. A servant probably emptied it each morning. The chair sold in June 2015 at a Cowan’s auction in Cincinnati for $184.


BEACHWOOD, Ohio – Indoor plumbing with a flushing toilet was not commonplace until the 20th century, even though the first flushing toilet was patented in 1775.

Queen Elizabeth I and other members of royalty had a type of toilet that emptied into a nearby body of water. Others used outhouses, chamber pots and holes in the ground.

In the 18th century the wealthy sometimes had a special chair altered to hold a chamber pot. A period Chippendale commode corner chair was sold recently at a Cowan auction for $185, and at another auction a short Chippendale commode chair sold for $24,000. What was the difference? The expensive chair had a tooled leather seat, an intricately designed skirt, well-shaped back panels and arms, and original finish. It is one of the best of its type.

A regular chair was sometimes converted into a commode chair. A hole was put in the seat and a shelf below held the potty. The front panel on the chair that hides the potty was probably added when the chair was altered. Careful examination can show where it is attached to the original seat. And details of the style of the chair, the straight legs or curved legs with ball and claw feet, and the possible shortening of the arms all influence the price.

Collectors want original antiques and alterations lower the value. And the most expensive furniture is always made by the best craftsmen. Today, more than in the past 20 years, the original finish adds much to the value.

Q: My blue cast-iron motorcycle was a gift when I was 5 years old. It has a policeman riding on it. The motorcycle is 6 inches long and 4 inches high. The tires are hard rubber and the original bulb is in the front light. Does my old toy have any value?

A: Your police motorcycle was made by Hubley Co., founded in 1898 in Lancaster, Pa., by John E. Hubley. The company originally specialized in toy trains. It reorganized in 1909 and started to make cast-iron toys-horse-drawn wagons and circus wagons, fire engines, miniature coal stoves and toy guns. As the automotive industry grew, Hubley added more and more models. The company stopped making cast-iron toys in 1942 due to the war effort. After the war, it made diecast metal and plastic toys. The name was changed to Gabriel Industries in 1965, and in 1978, the company was bought by CBS. From about 1934 to 1936, Hubley made electrical toys, like your motorcycle, with battery-operated headlights. The motorcycles also made an exhaust sound. They’re rare, and your motorcycle could sell for $350 to $500, depending on its condition.

Q: What is the sheet music for Will You Remember (Sweetheart) from the movie Maytime worth? It has a picture of Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald on the front.

A: Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy performed together in eight movies between 1935 and 1942. Maytime, a 1937 musical distributed by MGM, was their third movie together. They were dubbed “America’s Sweethearts,” and they also had an off-screen romance. Most sheet music sells for $5 to $10. The better the cover pictures and the condition, the higher the price.

Q: I have a stoneware jug, 11 3/8 inches tall. It was my mother-in-law’s. The jug is printed with blue letters, “Globe Liquor Co., 148 & 152 Main St., Buffalo, N.Y.” Can you tell me about it?

A: Your jug doesn’t have a maker’s mark, but a wine and liquor wholesaler operated in Buffalo, New York, at that address from the 1880s until about 1901. Salt-glazed stoneware pottery from Europe was used in America from its earliest days. By the 18th century, it was being made in America by hundreds of small local potters. Early decorations were incised and later designs were painted free hand, usually in cobalt blue glaze. By 1860 designs were more elaborate and had stylized flowers, leaves, birds and other pictures. Names often were printed or stamped on the jugs. Stoneware crocks held butter, sugar, spices, flour, coffee, tea, honey, molasses, pickles, cheese, smoked fish, meats and cheese. Stoneware jugs and bottles held vinegar and beer and kept water cool and drinkable. Don’t forget whiskey, that’s probably what was in your jug. Stoneware was out of favor by about 1910, after the inventions of canning in glass jars and refrigeration. Now collectors consider salt-glazed stoneware folk art. Prices are determined by rarity, unusual decoration or known maker. Your jug is worth about $80 to $100.

Q: I was given a book called The Philadelphia Directory for 1806, Containing the Names, Trades, and Residence of the Inhabitants of the City, Southwark, and Northern Liberties. It’s in good condition and has about 186 pages plus the front and back covers. The previous owner had the entire book covered in a red leather cover to preserve it. Does it have any value?

A: Old city directories sometimes sell at auctions. An 1876 San Francisco directory sold for $234 several months ago. There are collectors of old books and ephemera, which includes other paper collectibles. Some bookstores and auction houses specialize in selling old books. The directory probably has the most appeal in the Philadelphia area. It would sell best at an antiquarian bookseller. You might think about donating it to an area museum or library.

Tip: Invert your old glass cake-stand and use it for chips and dip, salsa or hummus. The pedestal must be hollow to hold the dip; the top plate is fine for the chips.

Take advantage of a free listing for your group to announce events or to find antique shows, national meetings and other events. Check out the Calendar at Kovels.com to find, publicize and plan your antiquing trips.

Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel answer questions sent to 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 photographs, but if a stamped envelope is included, we will try. The amount 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.

  • Peruvian silver goblet, repousse Inca design, figural stem, oval domed stepped foot, 6 1/2 x 3 inches, $80.
  • Patchwork quilt, Double Irish Chain, marigold, hunter green, cream ground, 88 x 88 inches, $125.
  • Advertising sign, Rolling Rock, on tap, horse and horseshoe, reverse on glass, round, 15 inches, $180.
  • Dedham Pottery pitcher, oak leaves, blue and white, crackle glaze, loop handle, 1929, 5 1/2 inches, $340.
  • Cigarette case, papier-mache, fiddler, dancer, woman, trees, hinged, Moscow, 1870s, 3 x 1 3/4 inches, $400
  • Popeye, skater, tin lithograph, windup, Linemar, 6 1/2 inches, $450.
  • Sandwich Glass lamp, oil, amethyst, octagonal baluster stem, square base, circa 1850, 9 inches, $480.
  • Library table, Italian Renaissance style, walnut, winged griffin supports, shield decoration, 32 x 90 inches, $650.
  • Civil War flute, rosewood, nickeled silver, inscribed case, Byron Holton, circa 1850, 13 inches, $1,250.
  • Anna Pottery flask, pig, fine old bourbon, Hard Oil Drill imprinted on bottom, brown glaze, circa 1875, 7 1/2 inches, $2,500.

“Kovels’ Antiques & Collectibles Price Guide, 2016,” 48th edition, is your most accurate source for current prices. It’s available now and includes a special bonus section special bonus section that tells you how and where to sell if you’re downsizing, settling an estate, or selling your antiques. If you order directly from the Kovels, you’ll receive our free Companion eBook with all of the book’s 32,000 prices – ready for downloading to your eReader. The paperback has more than 2,500 color photographs 700 categories of antiques and collectibles. Available for $27.99 plus $4.95 postage. Purchase directly from the Kovels if you want the free eBook Companion and be sure to include your email address. Visit KovelsOnlineStore.com, call 800-303-1996, or write to Price Book, P.O. Box 22900, Beachwood, OH 44122.

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