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By Terry Kovel, Published June 01 2012

Kovels Antiques: Seek antiques when looking for gift for Dad

Father’s Day is coming in June, so think ahead and try to find a unique gift for your father. Shop at a flea market or antiques shop. Some of today’s movies and TV series have made the “look” of the 1950s and ’60s popular.

Shirts with buttonholes, not buttons, on sleeve cuffs need cufflinks. Most dealers who sell jewelry also sell inexpensive and unusual vintage cufflinks – costume jewelry links more than 50 years old – for $10 to $30. Expensive silver and gold cufflinks with precious stones can sell for $750 to $1,000.

The breast pocket handkerchief also has come back. These often are seen at flea markets, carefully folded and stacked, at prices from $2 to $15. Old toy trains, cars and games are easy to find, and so are bookends, duck decoys and tools.

The list is almost endless. Smoking is out of style, but all the collectibles associated with smoking are easy to find. Ashtrays, old lithographed tin boxes that held tobacco, bargain-priced carved Meerschaum pipes with amber mouthpieces, advertising signs and cigarette lighters are interesting gifts even if your father doesn’t smoke.

The most unusual find this year originally was used by a cigar smoker, but it probably is displayed on a library shelf today, useless but fun. It is a French walnut and ivory cigar cutter shaped like a small guillotine. The 19th-century oddity, called a “Guillotube,” is 17¾ inches high and has a working blade. Keep it locked away from children. It’s a macabre reminder of the French Revolution and of the danger of smoking cigars. It sold for $1,464 at a 2011 auction in New Orleans.

Q: I own an Eames lounge chair and ottoman I purchased in the 1970s. I have had offers from dealers who want to purchase the set even though the leather on the ottoman is heavily worn. If I have the ottoman re-covered, would I increase the set’s value?

A: The famous Eames lounge chair and ottoman have been in continuous production since 1956. In the United States, the manufacturer since the beginning has been Herman Miller Inc., of Zeeland, Mich. We suspect that your chair interests dealers because of the plywood frame’s finish. Chairs that have plywood frames with Brazilian rosewood veneer sell for high prices because an embargo on Brazilian rosewood has been in place since 1992. Don’t bother re-covering the ottoman.

Q: I have an old Winchester poster advertising hunting rifles. At the bottom of the poster are the words, “Winchester Western, copyright 1908 by Winchester Repeating Arms Co., American Lithograph Co., N.Y.” The poster, 15B, by 20½ inches, pictures two black men and a dog running away from a skunk emerging from a hollow log. I paid $45 for it. Is it worth more than that?

A: We don’t know if your poster is a copy of the original or a trimmed original. We do know that the originals were larger, 25¼ by 33½ inches, and that they were printed with a title along the bottom: “Shoot Them and Avoid Trouble.” It is believed that Winchester recalled many of the posters because of the title’s racist overtones and trimmed the posters (to cut the title off) for redistribution to Winchester dealers.

If you had an uncut original in excellent condition, it could sell for more than $3,000. If you have a trimmed original, it might be worth $500. Copies sell for about $35-$40.

Q: In a house we were cleaning out after a death in our family, we found a round collector’s plate that pictures the Madonna and Child. The picture is signed “Jessie Willcox Smith.” What can you tell me about the plate and the artist?

A: Jessie Willcox Smith (1863-1935) was a famous American illustrator whose work was used extensively in magazines and children’s books. She was born in Philadelphia and attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts there before taking classes from Howard Pyle, another well-known illustrator.

Collector plates using Smith’s images were first made well after her death. They don’t sell for more than about $20. Check the back of your plate to see if there is a mark that may help you date the plate and identify the company that made it.


Allergic to dust and dust mites? Put old stuffed animals in a sealed plastic bag, then put the bag in your freezer for 24 hours. The temperature will kill dust mites and their eggs.

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.