Santa Claus has changed throughout the years. The tall St. Nicholas who left gifts for good children and lumps of coal for bad children was transformed in the 1880s into a small Santa who could slide down a chimney, then to the jolly, fat Santa popular since the 1920s. The typical beard, fur-trimmed coat and hood or stocking cap are enough to indicate a Santa Claus figure to collectors. Careful study can suggest the age of the figure. Look at the length of his jacket or robe, the type of Christmas tree he is near and even the red shade of his suit. A clever candy container made in Germany shows Santa in a red jacket perched on a zeppelin or rocket ship. He is holding a feather Christmas tree. Feather trees were out of style by the end of the 1920s, and the first zeppelin was made in 1900. The red suit and trim were standard apparel by the 1920s. Since candy containers of all types were made in Germany after World War I, it is likely the container was made in the 1920s. It is a very desirable collectible that sold recently for $770.
Q: I found a metal Santa Claus mold a little over 5 inches tall among the kitchen items my mother left me. I know she saved several things that belonged to her German grandmother, including this mold. It has a front and back side held in place with two metal clips. The Santa figure is a little unusual. He is thin, not chubby.
A: Your metal mold is probably a chocolate mold from the 1920s or '30s. The mold could be German, not only because your great-grandmother came from that country, but because European Santas tend to be thinner than American Santas. Chocolate molds can be used in a household kitchen to make chocolate candy, but they were used more commonly at candy stores. Chocolate molds are popular collectibles. Easter bunnies are more common than Santas. Many chocolate molds are made of tin-plated steel, although other plated metals were also used. Large molds are usually more valuable than small ones, and those that are marked by a maker are worth a premium. If yours is in good condition, it could sell for $85 to $125.
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. ¢ FAO Schwarz 100th Anniversary Christmas catalog, 1962, 104 pages, 8 1/2-by-11 inches, $40. ¢ Mindy doll by Mattel, from "Mork & Mindy," posable, Paramount Pictures, 1979, box, 9 inches, $55. ¢ Carnival-glass bowl, Stag and Holly pattern, ruffled edge, footed, pink, marigold iridescence, $115. ¢ General Motors Truck Co. 1925 calendar, cello, Santa driving GM truck, "A Merry Christmas and Happy New Year," snow landscape, red truck, trees, 4-by-5 inches, $225. ¢ "The Wonderful Game of Oz," box pictures Tin Man, Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion, Dorothy, haunted trees and castle, Parker Bros., 1921, $475. ¢ Chimney-sweep cookie cutter, tin-plated sheet iron, mid 1800s, 8-by-6 inches, $670. ¢ Superman child's T-shirt, by Norwich, National Comics Publications, 1950s, large, $1,230. ¢ German snowflake appliqued quilt, cotton, turkey print, red, green and white flowers, dated 1859, by Anna Freer, 85-by-86 inches, $1,325. ¢ Santa Claus toy with reindeer, windup, bells, guide wheels, Strauss, 11 inches, $3,300. ¢ Newcomb College vase, blue, green, and pink under glaze, flared rim, modeled band of gardenias at top, marked, decorated by Sadie Irvine, c. 1929, 6 3/8 inches, $5,288.
Q: I always thought that old beds were shorter than modern ones because people used to be shorter than they are today. But I just met a European collector who insisted that beds used to be shorter because people propped themselves up on several pillows in bed and slept in a semi-upright position. Which explanation is correct?
A: It is true that beds today are longer than they used to be - whether we're talking about a century or ages ago. You and your European friend are both correct. In general, people are taller today than they were in ancient Egypt, when an average male stood less than 5 feet tall. But plenty of men topped 6 feet a couple of hundred years ago (George Washington was 6 feet 2 inches). They would have had to sleep either propped up or curled up to keep their feet on the bed. It wasn't until the mid-20th century that bed manufacturers began lengthening and widening standard bed sizes.
Q: In 1948 or '49, I purchased a Santa Claus doll from a Coca-Cola delivery man. Santa is 16 inches tall, holding a bottle of Coke and wearing a red suit and cap and shiny black vinyl boots. He's in pristine condition. Is he a collectible?
A: Coca-Cola advertising items are in demand among collectors of old advertising. The first Coke Santa dolls were made in 1957, so yours cannot be as old as you think. The dolls were produced by the Rushton Co. of Atlanta until the early 1970s. A 1957 Coke Santa doll sells today for about $100.
Q: I was given an antique teapot made by Doulton. It's brown with a white floral wraparound and gold outlining. The mark on the bottom includes the word "Doulton" and a diamond-shaped mark with a circle on the top. The Roman numeral IV is in the circle, and the letters "Rd" are in the middle of the diamond. In the four corners of the diamond, there are the numbers and letters "29," "Y," "E" and an illegible number.
A: British potters used the diamond-shaped design registry mark on their products beginning in 1842. All the numbers and letters in the mark are codes. The Roman numeral IV means the product is ceramic. The Rd. stands for "registered." The E is code for May, 29 is the day of the month and Y stands for the year 1879. The number you can't read is the parcel number, which usually relates to the Doulton factory where the teapot was made. So the mark reveals that the design of your teapot was registered May 29, 1879. Your teapot was made soon after that.
Don't try to restore old ornaments. A little damage and wear adds to the charm of old Christmas ornaments. It indicates an antique that has seen many holidays of use. Restoration lowers value.
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