By Terry Kovel, Published July 06 2012
Kovels Antiques: Once-popular ‘dummy boards’ hard to find now
The edges of the board were beveled so they would not be seen from the front. There are boards attached to the back to make an easel that propped the figure up a short distance from a wall or chair. The figure was painted with oil paint and covered with varnish so cleverly it looked like a live person or animal. The figure was put in a dark area at the top of a stair, the end of a hall or a corner near a door.
Some were made to look like household help, a sweeping maid, a seated girl peeling apples, a maid carrying a tray with food. Some were soldiers. Many were men, women, boys or girls dressed in the expensive clothes of the day. Each held a sword, book, bird, flowers or other appropriate object. A few looked like poor peasants. Dogs and cats also were made as dummy boards and placed near a fireplace or chair. There were even some figures that looked like real gardeners that were put outside. These are rare today because the weather damaged them.
The dummy boards are hard to find today, but an antique pair sold recently for $6,000, and a single one for $950.
Q: My aunt gave me a sterling-silver telephone dialer that came from Tiffany. It is in its original box with a card from Tiffany that tells what it is and how to use it. The box says “Tiffany & Co., Fifth Avenue at 57 Street, New York.” Can you tell me something about this?
A: Telephone dialers were used to keep fingernails from breaking when dialing a rotary phone. They look a little like the handle of a spoon with a small knob at the end that can be inserted into the holes on the dial in order to turn the dial. Rotary dials were first made about 1900 and were standard on phones made in the 1920s to the 1960s. The first push-button phones were made in 1941 but were not available commercially until 1963.
Tiffany no longer makes the telephone dialers. A Tiffany sterling-silver telephone dialer was shown in the 1961 movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” When Holly and Paul go shopping at Tiffany’s, they decide not to buy the telephone dialer, which cost $6.75, but pay to have a Cracker Jack ring engraved at Tiffany’s instead. Today the dialer is an oddity worth its weight in silver. The box and card add $50.
Q: I have an old drum with “Union Drum Manufacturing Co. No 98 West Baltimore St., Baltimore Md.” printed inside. The drum has the usual 13 stars, but no other markings. Any history or price information is appreciated.
A: Union Drum Manufacturing Co. made drums for the Union Army during the Civil War. Drums were an important part of a martial band. The music served to motivate soldiers before and after fighting on the battlefield.
Boys under the age of 16 enlisted in the Army as field drummers. Condition and verified history determine the price. A Union Drum Manufacturing Co. drum in fair condition with the name of the original drummer could sell for $2,000-$3,000. With no name it could sell for $300-$500.
Q: I have had a child’s silver “Spirit of St. Louis” ring since I was 8 years old. And I was 8 in 1927, the year Lindbergh flew solo across the Atlantic Ocean. The ring pictures Lindbergh’s airplane on the top and has the words “New York” above the plane and “Paris” below. What is my ring worth today?
A: Your ring is a known souvenir of Lindbergh’s famous flight. If it’s in tiptop shape, it could sell for close to $250. Dings, bends and scratches would drop the price down to well below $100.
Q: My parents left me a houseful of antiques, and I don’t know what they’re worth. I found a local appraiser, but she wants $500 to come to my house. Is this standard? What do you suggest I do?
A: We receive a lot of questions like yours and are preparing a report on how to deal with inheriting an estate, whether large or small, valuable or not so valuable. There is no national accreditation agency for appraisers of antiques, but you can still ask appraisers about their training, experience, references, hourly rate and if they belong to a national appraisal association. And you can call a few appraisers before you hire one.
An appraiser should not charge a fee for simply coming to your house. Tell the appraiser how many antiques you would like to have appraised and ask about an hourly rate. Do you want a written or oral appraisal? A legitimate appraiser should never offer to buy anything.
You can find links to national appraisal associations and various appraisers on our website, Kovels.com. The website and many books list hundreds of thousands of prices of antiques and collectibles to use for research.
Q: Could you tell me what an original NFL Jeff Garcia figure is worth? It dates from when he was a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers.
A: McFarlane Toys of Tempe, Ariz., issued a 7-inch figure of Jeff Garcia in 2002. Garcia, now 42, played for the 49ers from 1999 to 2003. If your figure is in its unopened original package, it would sell for $35 to $40. It’s worth less than half if you have an unwrapped figure.
Never try to clean a doll with polish or wax. It will put a layer of wax on the surface, making it almost impossible to repaint the doll’s face.
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.
- Postcard, July Fourth patriotic fireworks, picture of firecracker, “I’ll be busted on the 4th,” 1909 postmark, $10.
- Paper doll, Little Alice Busy Bee, clothing, school books, firecrackers for 4th of July, cut out, American Colortype, early 1900s, paper doll 6¼ inches, $15.
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.