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Archive for Sunday, August 31, 2008

Metal clock features bygone ballplayers

August 31, 2008

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More than $10,000 was bid at Robert Edward Auctions of Watchung, N.J., for this rare iron clock depicting once-famous baseball players. Today few remember outfielder Bob Ferguson and pitcher Bobby Mathews, who played in the 1870s. The clock was made by Nicholas and Karl Muller.

More than $10,000 was bid at Robert Edward Auctions of Watchung, N.J., for this rare iron clock depicting once-famous baseball players. Today few remember outfielder Bob Ferguson and pitcher Bobby Mathews, who played in the 1870s. The clock was made by Nicholas and Karl Muller.

Current prices

Prices vary in different locations because of local economic conditions.

¢ Cotton handkerchief, blue and red flowers on white ground, Sears Roebuck, 1960s, four in a box, 12 x 12 inches $40.

¢ Heinz Ketchup AM transistor radio, bottle shape, red, original box, 1980, $110.

¢ "Honey West, Girl Private Eye" board game, Ideal, 1965, 10 x 18 inches, $225.

¢ Jacquard coverlet, tied blue wool and natural cotton, double-rose center, basket and flowers on borders, trademarked "John Henry Meily," late 1800s, 82 x 74 inches, $310.

¢ Pewter coffeepot, dome lid, "R. Dunham" touchmark, c. 1837-61, 10 3/4 inches, $495.

Cast-iron and other molded metal clock cases were used in the 19th century. Because the case could be molded, the clock could have very elaborate raised designs. One very rare iron clock has a design in high relief with a baseball player on either side of the face.

One player holds a bat, the other a ball. It is now thought that the two players represent Bob Ferguson, an outfielder and manager of the Brooklyn Atlantics in the 1870s, and Bobby Mathews, a pitcher for the New York Mutuals in the 1870s. The children at the top are thought to represent the future of baseball.

Barely discernable are two men below the clock face, a famous sports writer and a founding member of the Knickerbockers. The paint was probably applied by the clockmakers, Nicholas and Karl Muller, for an extra charge. Fewer than 10 of these clocks are known to still exist. The baseball history, the artistry of the design and the rarity explain why it sold for $11,163 at Robert Edward Auctions in Watchung, N.J.

More than 30 years ago, I bought a pair of identical ladder-back chairs at a neighbor's garage sale. The chairs were stained almost black, and their seats were wooden inserts covered with upholstery. My husband refinished the wood, and I learned caning and caned the seats. The only mark on the chairs is pressed into the back of the top slat. It says "C. Robinson, Maker, Rochester, N.Y." Tell me something about the chairs and their maker.

Charles T. Robinson (c. 1808-1878) made ladder-back and Windsor chairs in Rochester starting about 1831. Robinson is mentioned in several books about American furniture and chair makers, and at least one of his chairs is in the collection at the New York State Museum in Albany. Because the chairs were in poor condition when you found them, it was OK to refinish them. It added value to your chairs.

Q: I bought three antique quilts at a local auction. The woman whose family consigned them used to lease farmland to my father back in the 1950s. She was of German background, I'm sure. The problem I'm having is that two of the quilts have patches with printed swastikas, and I'm worried about displaying them at a quilt show. What do you think?

A: Swastikas had a long and proud history before the Nazis grabbed the ancient symbol and made it their own in 1920. Assuming the quilts were made before 1920, the swastikas had no meaning except as symbols of good luck or strength. Quilts with swastika patterns or patches can be seen in many U.S. museums. You should feel comfortable displaying your quilts at a show, but post a note near the quilts explaining the history of the symbol.

Q: My bright reddish-orange cups and saucers were my grandmother's. A blue-and-green bird and yellow, blue, green and white flowers form the design. It looks very Japanese. The mark on the bottom looks like "Chikaramachi," with a picture of a crown and the words "Made in Japan."

A: The bright colors and the decoration on your cup and saucer suggest that they were made to be exported in the 1920s or '30s. The design would not have been popular in Japan. Chikaramachi is the name of a street next to the building used by decorators of wares ordered by the Morimura brothers, the Japanese exporters. The name was used for a line of porcelain that was not quite as well-made as the Noritake china also exported by Morimura. The mark on your pieces -- a crown, a laurel wreath, the street name and "Made in Japan" -- was used after 1928.

Q: My husband owns a small handheld musical instrument labeled a "Rolmonica." I have never seen another one. We have the original box, too, and 15 of the 600-plus original music rolls listed. The box advertises the Rolmonica as "the only player harmonica that plays with a roll - anyone can play it." The patent dates on the box are 1925 and 1928. Is the instrument valuable?

A: There is an eager group of collectors who hunt for Rolmonicas. The instrument was patented by Joseph Le Roy Banks and was manufactured in the late 1920s by the Rolmonica Music Co. of Baltimore. The case is Bakelite, a hard synthetic plastic invented in 1909.

A Rolmonica has 24 reeds that play notes when the player is blowing out and breathing in. A music roll is pulled across the holes in the instrument's harp to play a tune that's pre-punched on the roll. The musician has to inhale and exhale while also turning the roll with one of the cranks on the side of the instrument. Rolmonicas are owned by museums today, but you can also buy or sell one for about $100. There are repair services that specialize in restoring Rolmonicas.

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