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By Terry Kovel, Published June 08 2012

Kovels Antiques: Furniture that breaks all the rules

‘Fantasy furniture” is a term used to describe tables and chairs that don’t fit the rules of any recognized style. Chairs made of cow horns or parts of spinning wheels, and tables held up by carved bears or shaped like large hands are “fantasies.”

A famous and expensive dining room table has legs that are full-size carvings of either a man or woman hunched over to hold the tabletop on their backs. An inexpensive fantasy design for a chair made about 1900 is now called “North Wind.” It looks like a typical oak side chair with a solid seat and sometimes turned legs. But the back is made with a carved man’s or woman’s face, sometimes with flowing hair.

More ambitious designs have the full figure of a person climbing on top of the chair back. The best of the North Wind chairs have a one-piece back made of solid wood. The carving was not an added piece of wood. Inexpensive chairs influenced by the North Wind group were pressed-back chairs showing a face or a person. The design was pressed into the wood by a machine. It was not a raised carving.


A humorous fantasy chair sold recently. The back was carved to look like a beer keg with a pensive man leaning on the top. The chair is 40½ inches high to the top of his hat. The chair, made in the early 1900s, sold for $885 at a Showtime auction held in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Q: About 33 years ago, I was using a metal detector around Lompoc, Calif. I found a Boy Scout coin with the Scout logo on one side and, on the other, the saying, “When you have done your good deed for the day, secretly pass the coin from one pocket to the other.” I have been unable to find any information about this coin. Can you help?

A: Robert Baden-Powell founded the Boy Scouts in England in 1907. The Boy Scout movement in the United States started in 1910. “Do a good turn daily” is the Boy Scout slogan. Scout “good deed” coins have been around for years and are not valuable. Today’s Scouts can flip the coin virtually on a smart phone. The “Good Turn” iPhone app records the date, time and location of the Scout’s good turn. It keeps a list of the deeds and also can display the location of the good deed on a map of the world.

Q: My Madame Alexander “Pussy Cat” baby doll dates from the early 1970s. She is pretty worn because I played with her a lot, but I still have her original box. Value?

A: Madame Alexander made Pussy Cat baby dolls from 1970 to 1984. They came in two sizes, 14 and 20 inches. The smaller doll, in excellent condition, sells without her box for about $60. The larger doll is worth about $100. A worn doll in either size might sell for $10 to $20, with a premium for the box.

Q: I would like to know the current price for various old bottles from San Francisco’s Bay City Soda Water Co.

A: Bay City Soda Water Co. was in business from 1871 to 1913. The bottles were embossed “Bay City Soda Water Co. S.F.” and have an embossed star on the back. They were made in green and various shades of blue. The blue bottles are fairly common, but the green bottles are rare. Both blob-top and Hutchinson-type bottles were made. Blob-top bottles were sealed with a cork and a wire closure. Hutchinson-type bottles had spring stoppers, patented by Charles Hutchinson in 1879. Value depends on the color of the glass. We can’t tell the exact color of your bottle without seeing it, so we can’t give you a value, but a Bay City Soda Water bottle in “medium coloration” sold recently for $130.

Q: I received a filigree-and-rhinestone bracelet from my great-grandmother’s estate. Try as I might, I can’t find any information about the “La Mode” mark on the bracelet or the name on the box, “La Mode Original.” Please help.

A: “La Mode” was a trademark used by Ripley and Gowan, of Attleboro, Mass. The company’s history dates back to the 1880s, and until the 1930s it often used the mark “R & G.” U.S. trademark filings indicate that Ripley and Gowan filed for use of “La Mode” as a trademark in 1924. The company used the trademark for both women’s and men’s costume jewelry – everything from bracelets and necklaces to cufflinks and keychains. The trademark, now “dead,” was assigned to Barrows Industries of Providence, R.I., in the late 1950s. Most La Mode Original bracelets sell online for $25 to $30.


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

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