Archive for Sunday, July 22, 2012

Kovel’s Antiques: Once thought garish, Victorian furniture back in favor

July 22, 2012


Collectors prize furniture that is created by a famous maker, but antique furniture is often not identified with a label. Experts can “attribute” a piece to a maker by comparing it to other known furniture that has a label or a history of ownership.

John Henry Belter was one of the most famous American furniture makers working in the late 1800s. He invented a way to glue six to eight thin layers of rosewood (with the grain going in different directions) into a large strong piece that could be curved. It was a type of plywood that he patented in 1858.

He was a talented carver and added piercings and carvings of roses, busts of important people, grapes and grapevines, and scrolls.

Belter was born in Germany in 1804, came to New York City in 1833, and made furniture for the wealthy from 1844 until he died in 1863.

He specialized in furniture for the parlor, including sofas, armchairs, side chairs and a center table. All were made of rosewood. The chairs had no upholstery on the back, just rosewood. He favored the Rococo Revival style with curved legs, arms and tops of backs.

Pieces were varnished to look shiny, new and well-cared-for. Few pieces were marked, but the laminated rosewood, the carvings of heads of poets and the founding fathers, and even the style of the grapevines can be identified.

In the 1950s his furniture was considered garish and in poor taste. But by the 1960s, collectors started to realize his furniture is very well made and his designs are the best of the late Victorian period. It became an expensive collector favorite.

Though all antique furniture is selling for less than it did before 2008, there is renewed interest in Belter. At a recent auction, a 40-inch-wide table, made about 1850 attributed to Belter, sold for $27,060. It featured carved heads like those on other labeled Belter tables.

Q: I have a 22-piece set of Frank Herschede silverware. It has black, nonmetal handles. It’s marked Gense Extrastainless Sweden on the backs. The set was a gift from our uncle in the 1960s. Can you give me any information about this?

A: Your set was made by Gense (Gustaf Eriksson NySilverfabriken), a company founded by Gustav Erikson in Eskilstuna, Sweden, in 1856.

Gense introduced a stainless steel flatware pattern called “Focus De Luxe” in 1957. Pieces have modern shapes and black handles made of polyoxymethylene. The pattern was designed by Folke Arstrom, the artistic director at Gense from 1940 to 1960.

The company became part of the K.A. Rasmussen Group in 1995. Herschede is the name of the store that sold your tableware. Frank Herschede had a jewelry store in business in Cincinnati from 1877 to 1995.

Gense still makes stainless steel flatware, but your pattern has been discontinued. It is very collectible today, and pieces have been displayed in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. It is a famous flatware set, listed as one of 100 best designed products in modern times. Your set would sell for about $250.

Q: My daughter recently inherited an old “Quick-Lite Lamp Q 307” and separate pump. Can you tell me its value and any other information on it?

A: Your lamp was made by the Kansas-based Coleman Co. They’ve been making lamps and lanterns since 1900. According to the lamp’s tag, yours is from 1928.

The Quick-Lite technology allowed the white gasoline-fueled lamps to be lit with a match instead of a torch.

At the time, Coleman Co. offered to convert their older desk lamps to Quick-Lite for $3.50. “Q” refers to the model; “307” refers to the ribbed glass shade. A similar Quick-Lite lamp recently sold at auction for $40.

Q: My husband and I attended a surprise party for a friend’s 70th birthday. He was a Roy Rogers fan. He was given a Roy Rogers and Dale Evans lunchbox. I’d like to know what it’s worth.

A: The first Roy Rogers lunchboxes debuted in 1953. “The King of Cowboys” was winding up his film career and moving into television with “The Roy Rogers Show.”

Lunchboxes were made by the American Thermos Co. and became an instant hit with children. More than 2.5 million units sold the first year.

Original metal lunch boxes are collectible, with price determined by condition and rarity. A complete box came with matching thermos.

Your lunchbox, with Roy mounted on a rearing Trigger in front, and eight scenes from Double R Bar Ranch on back, was made in 1955 and 1956. It originally sold for $2.89. Value today: $40-$100, depending on condition.

Tip: Don’t wear jewelry when swimming. Both salt and chlorine damage some types of stones, like opals or emeralds. Sand will scratch coral, pearl, opal, lapis, turquoise and other stones. Base metals will corrode.

— 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 email addresses will not be published. We cannot guarantee the return of any photograph, but if a


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