Archive for Thursday, March 31, 2005

Unique chairs worth thousands

March 31, 2005


Old designs are often reworked into modern ideas whose origins are forgotten.

The 18th-century Windsor chair was originally made to be used on a porch. It reappeared in a slightly different form as a captain's chair, for use in a 20th-century den. The back of the chair was lowered and constructed with fewer "sticks" (spindles).

The Lazy Susan was a round table with a raised center tray that revolved to make it easier to serve everyone at the table. It was a minor 19th-century form, but became a huge success in the 1940s. The "early American" decorating of the time made the Lazy Susan a must for a small dining area.

Very sophisticated designers also have borrowed from the past. The English Morris chair of the late 19th century had an adjustable back that could be positioned for comfort with the help of pegs and bars that held the back in place. It was dark and heavy and had straight legs and arms.

In 1908, Viennese designer Josef Hoffmann reinterpreted the Morris chair as the Sitzmaschine ("machine for sitting"). Hoffmann's chair was constructed with curved parts and cutout designs, but the adjustable back was still held by a rod. The chair was made of plywood and bentwood so it could be mass-produced. Its unusual design and the role it played in modernist furniture make it an expensive piece of furniture today.

Q: My glow-in-the-dark Blue Coal Shadow ring was a premium from "The Shadow" radio program. It cost me a nickel and a couple of clippings or coupons. The ring has portraits of the Shadow and a blue center "stone." Is this ring valuable today?

A: Blue Coal was a brand name of anthracite coal used by the Glen Alden Coal Co. Blue Coal sponsored "The Shadow" from about 1932 to 1949. Your ring was a 1941 premium, and, like all Shadow premiums, it is wanted by collectors today. If your ring is in perfect condition, it could sell for up to $500. A second Shadow premium glow-in-the-dark ring was issued by Carey Salt, another sponsor, in 1945. That ring, with a black "stone," is even rarer. It can sell for twice as much as the Blue Coal ring.

Q: I inherited my grandmother's china set about 12 years ago. I think she bought it in the 1950s or '60s. The dishes are white with gold trim and have multicolored floral decorations in the centers and around the rims. The mark is a crown above an oval. A word within the oval appears to be "Farolina" or "Jarolina." Under the oval is the phrase "Made in Poland." Can you identify the maker?

A: The word below the crown is "Karolina" -- the top and bottom of the letter K are extended to form an oval. Before 1945, the Karolina porcelain factory in Jaworzyna Slaska, Poland, was known as Konigszelt. The company, founded in 1860, is still in business and has a Web site: Although your dishes are not antiques and are not hand-painted, wash them by hand. They were made before Karolina started producing dishwasher-safe dinnerware.

Q: What is a cigar cutter used for? We have a tabletop cutter shaped like a bulldog. It was left to the family by our great-grandfather, but none of us smokes, and we're not sure how it was used.

A: Most figural cigar cutters like yours were made during the first two decades of the 20th century. Cutters made during the 1890s were usually store models decorated with advertising. A cigar cutter was used to cleanly and neatly trim off the closed end flap of a cigar. Fancy tabletop cutters for the home lost popularity during the 1920s, replaced by pocket-size cutters.

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.Sprinkler bottle, Merry Maid, yellow, plastic, 7 inches, $85.Peter Max scarf, yellow, blue, green, purple, heart centers, synthetic fabric, 1970, 40 inches, $110.Kodak Brownie camera, folding, No. 3A, bellows, adjustment knobs, c. 1910, $145.Villeroy & Boch tray, oval, metal, ceramic insert in moss green with blue-green and white geometric design, 2 handles, c. 1910, 20 inches, $325.Steamroller Sit 'n Ride toy, wooden front roller, red wheels, green body, pressed steel, 1930s, Keystone, $355.German Kewpie doll in policeman uniform, all bisque, standing, painted socks and black shoes, brass buttons, marked "O'Neill," 1910, 4 1/2 inches, $530.

Q: I have a windup alarm clock with a color lithograph on the face of a man standing while a boy shines his shoes. The words "Bixby's Best" are on the shoeshine box. The clock, 4 inches in diameter, has a metal case and stands on four angled metal legs. As the hands move, the shoeshine boy's arms move, too, so it looks as if he's polishing the man's shoe.

A: Your Big Ben-style clock advertises Bixby's shoe polish, a brand dating from around the turn of the 20th century. A Big Ben-style clock is any clock similar to the Big Ben line of alarm clocks made by Westclox. If the lithograph is in excellent condition, your clock could sell for more than $150.

Q: Can you tell me anything about a 5-inch red metal stove with a decal that says "Pretty Maid"? The decal pictures a girl holding a cake in each of her hands.

A: Louis Marx founded his toy company in 1917. For decades, Marx produced metal and, later, plastic toys. Marx "Pretty Maid" metal toy stoves were manufactured in several sizes and styles, perhaps starting as early as the 1930s. Most of the stoves had at least one "Pretty Maid" decal like the one on your stove. The stoves sell for $10 up to $75, depending on size and condition.


Brass tarnishes more quickly in direct sunlight.

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