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Archive for Thursday, October 11, 2012

Kovel’s Antiques: Oddities add mystery to antique-hunting

October 11, 2012

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Part of the fun of being a collector is trying to identify recently discovered old tools and, if possible, trace the past owners of the finds.

A strange brass object was auctioned in Chicago in 2011. It was identified as a “mechanical wine pourer.” It looks like a construction toy with a rectangular “arm” made of brass rods. It’s shaped to hold a bottle.

The arm is at the top of a 14-inch-high H-frame made of brass rods. Turn a crank at the bottom of the frame, and the arm and bottle dip down. It was indeed a wine pourer.

It was marked “Yeo, Ratcliffe & Dawe,” so it was possible to learn more about it. The company opened in 1946 in London and was sold in 1961.

Online records of local archaeology studies proved the company was housed in a building constructed in 1415 (yes, it’s almost 600 years old!) and housed a wine merchant even then. The building was restored many times, and the 1946 restoration revealed an amazing history. It had been a three-story building serving as a wine merchant’s shop and home. Parts of the original 15th-century roof, 15th- and 16th-century beams, an original fireplace, an old white oak floor and 18th- and 19th-century additions were found. Some of the original plaster mixed with straw was still in place. An early woman’s shoe and some clay pipes that were hundreds of years old also were discovered.

The mechanical wine pourer dates from the recent owner — some time around 1950. But the brass pourer had extra value for collectors because of its time in the historic building. It sold for more than $1,950.

Correction: Here is additional information about Jacob Petit (1796-1868), a famous French porcelain painter and manufacturer we wrote about in our Oct. 4 column. After working at the Sevres factory, Petit opened his own shop near Paris sometime after 1830 and took over a nearby factory in about 1834. He sold his factory to one of his employees in 1862, but he continued to work in Paris until 1866.

Tip: Changing temperatures bother a grandfather clock. An inside corner is the best place for such clocks.

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