Archive for Sunday, October 7, 2001

Postwar clowns are affordable collectibles

October 7, 2001


Clowns have always been popular children's toys. Tin toys shaped like clowns date to the mid-19th century. But collectors who want affordable collectibles probably should concentrate on the postwar tin toys made in Japan, Europe or the United States in the 1950s and 1960s.

Many of the toys were "wind-ups" that were made of brightly decorated tin. A key-wind made the clown climb a pole, ride a unicycle or play a violin or a drum.

The movement was created by a clockwork mechanism that could easily break, and is difficult to repair. In good condition these toys sell for $100 to $500.

About 1960, tin toys often had some plastic parts such as the clown's head or hands. These toys sell for less. Look for some of the old toys at tag sales and flea markets. Bargains can still be found.

Back in the late 1970s, I must have had about a dozen Barbie dolls. I've been going through them and see that one is marked "Kenner" on the back. I know Barbie is made by Mattel, not Kenner. The Kenner doll has a beautiful head of blond hair and big blue eyes. Can you identify her?

Your Kenner doll is named Darci. She was sold from 1979 to 1981. Kenner gave up on Darci because even though the doll was well-made and attractive, it could not make a dent in Barbie's market share. Darci is a collectors' item today. A blond Darci doll in mint condition and with the original box sells for about $30.

Can you tell me something about the history and value of my old trunk? Inside it is stamped "John Musgat, manufacturer and dealer in trunks, satchels and fine harness, Fond Du Lac, Wis." The trunk has a barrel top and is metal with wood and metal slats. Inside there are hinged paper-covered panels that separate the compartments. It is in poor shape. Should I restore it?

The style of your trunk dates it to around the 1890s. Many people like to restore old trunks, and they are worth more restored than in poor condition. A trunk like yours, restored to look original, would sell for $300 or more.

I have a table with a leg that seems to be a bird's claw holding a ball. Do you know why this type of foot was used? It seems so strange.

The ball-and-claw foot is usually connected with the Chippendale style. The foot design came from China and is said to represent a dragon's claw and a pearl. The design was taken to Holland by 17th-century traders and later copied by English designers.

Thomas Chippendale, an English cabinetmaker, used the ball-and-claw foot for some of his drawings in his famous book of furniture designs in 1753. American cabinetmakers borrowed the idea and used ball-and-claw feet on chairs, tables and desks until the 1780s.

The idea is still popular, and the ball-and-claw design has been used as bathtub feet, chair arms and even on silverware.

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