Archive for Sunday, July 15, 2012

Kovel’s Antiques: American art pottery tiles can be a bargain find

July 15, 2012


Bargain-priced American art pottery vases are hard to find, but art pottery tiles made by important companies still are inexpensive because they have had little publicity.

Tile collectors in England and Holland pay high prices for tiles made in their country. Rookwood Pottery of Ohio, and Low Art Tile Co. of Massachusetts probably are the most famous makers in the U.S.

American Encaustic Tiling Co. of Ohio, Trent Tile Co. of New Jersey and many other companies made tiles. Most marked the back of the tile with the company name, and most had a name that included the word “tile.” The tiles range from small, round or square tiles, about 1 to 2 inches, that were put on stoves and other equipment for decoration to large tiles used on walls in restaurants, fireplace surrounds and hotel lobbies. And, like today, plain small tiles are used for floors in drugstores and bathrooms.

Most interesting to collectors are the groups of tiles that form a picture. They were most popular in the 1920s to 1940s. The tiles usually are displayed on racks at shows.

Collectors like to frame a tile like a picture to be hung on the wall. A framed 6-inch-square Rookwood tile showing tulips sold recently for less than $100. A group of tiles forming a scene 24 inches by 18 inches picturing a Dutch girl and a windmill sold for $1,200. Twenty tiles were used to make the picture on a restaurant wall.

Look at salvage yards, and talk to the workers tearing down houses. Sometimes you can find large tiles made for the outside of a building that will be destroyed if you don’t offer to buy them. Gardeners like to use them outside.

I have a brass bed made by the Art Bed Co., Chicago. I’d like to know its value.

Art Bedstead Co. of Chicago, Ill., was in business from the late 1890s until at least 1910. The company made metal beds. “Art Beds” was a trade name they used. There were several manufacturers of brass and iron beds in Chicago in the late 1800s and early 1900s. In 1914, when World War I began, metal was rationed and production of metal goods for home use stopped. Value of your bed, about $300-$400.

My father found a print being used as backing for an old photograph he inherited from his mother. The print is labeled “Execution of the Conspirators.” It consists of two panels. The left is labeled “Praparing (sic) for Execution” and the names of the conspirators, Surrat, Powell-Payne, Harold and Atzerodt, are at the bottom. The right panel is titled “Springing of the Trap” and shows them hanging. We’ve been to Ford’s Theater, the Smithsonian, and Lincoln’s summer cottage at Soldiers Home, but we’ve never seen this particular picture in any of their collections. Anything you can tell us would be helpful.

Although photographs were taken of the hanging of the Lincoln conspirators, newspapers of the day were not able to print them. Pictures in newspapers and other publications were printed from engravings. Alexander Gardner was the only photographer allowed to take pictures of the execution at the Old Arsenal Prison. There are two misspellings on your print. The word “preparing” is misspelled and the name of one of the conspirators is Herold, not Harold. The print was published in 1865. A copy is in the Library of Congress.

I grew up in Auburn, N.Y., near Owasco Lake. During the summertime, back in the 1930s, bands came every week to play at dances held at a pavilion near the lake. Most of the bands were not famous, but Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra came once, and I got his autograph. Would a collector be interested in buying the autograph?

Tommy Dorsey (1905-1956) was a trombone player and bandleader during the “Big Band Era.” You don’t say if you had Dorsey sign a plain piece of paper or a program. If his autograph is on a piece of paper, a collector would pay $50 to $100 for it. If it’s on a program with his band’s name on it, it could sell for more than $150.


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