Garden furniture has become more popular in recent years because more people have patios and decks. By the 1800s, furniture was often used in the garden. Large estates might have chairs or benches in remote spots for guests to rest or gossip. This furniture was made to blend in with the greenery. Pieces were often made from iron shaped like vines or branches. Carved marble benches were used by the wealthy, while rough log benches were used by others. Soon potters started making replicas of tree stumps or trimmed branches that could be used for seats. By the 1890s, willow and other flexible tree branches and roots were cut and assembled to make one-of-a-kind chairs for use in a yard. Al Capone, the infamous gangster, had a house called "The Hideout" in northern Wisconsin. A table and chairs made from tree roots were in the yard until they were later purchased from Edward O'Hare, an accomplice of Capone. The chairs were sold in May at a Leslie Hindman auction in Chicago. The table brought $10,200, the large chair $7,200 and the smaller chair $3,360. The prices were more than presale estimates, probably because bidders wanted something owned by Capone.
Q: I was involved in racing Soap Box Derby cars more than 50 years ago, when I was between 10 and 15 years old. What are old cars worth? Is there a museum that might want them?
A: The annual All American Soap Box Derby championship will be Saturday at Derby Downs in Akron, Ohio. The gravity-powered amateur car race, for children ages 8 to 17, dates back to the Depression. The cars that win the final races (there are several divisions) are displayed in Akron's Soap Box Derby Hall of Fame. The Smithsonian owns at least one, donated by the 1961 Connecticut champion, and some winners around the country have donated their cars to local museums. We have seen a few old soapbox cars offered for sale at prices ranging from under $100 to more than $250.
Q: Months ago you pictured a pottery lamp base decorated with lovebirds that was unmarked but attributed to Muncie Pottery of Muncie, Ind. Then recently you mentioned a glass lamp base in the same pattern made by Consolidated Lamp and Glass Co. of Coraopolis, Pa. I have a pair of pottery lamp bases in the same pattern, but they're marked "Stangl Pottery."
A: Reuben Haley (1872-1933) is the reason for the mystery. He was a major American glass designer and worked for several glass manufacturers before he formed his own design and mold company in Beaver, Pa., about 1925. That was the year he visited the International Exposition in Paris, where he saw the designs of French glass artist Rene Lalique. A Lalique design featuring lovebirds inspired Haley to create his own lovebirds design. He licensed the design and sold it to Consolidated Glass, Muncie Pottery and Stangl Pottery of Flemington, N.J. We now think only Stangl made pottery lamp bases in the lovebirds pattern. Muncie made lovebird vases in several styles and sizes.
Q: In the early 1980s I was working for a Chevy dealer on Long Island when the owners decided to sell out. They gave me an old Buick Dynaflow Drive neon sign 22 inches high by 33 inches wide. The glass is perfect, although some of the finish is worn. A repairman said that for a small sum the sign could be made to light up again. I have been told the sign is valuable. What do you think?
A: Collectors of automobile advertising memorabilia might pay $1,000 or more for your sign. It dates from the late 1940s or '50s and advertises the world's first conventional torque converter automatic transmission, dubbed Dynaflow Drive by General Motors. The signs, made by Zeon Signs of Albuquerque, N.M., were marketed to Buick dealers for $42 each in 1948.
Q: I have my grandmother's old treadle sewing machine. The name printed across the top of the black machine is "Silent." It was manufactured by the Davis Sewing Machine Co. of Dayton, Ohio. The cabinet is wrought iron and wood, and I have all the original bobbins and needles. What can you tell me?
A: Job A. Davis of New York City started designing his own sewing machine in the early 1860s. After moving to Watertown, N.Y., he and a partner, John Sheldon, sold their first machine, the Davis Vertical Feed, in 1869. The business moved to Dayton in 1889 and made several different models until production stopped in 1923. The Davis Silent model is a 20th-century machine.
Put felt pads on the bottom corners behind a hanging picture frame to protect the wall and to let air circulate.
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.
¢ Yardley Lavender Perfumery powder box, "Natural Face Powder," c. 1927, 2 7/8 x 1 1/2 inches, $35.
¢ Effanbee Anne Shirley doll, composition, blue sleep eyes, closed mouth, c. 1930, 15 inches, $95.
¢ Boy Scout shirt, baseball style, short sleeves, patches, olive green, size 12, 1970s, $180.
¢ Steuben crystal beaver figurine, cranberry eyes, etched mark, 3 3/4 inches, $315.
¢ Moorcroft porcelain tea set, Spring Flowers pattern, impressed mark, four piece, $550.
¢ "The Flying Nun" brunch bag, vinyl, with thermos, image of Sally Field, Aladdin, 1968, copyright Screen Gems, $600.
¢ Roycroft fire-starter, hammered copper with spill tray, riveted, impressed "Head, Heart & Hand," 12 x 10 inches, $1,300.
¢ Appliqued quilt, album pattern, green and red swag bud border, 16 album squares, potted tulips, flowers and berries, birds and leaves, white ground, 1920s, 87 x 87 inches, $2,300.
¢ Pepsi-Cola dispenser bank, battery, "Deposit Coin, Get Drink," white and blue with Pepsi logo, by Linemar, 1950s, 10 inches, $2,465.
¢ George III tall-post bed, mahogany, upholstered canopy, reeded foot posts, acanthus carving, square legs, $3,755.