Archive for Sunday, January 27, 2008

Secret compartments bonus to any collectible

January 27, 2008


This woman hides a secret. A bottle of liquor could be stashed behind the hidden door in this doorstop. Because it is so unusual, it brought $4,313 at a Morphy auction in Denver, Pa.

This woman hides a secret. A bottle of liquor could be stashed behind the hidden door in this doorstop. Because it is so unusual, it brought $4,313 at a Morphy auction in Denver, Pa.

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.

¢ Custard glass compote, Chrysanthemum Sprig pattern, gold trim, c. 1900, 5 inches, $65.

¢ The Improved Game of Fish Pond, cardboard fish, wood poles, metal hooks, original box, McLoughlin Brothers, 1890, 12-by-18 inches, $115.

¢ Georgian-style burled walnut tilt-top stand, eight-scalloped top, ring-turned pedestal, tripod base, pad feet, 41-by-25 inches, $355.

¢ Delftware mug, lozenge-shape blue buildings in a landscape, powdered manganese ground, c. 1735, 5 1/2 inches, $1,530.

Safes and banks were not easy to find in the 18th and 19th centuries. That's why so many types of secret compartments were made in furniture and decorative items. Eighteenth-century desks often had "deed" boxes disguised as small columns on the inside near the drawers. The columns could be pulled forward and a hollow box hidden behind them could hold money and important papers, such as a land grant or a will. Sometimes a drawer was made that was shorter than normal. The empty space behind it could be used to hide small objects like coins or jewelry. Lamp bases were made with hollow bottoms that could hide things. Today you can find hollow cans that look exactly like real cans of cleanser or soup, but they have false bottoms to help hide valuables. There is even a fake stone made to store a house key outside. One very unusual "safe" of the 1930s was a dual-purpose doorstop. The elaborate cast-metal piece was molded to show an art-deco nude woman standing near a background of peacock feathers. The front of the doorstop is a door that opens on a hinge. Inside is space to hide valuables or liquor during Prohibition. The doorstop is marked "Infringements prosecuted, A.W. Reiser, Toledo, Ohio." The company also made other cast-iron objects, including lamps and match holders. The design of some of their pieces suggests the company worked at least into the 1940s.

Q: I have an old wooden table with folding legs. The bottom is marked "Simplicity folding table, Pat. June 10, 1884, address all orders to W.E. Eldred patentee and manuf'r, 532 Lafayette Ave., Brooklyn, NY." Can you give me some information about the table?

In 1883, William E. Eldred filed for a patent on a new way to open and close the legs of a folding table. The patent was granted June 10, 1884. Eldred apparently manufactured the tables, too. We have seen these tables marketed as "folding tables" or "folding sewing tables." Asking prices run from $65 to nearly $300.

Q: I have several figurines marked "Occupied Japan." My father was stationed in Japan after World War II, and he brought them home. My favorite is a Japanese boy playing a squeezebox. Other figurines look Victorian, but they, too, are marked "Occupied Japan." Please explain.

A: Anything marked "Occupied Japan" was made between 1945 and 1952, the years U.S. forces occupied Japan after World War II. Ceramic figurines were made in countless varieties. While there are lots of collectors who enjoy buying Occupied Japan ("OJ") figurines, prices are not high. Most single figurines sell for $10 to $50.

Q: My antique silver sugar bowl is marked "EB" in a rectangle. I have done some research to identify the maker, but all I have figured out is that the bowl is probably American.

A: A famous New York City silversmith named Ephraim Brasher (1744-1810) marked his pieces "EB" inside a square or an oval. Brasher worked from about 1770 to 1801. Have an expert in your area take a look at your sugar bowl. Brasher assayed gold for the U.S. Mint, produced copper coins for New York state and in 1778 made the coin now called the Brasher Doubloon. The coin inspired a Philip Marlowe detective mystery as well as a 1947 movie.

Q: In my father's attic I found an old Lionel train set, along with a dozen small advertising billboards just the right size for train layouts. They advertise everything from Baby Ruth candy bars and Wrigley's gum to Frigidaire refrigerators and Shell gasoline. What can you tell me about them?

A: Lionel introduced two sets of miniature billboards in 1932-33. At first the sets were free, but within a short time the heavy cardstock signs were mailed only to people who paid 50 cents to join the Lionel Engineers Club. There were four individual signs in a set, each 6 1/4 by 9 1/3 inches. They advertised Lifebuoy soap, Black Jack gum, Ipana toothpaste, Vitalis hair oil, Shredded Wheat, Uneeda biscuits, Sunkist and Coca-Cola. A set of four signs sells today for $50 to $150 and up, depending on condition. Lionel didn't offer billboards again until 1949, well after World War II. From then on, the signs came in different sizes and in sheets of four or more to be cut apart. Lionel also sold plastic stands for the signs. New Lionel billboards are still made today, and reproductions of the old signs are also on the market. Most collectors want uncut sheets of postwar signs. Early sheets sell for $25 and up.

Tip: Ivory will darken if kept in the dark. Keep a piano open so the keys will be in natural light. Keep figurines, chess sets and other ivory in the open.


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