Vending machines have been used to sell merchandise since the days of the ancient Greeks, when holy water was dispensed for a coin. But the metal mechanical machines seen today were introduced in the United States in 1888, when the Thomas Adams Gum Co. put vending machines on New York City subway platforms to sell Tutti-Fruiti gum. A piece was dispensed in a machine for a penny. Soon, almost anything was sold from a coin-operated machine, including perfume, books, postcards, stamps, tobacco, sandwiches, candy, toys and even sanitary products in public bathrooms. One of the most unusual vending machines was the iron "Egg-Laying Hen" machine. A tall stand held a basketlike "nest" topped by a setting hen. Insert a coin and the hen laid a chocolate egg. The German machine was often filled with wrapped chocolate eggs made by Hartwig & Vogel, a famous chocolate firm in Czechoslovakia. The machine, made about 1935, must have enticed many children to part with a penny to get that special piece of chocolate. A few years ago, the machine enticed a collector to pay $2,033.
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.Hand-colored photograph, Yellowstone National Park, F. Jay Haynes, c. 1925, 12-by-10 inches, $55.¢ Fishing license, Minnesota, 1927, nonresident, button style, celluloid, 1 3/4 inches, $90.¢ Sgt. Bilko sliding-tile puzzle game, plastic, Rolex Co., 1960s, on original card, $125.¢ Bottle opener, black caddy, green pants, orange sweater, cast iron, c. 1932, 5 1/2-by-2 inches, $175.¢ Nancy Ann doll, Her Royal Majesty the Queen, blue eyes, brown curly hair, embroidered tulle gown over silver metallic underskirt, jewels, purple sash, 1953, 18 inches, $700.¢ Political bobblehead doll, donkey, "Kennedy for President," Japan, 7-by-2 1/2-by-3 1/4 inches, $515.¢ Art Deco club chair, leather upholstery, brass tacks, seat falls forward and converts to reclining single bed, 1930s, 36-by-27-by-31 inches, $650.¢ Fulper pottery Wisteria glaze vase, purple and blue flambe dripped down shoulder, marked, 17 1/2 inches, $865.¢ General Electric radio, Model L570, Catalin, yellow, 1941, 6-by-9-by-6 inches, $1,260.¢ Steuben "Partridge in a Pear Tree" sculpture, clear glass, gold-metal partridge, signed, 5 3/4 inches, $2,075.
Q: I bought a large Roseville jardiniere on a pedestal 20 years ago for $35. The jardiniere is marked, but the pedestal is not. Does that mean the pedestal is not Roseville?
A: No. Roseville stands often were not marked, because they were sold with matching - and marked - jardinieres. A lot of Roseville pieces have been reproduced, but it is likely that your jardiniere and pedestal are authentic. A faker probably would have marked both pieces.
Q: What can you tell me about my tureen or covered vegetable dish? The mark on the dish reads "Made in France - Saar Economic Union/Burgenland."
A: Burgenland was a pattern made by Villeroy and Boch, a pottery best known for making steins. The German firm was founded in 1836 and had factories along the Saar River. The Saar region was part of France from 1920 until 1935. The area formed an economic union with France in 1947 that lasted until 1955. Your dish was made by Villeroy and Boch during those eight years.
Q: My teenage daughter is delighted with an old purse she found at her grandmother's house. It is made of alligator leather. The paws of the reptile, including fingernails - or would they be toenails? - are attached on one side of the purse. How old is this style?
A: In the 1930s, alligator purses were popular and expensive. Purses with paws like yours were made then. Some handbags included the alligator head along with the paws.
Q: I recently acquired a Handel glass humidor with an elk painted on it. The cover is metal with a metal pipe attached as the handle. I have tried researching it, but I haven't been able to find any information. The bottom is marked: "Handel Ware 4091J."
A: The same Handel Co. that made beautiful lamps also made a line of painted-opal glass humidors and other smoking accessories starting around 1903. Look closely at your humidor. Design No. 4091J was created by an artist named Kelsey, and his signature is probably somewhere on the humidor. Your humidor, in excellent condition, could sell for close to $2,000.
Q: My husband, who is 76 years old, remembers seeing his grandfather sitting in our old recliner chair when he was a child. We think the chair is about 100 years old. It has a horizontal ladder-frame back, four spindles under each arm, lion heads carved on the end of the arms, claw feet and stuffed seat and back rest. The arms are made of dark walnut. The tag on the bottom of the chair reads: "Cook's Automatic Chair, By S.A. Cook & Co., Medina, New York, Owners and Manufacturers." What can you tell us about our chair?
A: Seeley Cook's first business was manufacturing tobacco products, which he sold from a horse and wagon to the merchants near his Medina, N.Y., home. He delivered not only cigars and tobacco, but also candy. In 1882, he joined another firm that started making furniture to give as premiums to retail customers. By 1900, he had his own furniture factory called S.A. Cook & Co. Soon it was a major company in Medina and was turning out 1,200 Morris-style chairs a week. The furniture was shipped all throughout the world, even to Japan. His firm expanded, but in 1912, while coming home from a Florida vacation, Cook died. The company remained in business through name and management changes until 1985. The early furniture was made by immigrant Polish and Italian workers who were trained on the job. They made the carved furniture frames, used cotton upholstery fabric from Buffalo and stuffed it with horsehair or Spanish moss. The upholstered pieces used springs and cushions for comfort, but in 1931 a nearby tire company suggested using foam rubber. S.A. Cook was the first company to do this. Business declined during the 1930s, then revived somewhat during the 1960s and '70s. Your chair should be worth about $400 if the fabric is original and in good condition.
Tip: Push your antique sofa against a wall if the back is slightly loose. That way, large friends won't sit down with a thud against the weak back.
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