A wax jack often goes unrecognized by today's collectors.
It is usually made of silver, but sometimes it's of iron or brass. It looks like a candle, but it was not used for light. The bottom of a wax jack is a footed flat dish with a handle and an upright spindle. At the top of the spindle are a holder and a candle snuffer. The wax jack held a long, waxed wick that coiled around the spindle up to the holder. The waxed wick was lit to heat the block of sealing wax used to fasten letters and documents. Usually, a personal seal with a design cut into the bottom was pressed into the hot wax to leave personal identification.
After the seal hardened, it was almost impossible to secretly open the letter, because the wax would break. A wax jack was kept on a desk near other writing necessities: pen, ink, blotter and sander. Wax jacks were popular in England, but some were made and used in the United States. An example in good condition is worth more than $800.
Q: At an estate sale in 1975, I bought a William and Mary-style heavy wooden dining-room set for $250. The label on the table bottom reads "Johnson-Handley-Johnson Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan." Can you tell me anything about this company?
A: Three Swedish-immigrant brothers founded the Johnson Furniture Co. in Grand Rapids in 1908. Their designer, Tom Handley, became an officer of the company in 1922, the same year a related firm, Johnson-Handley-Johnson Co., was organized. Johnson Furniture Co. produced bedroom furniture, while Johnson-Handley-Johnson manufactured dining-room sets and library furniture. From its founding in 1922 until about 1935, Johnson-Handley-Johnson produced furniture in European and American revival styles. Modern lines also were manufactured after 1928. Both Johnson companies were known for high-quality residential furniture.
Q: My aunt gave me a Schoenhut wooden character doll years ago. I still have the original box and part of the box cover. The cover describes the doll as an "All Wood Perfection Art Doll" and "a real manikin," and includes a 1911 patent date. The doll's body is steel-jointed in seven places, and the back of the box is covered with photos of the doll posing in several positions. The doll has blue eyes, a closed mouth and a long, brown wig. I do not have any of her original clothing except her shoes. What is she worth today?
A: Albert Schoenhut founded his company in Philadelphia in 1872 to manufacture sturdy toy pianos. By the 1890s, A. Schoenhut & Co. was making many other kinds of toys. The company's first dolls, all wood with spring joints, were manufactured in 1911. Dolls of many types were made until 1930. You can more accurately date your doll by comparing her height and marks with Schoenhut production lists, which are reprinted in many doll books. Any wooden Schoenhut doll, in excellent condition and dressed in original or period clothing, could sell for more than $1,000.
Q: We found an Elvis Presley movie poster behind the mirror of a bedroom set we're refinishing. The set belonged to a family member who once owned a movie theater in Louisiana. The color poster, for the movie "Stay Away, Joe," is 22 inches by 14 inches and printed on heavy paper. The upper section of the poster is completely blank. The copyright date is 1968. Is the poster valuable?
A: Elvis movie posters are very collectible, although "Stay Away, Joe," released in 1968, was not a hit. Movie posters come in standard sizes. Your 22-by-14-inch poster is a "window card." A theater owner used the blank space at the top to write in the name of the theater and the date the movie was playing, then hung the poster in the front window of a local store, barbershop, beauty salon or doctor's office. Your unmarked poster might not have been used, or it might have been hung in the theater's own window. Window cards are not as valuable as other kinds of movie posters, but they still make nice displays. Take yours to a professional framer.
Q: My grandfather picked up a gold-trimmed, dark-blue porcelain tea set when he served in France during World War I. The tray is decorated with two oval multicolor paintings, one of Napoleon and the other of a woman I assume is Josephine. On the bottom, the tray is marked "Jaget & Pinon, Tours." I was told the set was a wedding gift to Napoleon. Can you add any information?
A: Jaget & Pinon was founded in Tours, France, in 1901, so your grandfather's tea set could not have been a gift to Napoleon, who married Josephine in 1796. He married Marie-Louise, his second wife, in 1810. Jaget & Pinon was known for its striking dark-blue wares made in Louis XV, Louis XVI and Empire styles. The firm was still working in the 1930s, when it was manufacturing Art Deco wares.
If you receive a package of glass antiques during cold weather, let it sit inside for a few hours before you unpack it. The glass must return to room temperature slowly, or it could crack.