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Terry Kovel, Kovel’s Antiques, Published January 12 2012

Kovel: Construction gives away furniture copies

Some furniture styles are so popular that they are copied by cabinetmakers for hundreds of years. Some copies are easy to recognize as copies because their construction is modern – new nails, machine-made mortise-and-tenon joints holding drawer parts together, telltale marks made by modern saws rather than the marks left by antique hand tools.

Well-made used copies, sometimes more than 100 years old, are selling for almost as much as similar brand-new pieces. Decorators want the “look.”

Serious collectors would like to have an authentic of-the-period antique cabinet to display antique porcelains, but it can be very expensive. They save money by buying a newer cabinet so they can spend money on antique porcelains. A 2011 Neal Auction Co. sale in New Orleans offered a mid-19th-century cabinet in the Renaissance (1460-1600) style made of expensive Circassian walnut with ebony and ivory trim.

Today’s endangered-species laws have banned the use of most types of ebony and elephant ivory. The cabinet was a good copy, heavy and rectangular. It had a base, columns, moldings, finials, carvings, paneled doors, elaborate decorations and about 15 drawers and four doors. Some experts say cabinets like this were made to resemble imaginary buildings. The cabinet sold for $7,200. A new cabinet similar to this would cost well over $10,000, and a 15th-century piece probably couldn’t be found for sale. The collector’s rule is: Study the best there is in museums and buy the best you can afford.

Q: I’ve been collecting beer mugs, old beer trays, beer advertising clocks and beer playing cards for my brother for years. All the items are old, and some of the brands don’t exist anymore. My sister-in-law says it’s all junk. Is this true, or are the items collectible?

A: What’s “junk” to some is collectible to others. Breweriana collectibles, which include anything relating to beer, are very collectible and easy to sell. Trays and clocks can sell for hundreds of dollars, but even labels, beer mats, playing cards and other paper items are collectible. Price depends on age, brand, rarity and condition. There are several clubs for collectors, including the Antique Advertising Association of America (www.pastimes.org), Brewery Collectibles Club of America (www.bcca.com) and National Association of Breweriana Advertising (www.nababrew.com).


Dry good glassware with a towel that has not been washed with fabric softener. The chemicals in the softener will leave a film.

Current prices

Current prices are recorded from antiques shows, flea markets, sales and auctions throughout the United States. Prices vary in different locations because of local economic conditions.

<•> Salt and pepper shakers, Anchor Hocking, frosted glass with painted apple-and-leaf design by Gay Fad Studios, 3½ inches, $15.

<•> Gibbon monkey plush toy, Steiff, long dangling arms and legs, goofy smile, dark-brown felt pads on hands and feet, long mohair fur, circa 1962, 6 by 12 inches, $60.

<•> 1939 New York World’s Fair souvenir chocolate candy tin, blue and orange, gold highlights, scenes from the fair, Bagatelle Miniature Chocolates, 2M, by 6¾ inches, $65.

<•> Advertising tape measure, celluloid, yellow cloth tape, one side pictures New England Furniture and Carpet Co. building in Minneapolis, other side pictures “Priscilla” as “The Maid of New England,” Parisian Novelty Co., Chicago, 1C, by 2 inches, $95.

<•> Esther Williams paper doll set, “A Look-Thru Book,” 20 outfits, dog Angie, suntan oil, crown, Merrill, 1950s, 13 by 11 inches, $175.

<•> Dresser, oak, oval tilting mirror, two drawers, curved front, circa 1910, 71 by 42 inches, $495.

For more information about antiques and collectibles and free price information, visit Kovel’s website, www.kovels.com

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 Kovel forum. 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 Kovel,

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