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By Terry Kovel, Published May 11 2012

Kovels Antiques: Doorstops now more decorative than functional

Iron doorstops are among today’s top-selling collectibles. They are probably not propped against a door to keep it open but are instead displayed like rare porcelain figurines on a prominent shelf.

The clever, colorful and often humorous doorstops favored today are made of painted cast iron. They were first popular in the late 19th century. Flower baskets, cottages, animals and people were the most common doorstop shapes. More than 1,000 American-made doorstops are known, and there are at least 35 different doorstops that look like Boston terriers.

A new doorstop in 1920 cost 25 cents. Today a rare doorstop sells for more than $10,000. But most doorstops in average condition cost about $100. Original paint is important and repainting a doorstop, no matter how battered, lowers the price. A broken or badly damaged piece has almost no value. Many reproductions of old doorstops have been made, most of them since the 1980s. That’s when new collectors started searching for pieces for their collections. Reproductions start out with overly bright paint, and any rust that develops on them is bright orange, not dark brown.

One unusual vintage cast-iron doorstop is a clownish boy wearing a checkered shirt. He is standing with his legs and arms crossed. At his feet are piles of books and pamphlets. It may have been made to commemorate the New York Times Crossword Puzzle. Since the Times didn’t publish its first crossword puzzle until 1942, the doorstop wasn’t made before then. One sold in 2008 for $4,025. In 2011 another one sold for $1,725.

Q: My old child’s rocking chair has a music box attached to one of the rockers. A short rod extends from the music box to the floor so that when the chair rocks, the music box plays. Unfortunately, the music box no longer works. What can you tell me about the chair? Do you know anyone who repairs something like this?

A: In the mid-20th century, a few companies made children’s rocking chairs with music boxes. The mechanism on your chair was a feature of little rockers made by the N.D. Cass Co. of Athol, Mass. See if you can find a Cass Toys label or mark on the chair. Anyone who repairs music boxes should be able to repair the box on your chair. We list a few in the free directory on our website, Kovels.com.

Q: Please tell me what my World War II poster is worth. My father got the poster from his bank in 1942, which is why I know it’s an original. It’s 39 inches by 60 inches and pictures a close-up of a pilot. The wording on it is: “You Buy ’Em, We’ll Fly ’Em, Defense Bonds, Stamps.” The poster is in excellent condition, and I have kept it framed under glass.

A: World War II patriotic posters interest many collectors. Your poster, featuring art by Norman Wilkinson, was made in at least three sizes. Yours is the largest. We have seen a small one sell for $100, so yours would sell for more.

Q: The pair of king and queen figurines my parents owned for years are now mine. The bottom of each is marked “Made in Occupied Japan.” I figure that means they were made after World War II, but I’d like to know more.

A: You’re asking a timely question, since the end of the Allied occupation of Japan after World War II ended 60 years ago, on April 28, 1952. The “Made in Occupied Japan” mark on your figurines was used between February 1947 and April 1952. But that particular wording was required only until August 1949. Later the rules were relaxed a bit. After August 1949, exported ceramics could be marked as your figurines are or, simply, “Occupied Japan,” “Made in Japan” or “Japan.”

Q: More than 50 years ago, my husband and I bought a silver-plated, melon-shaped serving piece with a removable silver insert and a second pierced silver insert below it. The dish is 15 inches high and 8 inches in diameter. The top rolls back and is decorated with an ornate coat of arms.

The bottom is marked “Mappin & Webb, 7577 & 78 Oxford Street, Building City, London.” Can you tell me the history of this piece and its value?

A: You have what probably was marketed as a “bun warmer” or “breakfast warmer” designed to keep rolls or other food warm on the table or buffet. Mappin & Webb is still in business. It’s one of England’s oldest jewelry retailers and is known for its high-quality silver.

The firm dates back to 1774, when Jonathan Mappin founded his own silversmith workshop in Sheffield, England. George Webb joined the Mappin family in the business in 1858 and the company’s name was changed to Mappin & Webb. A Mappin & Webb silver-plated warmer like yours sold at auction last summer for $85.

Q: I have owned an old heating stove for years. The name on it is “Warm Morning.” Can you give me any history?

A: “Warm Morning” was a trade name for heaters made by the Locke Stove Co. of Kansas City, Mo. The heaters were first sold in the early 1930s and remained popular through the ’40s. They were made to burn different fuels – wood, coal, gas or oil.

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, The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019.