Archive for Sunday, August 8, 2010

Kovel’s Antiques: Presidential images fetch premium prices

August 8, 2010


It made news in January 2010 when a photo of President Barack Obama wearing a Weatherproof Garment Co. jacket was used on a billboard on Times Square. The photograph was taken when the president visited China, but he did not give permission for his image to be used in an ad. Weatherproof was asked to take the picture down and did. Presidents do not endorse products, although they do endorse candidates. The earliest “presidential” ad was for a magazine. It was a copy of an 1811 letter written by Thomas Jefferson to say he was a subscriber to the magazine. It too was probably not approved by the president. During Victorian times, many ads appeared that pictured a president or mentioned his campaign and suggested he had made a product endorsement. Recently one of those advertising posters sold at a Cowan’s auction for $3,500. It was an 1890s ad for Warner’s Log Cabin Sarsaparilla picturing President William Henry Harrison and his grandson, President Benjamin Harrison. The poster says the liquid medicine cures scrofula, biliousness, dizziness, headache, constipation, salt rheum, erysipelas and other diseases. Also pictured is the log cabin symbol used in William Henry’s presidential campaign and the logo of the medicine company. A poster with both a medicine ad and a presidential picture sells for a premium price. This brought $4,112.

Q: I have a 1939 New York World’s Fair combination purse-muff that belonged to my mother. One side is black velvet and the other is Persian lamb. It’s 14 inches wide by 10 inches high. The zipper pull on the velvet (purse) side is a chrome circle surrounding the Trylon and Perisphere symbols of the fair. It’s in pristine condition. I wrote to a group of World’s Fair collectors, but no one there had ever seen a souvenir like mine.

A: A few souvenir purses were made for the 1939 New York World’s Fair. The ones we have seen are decorated with images of the Trylon and Perisphere and sell for $250 to $350. One that matches the description of yours was offered at auction 10 years ago but didn’t sell. Today a World’s Fair collector would probably pay at least $100 for it.

Q: My mother has an oak hutch with an inscribed mark that says, “A Genuine Kuehne Product.” Is this piece of furniture a rarity? I can’t find any information about the company.

A: Kuehne Manufacturing Co. made kitchen dinette sets in Matoon, Ill., from the time of its founding in 1932 until it closed in 1965. Its early sets were wooden, but by the 1950s Kuehne was making the chromed metal breakfast-room sets so popular during that decade. The value of your hutch is not likely to be more than $100, but its price depends on size, condition and what it’s made of.

Q: When I was going through a box of miscellaneous items that belonged to my mother, I found about a dozen pairs of what look like buttons, but they’re not. Some are two-piece, but some are just one-piece. Some resemble tie tacks, but they’re too large, and others look like cufflinks, but the back doesn’t seem large enough. They were in a box my mother labeled “collar buttons.” What are they?

A: During the Victorian era and into the early decades of the 1900s, men wore dress shirts to which they had to attach a separate collar. A matching pair of collar buttons did the trick. One button was used to attach the back of the collar to the shirt and the other went through slits on the front of the collar and through a hole at the top of the shirt. While collar buttons are interesting historically, only those made of unusual or high-quality materials are worth more than a few dollars today. Buttons marked by a jeweler or manufacturer can also bring a premium.

Q: A copy of the New York Herald newspaper from April 15, 1865, has been in my family for generations. The front page announces the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln the previous day and his death that morning. The center of the front page, right below a drawing of Lincoln’s face, calls the newspaper the “Extra 8:10 a.m.” edition. All four sheets, yellowed with age, were encased in plastic 30 years ago and are legible. It is a precious heirloom we have treasured. What is its value?

A: You have a well-known fake newspaper that was printed in huge numbers between 1880 and the early 1900s. Most of the fakes probably were made to advertise the Herald or to hand out as souvenirs at historic sites. They weren’t meant to deceive collectors. There are several clues that prove your paper is a fake and next to worthless: There was no original 8:10 a.m. edition of the Herald. Originals were printed on rag paper, which does not yellow with age. The Herald did not publish a portrait of Lincoln on April 15, 1865. And the original newspaper was eight pages long, not four. Family stories about long-held possessions are often more myth than fact.

Tip: Do not wrap ceramics, wood, marble or other porous materials in old newspapers; the ink used to print will eventually stain the pieces. Newsprint is high acid paper and it can discolor other materials, especially other pieces of paper, over time. Recycled paper usually is bad but some photocopy paper is acid-free and good for archival storage. Watch out for cardboard boxes and plastic boxes. Many folders, scrapbook and plastic sleeves can damage old paper items like autographs, photographs or baseball cards.

— Terry Kovel answers as many questions as possible through the column. By sending a letter with a question, you give full permission for use in the column or any other Kovel forum. Names, addresses or e-mail addresses will not be published. We cannot guarantee the return of any photograph, but if a stamped envelope is included, we will try. The volume of mail makes personal answers or appraisals impossible. Write to Kovels, (Lawrence Journal-World), King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019.


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.

  • Royal Bayreuth Sunbonnet Babies teapot, ironing pattern, 4 1/2 inches, $60.
  • Hampshire Pottery vase, vertical molded leaves, mottled blue-green matte glaze, impressed mark, c. 1910, 3 inches, $120.
  • Schoenhut dollhouse, all wood, 4 rooms, stair steps, shingle-type roof, curtains, painted floors, upper window sashes, electrified, outside repainted, c. 1920, 21 x 22 x 14 inches, $345.
  • Chippendale-style camelback sofa, serpentine crest rail, out-scrolled arms, pink brocade upholstery, 1930s, 31 x 84 x 26 inches, $645.
  • Western Electric No. 10 upright desk-set telephone, nickel-plated brass, tapered shaft, OST receiver, c. 1898, 12 inches, $1,265.
  • Armored car still bank, dark red, gold-washed wheels, cast iron, A.C. Williams, 1920s, 4 x 6 1/2 inches, $1,955.
  • Glass figural pig bottle, Duffy Saloon, amber, molded hooves, ears and facial details, rooster on crescent moon logo, Kentucky or Southern glassworks, c. 1878, 8 x 3 1/2 inches, $1,995.
  • Lenci boudoir lady doll, blond wig, long legs and arms, white organdy dress with ruffles, applied flowers, silk stockings, black high heels, Italy, c. 1920, 24 inches, $2,185.
  • Walk-Over Shoes light-up display sign, back of car driving down country road with ad on spare tire, when lit it shows silhouette of couple in car, electric, 11 x 15 inches, $3,410.
  • Bimbo-Baby arcade machine, deposit a coin and five small monkeys inside case play musical instruments, includes second set of figures, 1950s, 32 x 21 x 24 inches, $4,600.


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