Collectors prize carnival dolls

“Mr. Bighead” is a Japanese celluloid toy made before World War II. He is said to represent an American, while the insect on his head represents Japan. His eyes and mouth move. The mint in-the-box toy sold at Keith Spurgeon’s Mosby & Co. Auctions in Frederick, Md., for ,191.

Twentieth-century iron toys and tin toys have been collected for generations, and many books and articles have been written about the toys and their makers.

But celluloid toys, which date from the late 1800s into the 1950s (when plastic became popular), were made in many European countries, Japan and the United States. Although celluloid is flammable and dents, cracks and splits easily, it was used to make dolls and other toys because it was inexpensive but could be decorated with bright colors and molded into complicated shapes.

One of the most popular celluloid toys in the United States was the “Boopie,” also called a “carnival doll.” She had a pot-belly, large, round eyes and wavy hair, and looked a little like a Kewpie and a little like Betty Boop. These dolls, made in Japan, originally sold for a few cents apiece. They often were given as prizes at amusement parks, carnivals and fairs. Today, a single doll can sell for $10 to $50. Collectors prefer rare, odd-looking dolls — dolls that look like cartoon characters, exotic animals or Santa Claus. These sell for $100 or more if in very good condition. Repairs are difficult if not impossible.

Q: I have a matte-green pitcher with an impressed mark that says “J.S.T. & Co., Keene, N.H.” Who is the maker?

A: The mark on your pitcher is among those used by Hampshire Pottery. The pottery was founded in Keene, N.H., by James Scollay Taft in 1871. Pieces are marked with a printed or impressed mark that includes the founder’s initials or the name “Hampshire Pottery.” In 1916, Taft sold the pottery to George Morton, who had worked at Grueby Pottery in Boston. Hampshire Pottery closed in 1917, reopened a couple of years later and closed permanently in 1923.

Q: Could you tell me when the practice of using metal staples to repair china was discontinued?

A: Most repairers today use modern glues and cements, but — believe it or not — there still are repairers who use metal rivets (they’re not really staples) to repair ceramics. A hole is drilled in each broken part, and a rivet is inserted and then cemented in place to hold the parts together. The practice was in general use in China by the 17th century, but most riveted pieces collectors come across today were repaired in Europe or the United States during the Victorian era. Making rivet repairs takes a lot of skill. While most collectors consider the repairs unsightly and unnecessary, some collect riveted pieces as oddities.

Q: I have a chifforobe made by the Joseph Peters Furniture Co. of St. Louis. What can you tell me about this company?

A: Joseph Peters, an immigrant from Prussia, founded his furniture company in St. Louis in 1855. At first he specialized in making bureaus and cabinets, but the business thrived, and by 1908 the company was operating 50 factories and employed more than 7,000 people. It remained in business at least into the 1930s.

Q: Does anyone remember the game “Peter Coddles Goes to Town”? It consisted of a printed story with open spaces for new words or phrases to finish a sentence. A player would read the story, and players would add words or phrases to the story from their individual cards. The random sentence combinations were hilarious, and it was a great reading experience for younger kids.

A: Peter Coddle is based on a “literary puzzle” game in the book “Jessie; Or, Trying to Be Somebody,” published by Gould & Lincoln in 1858. In the story, Peter was supposed to be an 18-year-old, but he usually is pictured on game boxes as an older country bumpkin visiting a big city. Several different Peter Coddle games were made in the late 1800s until at least the 1930s. One of the most popular is “Peter Coddle’s Trip to New York,” which was made in various versions by, among others, Parker Brothers in 1888, McLoughlin Brothers and J.H. Singer in the 1890s and Milton Bradley in 1925. Most are “fill-in-the-blank” card games like yours, but there also is a board-game version. The title may spell Peter’s last name “Coddle” or “Coddles.” Some makers used several different boxes with completely different pictures of Peter. Occasionally these games show up on the Internet or in a group of games at an auction. Value depends on age, condition and box cover. Most games sell for less than $100. Newer versions sell for $25-$50.

Tip: Check the supports on wall-hung shelves once a year. Eventually a heavy load will cause “creep”: the metal brackets will bend and the shelf will fall.

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