Archive for Sunday, March 30, 2003

Old boneshakers sell for thousands

March 30, 2003


Bicycle riding is considered both fun and good exercise. In the 19th century, it was strenuous, difficult, dangerous and uncomfortable.

The first velocipedes or bicycles were nicknamed "boneshakers." The wheels were made of wood with iron bands. The body of the bicycle was made of wood, and the leather seat resembled a horse's saddle. The pedals were cast iron, and there was a hand brake that stopped the back wheel. The front wheel was large, so the rider sat high above the ground. A sudden stop could toss the rider off. Old boneshakers sell for thousands of dollars to serious collectors, who rarely ride them.

My antique Windsor side chair is wood with a cane seat. The crest above the back spindles has a pressed floral design. Under the seat, there's a tag that reads "Phoenix Chair Co., Sheboygan, Wisc." Age and value?

The Phoenix Chair Co. manufactured chairs, stools, highchairs, dining sets and breakfast sets in Sheboygan from about 1880 to 1929. The company used oak, walnut and elm to make furniture in European and American antiques styles. Phoenix's 1908 catalog has been reprinted and can be found in some libraries and bookstores. Your chair is worth $80 to $100.

Several years ago, I purchased close to 60 different black paper silhouettes at an antiques show in Atlantic City. The British dealer said he could not identify the country of origin or the artist. The silhouettes are complete body portraits of adult men and women wearing 19th-century dresses, formal suits or naval uniforms. Does this help you identify them?

The full-body style of your silhouettes leads us to think that they date from the late 1800s or early 1900s. They were probably part of the original artist's collection. Multiple silhouettes were cut at the same time, and the artist often kept one from each cutting. Small silhouette portraits of people's heads were at their peak of popularity from about 1760 to 1860. By the late 1800s, more-complex cutouts were being produced using mechanical aids. The most valuable silhouettes are early ones signed by the artist or labeled with a trade name. The word "silhouette" was satirically derived from the name of an 18th-century French finance minister, Etienne de Silhouette, who enjoyed cutting paper profiles but became the butt of jokes because of the drastic cuts he made in France's budget. The minister's unpopularity linked his name in a derogatory way with this cheap form of portraiture.

What is Hadley pottery?

Mary Alice Hadley started hand-painting pottery in Louisville, Ky., in 1939. She took her decorated pottery to the Louisville Pottery Co. for glazing and firing. When demand for her work increased, she hired decorating help and rented space at Louisville Pottery. Mary Alice and her husband, George Hadley, bought their own small pottery in 1944. Hadley Pottery made dinnerware and other pottery from native clays. Mary Alice died in 1965, and the company was later sold, but it is still in business producing original Hadley patterns.

I inherited an enamelware coffee set from my grandfather. There's a coffeepot, spoon holder and large sugar and creamer. They're white and are covered with decorations of fall-colored leaves. Each one also has metal bands and handles. The sugar bowl and coffeepot have metal tops. The pieces aren't marked, but I have seen similar sets used on television shows and movies set in the late 1800s. Where was the set made?

Enamelware is also known as graniteware. It is metal coated with one or more layers of enamel glaze. The industry began in the early 1800s in Europe. By the mid-1800s, enamelware was also being made in the United States. Fancy sets like yours were made in the late 1800s for use in the dining rooms of wealthier Americans. The leaf decoration was probably added using decals. The best enamelware coffee or tea sets from this era have pewter trim. Depending on the condition of your set and the quality of the metal, it could be worth up to $1,500, or even more.

I would like to know if you can help me identify my strange iron gadget. It seems to be an old peeler of some sort. The mark on it reads "Patent Scott Mfg. Co., Baltimore, May 16, 1871." All the gears move freely.

Robert P. Scott, originally from Ohio, owned manufacturing facilities in Baltimore and Newark, N.J. Scott filed for several patents related to various styles of apple and peach peelers during the 1870s and 1880s. The May 16, 1871, patent relates to the spring fork on your peeler. It pushed the apple off the peeler after the skin was removed. There are various models of Scott peelers. They range in value from about $100 to several hundred dollars, depending on size, scarcity and condition.


Use a blow dryer to heat and soften tape on boxes that once held toys. Then try to pry up a side of the tape, and heat it some more. If you see some of the colored parts of the box coming up, stop removing the tape.


The Kovels answer as many questions as possible through the column. By sending a letter with a question, you give full permission for its use in the column or any other Kovel forum. Names and 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, (name of your newspaper), King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019.

Current prices

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.

  • Twiggy board game, 1967, Milton Bradley, 19 x 10 inches, $40.
  • "Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book," 1950s, hardcover, 460 pages, $55.
  • Depression-glass salt and pepper shakers, Cloverleaf pattern, green, $110.
  • Ringo Starr nodder, playing drums, blue suit, Copyright 1964 by Car Mascots, 7 1/2 inches, $120.
  • Handkerchief, Goldilocks and the 3 Bears, Kellogg's cereal premium, 1930s, 7 x 13 inches, $225.
  • Gibson Girl plate, black transfer of Charles Gibson drawing titled "Mr. Waddles arrives late and finds her card filled," c. 1900, 10 1/2 inches, $265.
  • Barbie's 4-poster bed, 1962, unassembled in box, marked also for Midge, 13 x 7 1/2 inches, $720.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.