Archive for Sunday, May 14, 2006

Collectors will pay top dollar for pieces of majolica

May 14, 2006


The term "majolica" means different things to different people. Museums that exhibit majolica define it as tin enamel-glazed earthenware made in Italy and Spain starting in the 14th century. Large plates were decorated with colorful scenes, designs and metallic luster. But most collectors think of majolica as a mid-19th-century ware made in England and the United States in imaginative shapes and bright colors. Today, antique shops and shows feature majolica pieces like teapots covered with climbing monkeys and birds. One special type of early majolica is called Palissy ware, named for the French potter who created it in the 16th century. His platters look like ponds filled with snakes, fish and plants. Nineteenth-century French and Portuguese potters copied his style. Today, collectors who like "creepy crawlies" pay $300 to $5,000 for an interesting example of newer Palissy.

Q: I found an old medical machine in the attic of an antebellum home in Georgia. It's a copper-plated tin cylinder that's 24 inches tall and 5 inches in diameter with a hole near the bottom. Another cylinder inside holds a movable metal measuring shaft that fits through the metal lid. A metal label on the cylinder reads "Shepard's Combined Spirometer-Inhaler, Patented by Dr. W.A. Shepard, Elgin, Ill." It looks as though a patient would blow into a mouthpiece connected by a tube to the hole in the bottom, and the inner cylinder would move to measure lung capacity. How old is this machine?

A: A small, dedicated group of collectors hunts for old medical instruments and machinery. A W.A. Shepard graduated from Hahnemann Medical College in Chicago in 1887. He is probably the doctor who patented your spirometer-inhaler. If so, the machine dates from around the turn of the 20th century. A spirometer assesses lung function. Shepard's machine also could serve as an inhaler, which delivers medicine directly to the lungs. An avid collector might pay up to $100 for your machine.

Q: My husband, born in 1935, has owned a cast-iron toy bus ever since he can remember. It's a blue double-decker with gold highlights and a rear outside spiral staircase. The tires are white with painted red centers. Inside the bus there's a silver-colored metal driver and the embossed words "Arcade, Freeport, Ill., 316." On the outside of the front door there's a gold emblem that reads "An Arcade Toy." The bus is 8 inches long, 3 3/4 inches high and 2 3/4 inches wide. We would like to know its age and value.

A: Arcade Manufacturing Co. of Freeport, Ill., started out in 1885 as a manufacturer of industrial castings and household items. It introduced a few toys in the 1890s, and by the 1920s was a major maker of high-quality cast-iron toys, including cars, trucks, tractors and buses. Your double-decker, Model No. 3160X, was introduced in 1929. It was made in blue, green and red throughout the 1930s. Earlier models were trimmed in gold, like yours; later ones had silver trim. Collectors love Arcade's cast-iron toys. Your truck, depending on its condition, could sell for $500 to $900.

Q: I own a Riley Whiting grandfather clock that has been passed down in my family for at least three generations. The wooden case is plain, but the clock face is decorated with painted flowers and gold embossing. The words "Whiting, Winchester" are on a gold background in the middle of the clock face. I have had the wooden works restored, and the clock runs. Can you determine the age and value?

A: Riley Whiting (1785-1835) employed up to 60 people when his clock-making business was at its peak. He worked in Winchester and Winsted, Conn., from about 1808 until his death. Whiting made clock movements for both shelf and grandfather clocks, but the cases were manufactured by others. Grandfather (tall case) clocks with Whiting's name on the dial are thought to have been manufactured between 1819 and 1830. We have seen Riley Whiting grandfather clocks selling for prices ranging from $1,500 to $7,000, depending on condition, style, type of wood and size.

Q: I would like to know the value of my Snoopy telephone-lamp. A plastic Snoopy and Woodstock sit atop a wood-grain and red plastic dial phone. Snoopy holds the yellow handset in his right paw. A narrow metal lamp standard is attached to the back of the phone. I have had to replace the white lampshade, but otherwise everything is original and the phone works. What is it worth?

A: Your telephone was the first Snoopy character phone. It dates from 1976. Sold by American Telecommunications Corp., it came in dial and push-button models, with and without the lamp. Snoopy collectors would be willing to pay $100 or more for your telephone-lamp, even with the replaced shade.


Attach hanging wire to a picture two-thirds of the way up the back of the picture. Be sure that the wire does not show above the top of the frame when the picture is hung.

Current prices

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.

Carnival glass candy dish, question-marks pattern, marigold opalescent, handles, pedestal base, 4 x 7 inches, $55.

American classical footstool, mahogany, rectangular slip seat, ogee-molded frame, scrolled legs, Blackiston & Green Cabinet Wareroom, c. 1830, 18 x 24 inches, $2,160.

Cast-iron bookends, old whaler smoking a pipe and studying navigational charts, signed "Cape Cod Fisherman, copyright 1928, Conn. Fdry.," 5 x 4 1/2 inches, $185.


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