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Archive for Thursday, May 12, 2005

Defunct comic-strip figures are difficult to identify

May 12, 2005

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Comic characters have long inspired toys, but sometimes discontinued comic-strip figures are hard to identify.

At a recent toy auction, a tin toy shaped like a boy riding a scooter was for sale. The toy could be wound up, and the boy, with one leg up in the air, looks as if he is propelling the scooter as the toy moves across the floor. It was marked "Smitty Scooter." Smitty was a character in a newspaper comic strip distributed by the Chicago Tribune Syndicate in 1922. It was created by Walter Berndt, who continued to draw the comic until 1973.

Smitty was a young boy who often wore a cap and bow tie. His image and story were used in Big Little Books and comic books, and on Cracker Jack premiums, toys, small figurines, marbles and other collectibles. The early tin toys are very popular today. The scooter toy sells for more than $1,000.

Q: My mother-in-law left us a large pottery planter stamped "Weller" on the bottom of the oval base in impressed capital letters. On the base sits a round, bowl-shaped planter next to a sculpted double-branched tree trunk. A sculpted crane sits on top of one of the trunks, looking down into the bowl. Can you price this for us?

A: Weller Pottery, founded in Fultonham, Ohio, in 1872, moved to Zanesville, Ohio, 10 years later. The pottery closed in 1948. It produced high-quality art pottery and florist ware. Your planter is not a common one. It probably dates from the 1920s, when the Woodcraft line was produced. Many Woodcraft pieces feature tree-trunk designs or treelike decorations, some with added bird figurals. Your planter would sell for $200 or more.

Q: When I was cleaning out my great-uncle's house, I discovered a 21-inch baby doll that has never been taken out of its original box. The doll, named Snoozie, was made by the Reliable Toy Co. of Toronto. He's wrapped in a blue blanket and is wearing white pajamas with blue trim. His head, hands and legs are all vinyl, and his body and arms are cloth. His eyes are painted blue, and his bright-red mouth is open wide in a yawn. Is the doll worth much?

A: Reliable Toy Co. of Toronto manufactured dolls from 1920 until the 1990s. Reliable had a long relationship with America's Ideal Toy Co. Ideal granted licenses for many of its dolls to Reliable, so the Canadian firm produced some dolls that have the same names as Ideal dolls. Snoozie was one of those dolls. Ideal's Snoozie, introduced in 1933, had a composition head and limbs, a rubberized cloth body and sleep eyes. Your Snoozie doll, in its original box, would probably sell for less than $100. The Ideal Snoozie is valued at more than $300.










World's Fair purse, mother-of-pearl, 1893, Chicago, Agriculture Building, 3 inches, $115.Yacht Race board game, picture of sailboats racing in water, Clark & Sowdon Cos., c. 1895, $120.Adams Gum jigsaw puzzle, woman in red coat and black fur, man in black coat, gum-wrapper premium, c. 1930, 10 x 7 inches, $180.Cast-iron coffee grinder, Enterprise No. 9, red open hopper, wooden drawer, patented Oct. 21, 1873, 20 1/2 inches, $320.Ivory-and-tortoise page turner, carved, sterling collar dated 1929, London, 16 inches, $410.English silver cup, double handle, repousse fluting, rope-twist band with stamped leaves, woman wearing bonnet handles, John Payne, 1761, 3 inches, $490.Pennsylvania dry sink, 1 drawer, 1 storage door, dark-finished pine, scalloped-back gallery, 36 x 40 inches, $695.Mettlach charger, no. 2795, figures in white relief, green ground, red floral design at top, marked, 17 1/2 inches, $875.Cut glass fruit bowl, waffle design, everted rim cut in Strawberry Diamond & Fan pattern, 7 inches, $1,200.

Q: My husband collects elephant figurines. A friend gave him a ceramic set of five white elephants that's a mystery to us. There's one large elephant with a carrier on his back. The carrier is made of several pink cylinders attached to each other. The other four elephants are small, and each has a rectangular, open carrier on its back. They are marked "Bavaria" on the bottom. Can you tell us anything?

A: You have a cigarette set designed to be used at a bridge table. The cylinders on the large elephant held unused cigarettes and perhaps matches. The smaller elephants are individual ashtrays, one for each player at the table. Many sets similar to yours were made before and after World War II.

Q: Years ago, my mother's British friend gave her a small pitcher decorated with big, colorful flowers in a blue basket. We're hoping the mark can help you identify the age and maker. The mark is a crown below the word "Mason's" and above a swag containing the words "Patent Ironstone China." Beneath the swag is the following: "Strathmore, Made in England, C4792, Rd. No. 836741."

A: The designs used to make English decorative arts, including pottery and porcelain, have been registered at the British patent office since 1842. This helps in dating British pottery and porcelain. The last number in the mark on your pitcher is its registry mark, which was filed in 1939. This means your pitcher was made in 1939 or later. The decorative pattern is "Strathmore," which is also known by a number, C4792. All pattern numbers that begin with the letter C are 20th-century patterns. The company that made your pitcher was founded in 1813 by Charles James Mason in Lane Delph, Staffordshire, England. He gave the name "Mason's Ironstone China" to his "improved" earthenware. It is highly resistant to chips and breakage. By the time your pitcher was made, the company was operating as G.L. Ashworth & Bros. Today, Mason's Ironstone is part of the Wedgwood Group. Your pitcher was made in more than one size. Depending on the size and condition of yours, it would sell for about $75 to $130.

Q: Can you tell me anything about my carved cane? The top appears to be ivory carved to look like a man's head. His very long, straight nose forms the cane's handle. The stick looks like a hickory branch with the bark removed.

A: Canes with knob or stick tops carved to represent a human head have been made for hundreds of years by both trained and folk artists in this country and around the world. Although the head on yours could be carved ivory, it might also have been made of bone or even an antler.

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