Christmas is celebrated on Dec. 25 each year, but the eight-day Jewish holiday of Hanukkah falls on dates determined by the lunar, not the solar, calendar — so the dates are different every year. Holidays have special objects connected with their celebrations. One object used during Hanukkah is the dreidel, a top about 2 inches tall used in a game. Spin the dreidel (rhymes with “ladle”), and it soon lands on one of its four sides. There is a Hebrew letter on each side that tells a player to pay into the pot or to take all, nothing or half of the pot. Recent examples of dreidels have become more elaborate, with spinning figures or flashing lights or noise. Some designers have ignored the four-sided idea and have created dreidels in unusual shapes using metal, ceramics, plastic or wood. Although dreidels date back more than 2,000 years, a collector today is lucky to find an example more than 100 years old. Prices range from over $200 for old rarities to $75 for unusual examples made after 1948, the year Israel was founded.
Q: I inherited three sets of porcelain dishes that were hand-painted by my grandmother around the turn of the 20th century. My grandmother emigrated from Germany (Prussia) to the United States in 1895 and settled in Abingdon, Ill., about 1906. The dishes were painted on blanks (“whiteware”) that have the marks of Haviland, Limoges or Bavaria. I am not interested in the value of the dishes, but I am curious about how my grandmother might have accomplished the multistep process of painting and firing this many dishes.
A: From the late 1870s until World War I, thousands of American amateur artists were painting decorations on porcelain tableware, dresser sets, vases and other household items for pleasure rather than for profit. Instructions were regularly included in art magazines. Most people did not have their own kilns and had to ship their items to a studio for firing.
Q: We own a carved wooden armchair that has been in our family for years. The top third of the chair back is decorated with a carving of a gargoyle face. The paper label on the bottom says, “August Hausske & Co., Weed Street, Chicago, Ill.”
A: You have a “North Wind chair,” a style that was popular during the late Victorian era (1880-1900) into the early 20th century. The face, from folklore, was supposed to blow evil spirits away. August Hausske was involved with the Northwestern Parlor Suite Manufacturing Co. before he opened his own firm in 1880. In 1891, Hausske’s parlor furniture was displayed at the Chicago Furniture Exposition. August Hausske & Co. was still in business in Chicago in the 1920s, but moved to Peru, Ind., in the 1930s or ‘40s. Depending on the condition of your chair, it could sell for up to $500.
Q: I have an old Popeye pop-up book titled “The Pop-Up Popeye in ‘Among the White Savages.’” It’s in great condition, with all the pop-ups intact. I’m wondering what it’s worth and how I can sell it.
A: Your book was written by Elzie Crisler (“E.C.”) Segar, the cartoonist who created Popeye. It was published in 1934 by Blue Ribbon Press of New York City. Copies show up regularly at auctions and antiquarian book Web sites. If you want to sell, consider using a dealer that regularly handles children’s books. Prices for your book range widely, depending on condition. But if yours is excellent, with all the pop-ups, it could sell for more than $500.
Q: I have a big old cream-colored tin that once held 10 pounds of “Dixie Mammoth Brand Salted Nuts.” The label on the front pictures a wooly mammoth and also says “The Kelly Co.” I haven’t been able to find any information about the company. Can you help?
A: Kelly Co. was founded in Cleveland in 1884 and was in business until at least the 1940s. It made Dixie and Jackie Coogan brand nuts and also wholesaled seeds. A 10-pound can like yours auctioned for $600 a few years ago. Collectors of old advertising like the wooly mammoth graphics on the tins.
Q: When we were remodeling our bedroom, we found an old roll of wallpaper under the carpet. Our house was built in 1890. The back of the roll, which lists self-help instructions, is labeled “Fleming Wallrite.” Is the wallpaper worth anything?
A: The wallpaper is not as old as your house. Fleming & Sons, the paper’s manufacturer, was in business in Dallas between about 1933 and the mid-1960s. Hang-it-yourself wallpaper became popular in the United States after World War II, and Fleming’s Wallrite brand was widely advertised in the 1950s and ‘60s. Some people like to use vintage wallpaper. If your roll is in usable condition, it might sell online for about $20.
Tip: Check the picture hooks holding your paintings and photographs every few years. Eventually, heavy pictures will loosen nails and hooks and paintings can crash to the floor. Also check the wires holding your pictures.
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