Ghoulish pieces attract collectors

A rocking chair shaped like a skeleton is bound to be noticed, especially around Halloween. This 20th-century example brought ,198 at Jackson’s Auctioneers in Cedar Falls, Iowa, this past June.

Skeletons are invited guests at our celebration of Halloween, the Mexican holiday called “Day of the Dead” and a few other ghoulish events.

A chair shaped like a skeleton, with boney arms, ribs, feet and skull, is one of the largest skeleton pieces a collector can find, and it’s a mystifying piece of antique furniture. Vincent Price, a well-known actor in horror films, owned a whole set of skeleton chairs.

At least four variations of the large, scary chairs have been sold in recent years. A few were painted white, one was dark mahogany and one was a rocking chair. The most famous is a Russian chair that has an inscription that solved part of the mystery of why these chairs were made. The inscription indicated the chair was a gift from “Masonic Lodge, 1838,” so at least one of the chairs related to a Masonic ritual. That chair sold in London in 1980 for $36,300, sold again in 1992 for about half that, then sold in 2009 for $3,198 at Jackson’s Auctions in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

A popular modern “skeleton chair” is an aluminum chair by Michael Aram. It has a ribcage back, no arms or skull, a pelvis seat and three legs that look like bones. Price: $450. If you want your own skeleton chair to frighten guests on Halloween, you can buy an inexpensive chair slipcover that’s printed with a skeleton to cover the back, arms, seat and legs with appropriate bones.

Recently I bought a pair of old cowboy spurs. They are very rusty and the leather is dried out. Should I condition the leather and use rust remover on them or will it hurt the value?

It won’t lower the value if you do a careful job of restoring them. To remove rust from the spurs, use a commercial rust remover. If the leather is very dry, it should not be washed. Just apply a commercial leather dressing. A second coat may be applied after the first coat is dry. After it is thoroughly dry, buff it with a soft cloth. Leather that has not deteriorated can be washed in soap and warm water. Dry the leather overnight, away from sunlight and heat sources. When the leather is thoroughly dry, apply leather dressing. Leather that crumbles to red powder has “red rot,” which is caused by absorption of sulfur dioxide. Red rot is a “terminal illness.”

Q: I have a pitcher marked “Jugtown Pottery.” Is it collectible?

A: Jugtown Pottery was founded by Juliana and Jacques Busbee in 1915, but the term “Jugtown pottery” also is used to refer to handmade pottery made by North Carolina families as far back as the 1750s. The Busbees built a shop in Jugtown, N.C., in 1921, and hired Ben Owen as a potter in 1923. The pottery closed in 1959 but reopened in 1960. It is still operating near Seagrove, N.C.

Q: I have a Holt-Howard candleholder that’s a figure of a girl in a yellow dress. I would like to know something about it.

A: Holt-Howard was founded by John and Robert Howard and A. Grant Holt in Stamford, Conn., in 1949. The company sold humorous condiment jars, decanters, spoon-holders, saltshakers and other tableware. Pieces are often marked with the company’s full name or “HH” and the year of manufacture. The HH mark was used until 1974. Some pieces are marked with a black and silver label. The company was bought by General Housewares Corp. in 1969 and production of Holt-Howard products stopped in 1990. Your candleholder is worth about $25.

Q: I am trying to find some information about an opalescent glass reamer embossed with these words: “Blue Goose Fruit, for most juice and finest flavor, Fry heat resisting glass, 1967.” There are embossed images of geese on the reamer, too.

A: The H.C. Fry Glass Co. of Rochester, Pa. (25 miles northwest of Pittsburgh), made your reamer between 1924 and 1933, the year the company closed after 32 years in business. The “1967” on the reamer is its mold number. Your reamer is well-known among collectors. It was a Pet Milk premium that promoted a summer drink made by combining ice, condensed milk and fresh orange or lemon juice. Blue Goose Growers was a group of citrus packinghouses in California, Florida and Arizona. Dole acquired Blue Goose in 1984. Your reamer is made of heat-resistant oven glass developed by Henry Fry in the early 1920s. Fry Glass Co. called its opalescent color “pearl.” Your reamer is worth $175 to $200.

Q: I have several 78 rpm Columbia and RCA records I bought when I was stationed in Japan from 1949 to 1951. The songs were popular among GIs, but they’re in Japanese. Are the records worth anything to anybody? Where could I donate them?

A: How interesting that GIs listened to American recordings of songs in Japanese. We would like to know if the songs were Japanese songs or American songs sung in Japanese. In any case, the market for your records is small, even in Japan, now that it’s been 60 years since the war and occupation. But there are many historical museums both here and in Japan, some dedicated solely to World War II. You might try contacting those museums to see if they’re interested in your records.

Tip: Don’t try to clean an oil painting with a cut potato. This old wives’ tale can damage the painting.

— 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 e-mail 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.