Archive for Sunday, January 4, 2004

19th-century specialty iron fetches $2,090 at auction

January 4, 2004


Many 20th-century fashions were possible because new fabrics and new methods of manufacturing were invented. Permanently pleated fabric made tedious ironing unnecessary.

Interlining for jackets has changed from buckram to pellon, which is a stiff, fusible fabric. Ironing is no longer necessary for many drip-dry, permanently pressed shirts and blouses. Collectors of old irons say the earliest known are Viking glass irons that date back to about 700 A.D. By the 1500s, ironing was done with a metal tool that was heated in a fire or with heated iron rods.

The high-ruff collar that was popular in the early 1500s (remember the portraits of Queen Elizabeth I?) required starch that stiffened the fabric when it was heated. A special iron was invented in Italy to make it possible to reach into the small pleated ruff. The goffering iron was made in France, then England. A long iron rod was heated over a fire and slid into a long, thin tube called a barrel. Then the heated barrel was used to smooth and shape the ruff. When it was not in use, the heater was stored in another barrel-shaped part of the iron. The irons were left standing in the room, where they could be seen. The stands were often made with fancy bases or wrought-iron trim.

Old goffering irons are scarce and sell for high prices. A European wrought-iron example made in the 1800s was recently auctioned for more than $2,000.

Are old sewing patterns -- unopened or used -- considered collectible?

Vintage sewing patterns are sought by a growing group of collectors. Especially popular are dress patterns from the 1950s and '60s. Patterns that are unopened and in near-mint condition can sell for as high as $15. Others can be found in thrift stores or at garage sales for as little as $1.

I'm 77 and have a wooden nightstand that belonged to my grandmother. It must be close to 100 years old. There's a drawer at the top and an open shelf below. The label inside the drawer reads "Joerns Bros. Furniture Co., Manufacturers of Artistic Furniture, Stevens Point, Wis." What can you tell me about the maker?

Joerns Bros. Furniture Co. moved from Sheboygan, Wis., to Stevens Point in 1927. So your nightstand was not made before 1927. The company's history goes back to 1898. That year, the three Joerns brothers -- Charles, Paul and Frederick -- started a furniture-manufacturing business in St. Paul, Minn. They moved the firm to Sheboygan in the early 1900s, and Charles bought out his brothers. From 1927 until the 1950s, Joerns manufactured high-quality bedroom and dining-room suites. The firm is still in business today as the Joerns Furniture Co., a subsidiary of Joerns Sunrise Medical. The furniture company makes wooden furniture for nursing homes.

My Coca-Cola clock is part of a 21-by-13-inch plastic advertising display that's a dioramalike scene in an ice-cream shop. A soda jerk is standing behind the counter and two teenagers are sitting on stools in front of the counter. There's a jukebox at the right and a large menu behind the counter. I paid $10 for it 12 years ago. Is it worth more today?

Your Coke advertising display dates from the 1950s, after plastic began to be widely used for clock cases and toys. Today your display sells for just a few dollars more than you paid for it.

I have a set of ceramic mixing bowls in various colors. I would guess that they were made in the 1930s. I thought they were Fiesta, but the mark on the bottom is the word "Sevilla" in script above the printed letters "USA." Can you help?

Sevilla was a line of kitchenware produced in the late 1930s and early '40s by the Cronin China Co. of Minerva, Ohio. Cronin manufactured dinnerware and kitchenware from 1934 to 1956. The Sevilla line included mixing bowls, pitchers, teapots, cookie jars, covered casseroles and range sets. The pieces came in solid colors, including red, yellow, white, brown, pink, gray, maroon, medium and dark blue, and medium and dark green.

I have four cast-iron toy firetrucks marked "Kenton Hardware Co., Kenton, Ohio." My father bought them in 1927. All of them are about 8 inches long and are in mint condition, with black tires mounted on red rims. I have a red pumper, blue patrol car, red hook-and-ladder and green hose truck. What are they worth today?

Kenton Lock Manufacturing Co. opened in Kenton, Ohio, in 1890. Its name changed to Kenton Hardware Manufacturing Co. in 1894, when it started producing cast-iron toys. Kenton firetrucks made in the late 1920s are valuable. But the description of your trucks is troubling. All of the toy trucks we've seen came with white tires, not black ones. And even trucks that were never played with should show signs of wear in the paint. Trucks like yours in near-mint condition, with original tires and paint, are worth close to $700 each. If the tires on your trucks have been replaced and if the toys have been repainted, their value decreases by half.


Rattan and wicker furniture will pick up the smell of cigarette smoke. If you want to remove the smell, put the furniture outside to air. It's also helpful to wash it with Murphy's Oil Soap, rinse, then dry.

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