Archive for Sunday, July 8, 2012

Kovel’s Antiques: Veggie people popular at turn of 20th century

July 8, 2012


Fresh vegetables were part of the diet of the Victorian household during the warm, growing months. But stored root vegetables and home canned food were used on snowy days.

Advertisers knew that imaginary vegetables acting like humans were as popular a fantasy as fairies, elves, brownies, pixies and gnomes.

Few color pictures were available. Magazines and newspapers were printed in black and white. But in the 1880s, retail stores advertised with colored trade cards, about 6-inch-by-2-1/2-inch, that were saved and often put in scrapbooks.

There were many different anthropomorphic fruit and vegetable cards. Humanized veggies were pictured not only in the U.S. but also in England, Germany, France and Italy.

The comic figures with human bodies often had names, Mr. Prune, The Baldwin Twins (apple heads) or Mr. Pumpkin. And there often was a funny caption, like two strawberry heads asking “What are you doing in my bed?”

The trade cards are not the only place for veggie people. Vegetable people postcards came next, about 1900. Figural salt and pepper shakers, children’s books, decorated plates and even small figurines were popular in the early 1900s.

Now that eating fresh food is a national goal, veggie people are being noticed by collectors. And maybe they will encourage the family to eat their fruit and vegetables.

Trade cards can be $10 to $25 each, postcards a little less. Many salt-shaker sets sell for less than $40.

About 25 years ago, I bought a kitchen table with one leaf and four chairs at a used-furniture store in Connecticut. On one end of the table, there’s a label that says “Dinah Cook Furniture” around the image of a black woman wearing a kerchief on her head. Can you tell me when the set was made and who made it?

“Dinah Cook Furniture” was a trademark used by the Western Chair Co. of Chicago. The trademark may have been used to appeal to black customers during the great migration of black Americans from the South to Northern cities. If so, the set probably dates from the 1920s or ’30s.

I have a 1937 Philadelphia Athletics scorecard that’s in mint condition. It’s really more like a program because it’s a six-page booklet that’s 10 3/4 inches high by 6 5/8 inches wide. The inside of the booklet includes a team photo and roster, a schedule of home games, a list of the pitchers and catchers for all the teams in the American and National leagues, a photo of Chubby Dean with his facsimile autograph, the prices of refreshments and a lot of interesting ads. What is it worth?

Reproductions of your scorecard have been made, so the first thing to do is to make sure it’s an original. If it’s an original, you can try selling it online or to a dealer who sells sports memorabilia. Expect to get about $35-$45 for it.

The Philadelphia Athletics, an American League team founded in 1901, became the Kansas City Athletics in 1955, then moved to California in 1968 and became the Oakland Athletics.

What is the difference between an “antique” and a “collectible”? And what does the word “vintage” mean? I figure you’re the expert and can help me understand.

Different people, even different experts, define these words differently. Most collectors accept the U.S. Customs Service’s 1930 definition of an “antique” as something of value that’s 100 or more years old.

In 1993 the U.S. Customs Modernization Act added that if the “essential character” of a piece has been changed or more than half of it has been repaired or restored, it’s no longer considered an antique.

A “collectible” is therefore something of value (to someone) that’s less than 100 years old.

The term “vintage” is wishy-washy. It’s often used to describe clothing your grandmother — or even your mother — wore or furniture in your childhood bedroom. We usually use the word “vintage” to describe something of value that’s more than 50 years old and “collectible” to refer to anything under 50. But there are no hard and fast rules.

Tip: A mirror made from an antique picture frame is worth about half as much as a period mirror in a period frame.


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