Archive for Sunday, February 4, 2007

Collectible papier-mâche furniture around for centuries

February 4, 2007


Furniture made of paper? Cardboard chairs were introduced by Frank Gehry in the 1970s, but he was not the first to make paper furniture. In the early 1900s, strips of paper wound around wire were used as a substitute for wicker to make woven chairs and tables. Even earlier, in the 18th century, furniture was made of papier-mâche, a mixture of paper, glue and other materials. The mixture was shaped, hardened and lacquered. The finished product was strong enough to make chairs, tables, shelves and even beds. The piece was covered with lacquer, usually black, then painted with colorful designs and gilt highlights. About 1825, Jennens and Bettridge, a famous English papier-mache factory, patented a method of using mother-of-pearl as decoration. The demand for papier-mâche furniture lessened by the 1860s. Collectors today like the elaborate serving trays often priced at $2,000 or more, small boxes and usable furniture like flip-top tables, game tables and chairs. But the furniture must be in good condition. Warped or damaged parts, discolored or chipped lacquer or decorations that are decals, not hand-painted, lower the value. It is very difficult to repair papier-mache pieces.

Q: For more than 50 years, my mother has had 23 frosted drinking glasses decorated with drawings of Dick Tracy comic characters. Eleven of the glasses are 3 inches tall and show only the character's face and name. The other 12 are 5 inches tall, each with a full-body drawing of the character. Some of the glasses are duplicates, but there are eight different characters: Tracy, B.O. Plenty, Shaky, Vitamin Flintheart, Breathless Mahoney, Snowflake, Gravel Gertie and Tess Trueheart. What can you tell me about the glasses?

A: You have a great set of comic character glasses dating from the 1940s. Chester Gould's Dick Tracy comic strip debuted in 1931. It was the first realistic police strip, and its hero wound up starring in movies, too. The idea of using drinking glasses to promote a syndicated comic strip, such as Orphan Annie or Dick Tracy, started in the late 1920s. Thousands of cartoon-related glasses have been made since then, but yours are among the earliest. Your glasses could sell separately for about $50. Together they should sell for a premium.

Current prices

Current prices are recorded from antiques shows, flea markets, sales and auctions throughout the United States. Prices may vary.¢ License plate, Puerto Rico, 1965-'66, yellow on black, $20.George V sterling-silver sauce ladle, King's pattern, hallmarked Sheffield, James Dixon & Sons., c. 1912, $95.¢ Webb glass punch set, hand-and-star design, signed, bowl 9 x 12 inches, six matching cups, $150.¢ Shawnee pottery creamer, Puss 'n' Boots, yellow, green and burgundy, gold rim, 4 3/4 inches, $300.¢ 1939 Rose Bowl pennant, USC, brown ground, gold lettering, 19 x 39 inches, $315.¢ Mattel Barbie doll, bubble cut, brunette, Career Girl outfit, stand, 1961, 11 1/2 inches, $385.¢ Hartland baseball statue of Harmon Killebrew, plastic, original string tag, $550.¢ Buddy L Telephone Linemen Maintenance set, No. 5679, metal and plastic, original box, $660.¢ Advertising sign, Buster Brown Bread by Golden Sheaf Bakery, embossed tin, black ground, image of Buster and Tige, 19 x 27 inches, $1,650.¢ Steiff "60 PB" monkey, string-jointed, horizontal rod between shoulders, bent arms, voice box, button in ear, imitating smoking, c. 1903, 32 inches, $6,610.

Q: I own a 20th-century sculpture of a woman's head. The only mark on the bottom is a shield enclosing three dark fish facing to the left. I know nothing about where or when the sculpture was made. Can you help?

A: The mark was used starting about 1930 by Michael Andersen & Son, a ceramics firm in Roenne, Denmark. The "three herrings" mark is copied from Roenne's coat of arms. The factory, located on Denmark's Bornholm Island, dates back as far as 1740. Its more recent history began in 1890, when Jens Michael Andersen and his four sons took over pottery production. At first, the Andersens made kitchenware and traditional pots, but by the early 20th century, the sons were becoming more creative. Production expanded to include decorative animals and plants, lead majolica glazes and, by the 1920s and '30s, art-deco designs. The company is still in business.

Q: My toy collection includes quite a few marked "Reliable Toys." All I have been able to find out is that it was a Canadian company.

A: Solomon Frank "S.F." Samuels founded the Reliable Toy Co. in Toronto in 1920. His brothers, Alex and Ben, joined the company later. By the 1930s, Reliable was the leading manufacturer of dolls in Canada. And S.F. Samuels' salesmanship led to orders from toy sellers in Europe, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Alex and Ben were responsible for breakthroughs in manufacturing and assembly techniques. Reliable dolls were made up until the 1990s. The Samuels brothers are members of the Canadian Toy Industry Hall of Fame.

Q: I am a middle-school teacher and have begun a project on family heirlooms with my students. The students are researching something that's been in the family for generations, and I am making myself do the same thing. But I'm already stymied. I have an old No. 1080 coffee grinder made by Sun Manufacturing Co. of Columbus, Ohio, but I haven't been able to find any information on the company. Can you help?

A: We wonder if we'll be hearing from your students, too. Meanwhile, we can help you. Sun Manufacturing Co. moved from Greenfield, Ohio, to Columbus in 1904 and manufactured coffee mills there until about 1920. The owner, Edward L. McClain, obtained his own patents for some Sun mills. Your No. 1080 mill, nicknamed "The Challenge," was made at the Columbus factory in at least two different styles between about 1906 and 1916. Sun Manufacturing mills are popular with collectors.

Tip: Store good crystal glasses standing up, not on the rims of the glasses.


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