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Archive for Thursday, October 25, 2012

Kovel’s Antiques: Custom-built furniture was more common in past

October 25, 2012

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Most furniture is made to fit in almost any room, but sometimes furniture is made to fit the room — to look as if it’s built into a wall.

Today, we install built-in kitchen cupboards, bookshelves and perhaps a niche for ornaments. In the 18th and 19th centuries, corner cupboards, dressers and other large storage pieces may not have been “built-in,” but they were made for just one spot in the house.

Two matching mahogany, fitted pedestal bookcases sold in 2012 were each 7 feet 7 inches tall and 17 inches wide. The shelves were only 13 inches deep, the depth of most bookshelves today. The tall and thin column-like bookcases have glass doors and a carved ornament at the top.

The pair was probably made to be placed on either side of a doorway. They mimic the door-frame trim popular in expensive houses at the beginning of the 1900s, the English Edwardian period. The shape is uncommon, so this pair was probably a special order.

The pair sold at a Neal Auction in New Orleans for $2,988.

Q: I bought a Lady figurine from “Lady and the Tramp” for 99 cents. It’s porcelain, about 4 inches tall and marked “Disney, Japan” with a copyright symbol. Did I pay too much?

A: “Lady and the Tramp,” Disney’s animated romance about a purebred cocker spaniel and a mutt, was released in 1955 — the same year Disneyland opened in Southern California. The opening of the theme park ignited even more demand for Disney figurines. At about this time, Disney started to have some figures made in Japan. Lady figurines like yours sell for about $10 online, so you paid a bargain price.

Q: Back in the 1970s, my mother’s friend gave her a desk with a pull-down door that serves as a writing surface.

The desk appears to be made of different types of wood and has a lot of carving, inlay and appliqued designs. There’s a metal plaque on the back that says “Furniture of Lasting Elegance and Worth, Detroit Furniture Shops, Detroit, Michigan.”

I can’t find any reference to this maker online or in reference books. Can you help?

A: Detroit Furniture Shops is listed in a 1922 Detroit directory as a store that buys and sells furniture, not as a furniture manufacturer. It was located on Riopelle Street in the Forest Park neighborhood.

Q: When my mother died, I was left the figural chef cookie jar she received as a wedding present in 1941. The chef’s outfit is dark yellow, and his hair and shoes are brown. The jar’s bottom is stamped “Red Wing Pottery, Hand Painted.” I need some history and an estimate of its value.

A: Your “Pierre the Chef” cookie jar was one of the most popular ever made by Red Wing Potteries of Red Wing, Minn.

It was first made in 1941 and remained in production until about 1956. It was also made in light green and light blue.

We have seen your jar selling online for $155.

Q: My very shiny hammered aluminum platter is 16 1/2 inches in diameter and looks like it is made of silver. It has four egg-shaped indentations that could hold a small ostrich egg. The bowl-like center is set with multicolored tiles held in place by rivets. On the bottom is a triangular mark made up of the words “Cellini Craft, Argental, Handwrought.” In the center of the triangle are the letters “MW.”

How old is it, and what was it used for? Some auctions describe similar dishes as “trays,” but I think there must be a reason for the tiles and the indentations.

A: Cellini Craft made aluminum serving pieces from 1934 to 1966. Argental translates to “silver-like.” The aluminum was hand-hammered.

We have looked at hundreds of aluminum trays and have found no catalog that explains a platter like yours. It is listed in catalogs as either a tray or an undertray. An undertray held a glass or covered aluminum bowl that could have served soup, stew or some other juicy food. The indentations may have been designed to catch drippings.

Only one or two other aluminum manufacturers made trays that included a ceramic piece in the center. It may have kept the tray from getting too hot, or it may just have been a decoration.

Aluminum regained popularity for a brief time in the 1990s. Prices went up as collectors searched for wares from the 1950s and ’60s. Trays the size of yours with a tile insert retail for $150 to $350, even though most hammered aluminum has dropped in price during the past 15 years.

— 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 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.

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