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By Terry Kovel, Published November 16 2012

Kovels Antiques: Limited tools, clever ideas lead to collectibles

This is the time to run out to the grocery store and get a turkey for Thanksgiving.

In the early 19th century, the turkey was a wild one, probably killed by a member of the community. If a time machine could bring someone from that era to our Thanksgiving dinner today, there would be very little inside or outside the house that has not changed.

Food, communication, transportation, household items and even toys might now be too complicated and look unfamiliar. Even dolls have been modernized.

Dolls today walk, talk, dance, answer questions, have washable hair and realistic skin, and seem almost alive thanks to batteries or electronics.

But sometimes our ancestors created amazing dolls with limited tools but clever ideas. A doll made in the 19th century could also walk, but by a very unusual method.

The dolls body was carved of wood with moveable jointed arms and a swivel head mounted on a dowel. Eight legs with feet wearing shoes were arranged like spokes on a wheel.

The fashionable doll dress of the day was long enough to cover most of the dolls legs. Only two of the feet would show as a child walked the doll across the floor by making the wheel of legs turn.

A rare doll like this sells for thousands of dollars today. There are very few still to be found.

Q: I have a set of four modern fully upholstered tulip chairs that are about 25 years old. I would like your help in establishing their value and maker. The only mark other than some numbers is a Made in France label.

A: The famous tulip chair was designed in 1955-56 by Eero Saarinen, a Finnish-American designer and architect. The chair has been in production ever since it was introduced, and its only licensed manufacturer has been Knoll Inc., now based in East Greenville, Pa. Knockoffs have been made all over the world, though, and your chairs are probably among those unauthorized copies. They would not sell for as much as Knolls authentic tulip chairs.

Q: My family has owned an interesting tape measure for at least 75 years, since when I was a child. Its a porcelain mans head with a little porcelain fly on his forehead. The mans face is bright white. One of his eyes is closed and the other one is open and blue. His cheeks are painted light pink, his lips are red and the fly is black with red eyes.

Pulling on the fly extends the narrow cloth tape measure from the mans head. The head is 212 inches tall. Can you tell me anything about it?

A: Spring-return tape measures were introduced in about 1875, and figural measures in all kinds of shapes and materials have been made ever since. The tape was fabric on early models and metal on later ones.

Most figural measures like yours date from the late 1800s into the 1930s. They are popular collectibles, especially among people who hunt for antique and vintage sewing implements. Your measure could sell for more than $50.

Q: Im trying to find out the value of my early-1900s Piedmont cedar chest.

A: The Piedmont Red Cedar Chest Co. was located in Statesville, N.C. The company sold its cedar chests through catalogs, not in stores. The chests were made of solid red cedar from North Carolina and Tennessee. The company was in business until at least the late-1920s.

Cedar chests are not very decorative, but they are useful. If in good condition, they sell for about the same price as new cedar chests: $200 to $300.

Q: Years ago, I inherited a bronze bust of a woman. Its titled Orient and is signed by Villanis. The bust is 30 inches tall and in great condition. We would like more information about maker and value.

A: Emmanuele Villanis was born in France in 1858. His parents were Italian and moved the family back to Italy in 1861. Villanis studied sculpture in Turin, Italy, and began exhibiting his work in about 1880. He moved to Paris in 1885 and died there in 1914.

This bust and another bust of a woman, called Europe, were made for the 1893 Worlds Fair in Chicago. Value of your Orient bust: $2,000 or more.

Q: My great-great-grandmothers two pieces of pressed glass now belong to me. One is a covered butter dish and the other an open sugar bowl. I know the pattern is Bulls-Eye and Daisy, and the bulls-eyes are ruby-stained. Can you tell me who made it? Im looking for the cream pitcher to match. How can I find it?

A: Bulls-Eye and Daisy was made in 1909-10 at the U.S. Glass Co.s factory in Glassport, Pa. The pattern originally was called Newport and also is sometimes called Bulls-Eye and Daisies. It was made not only in clear glass with ruby-stained bulls-eyes, like yours, but also in clear glass and clear with green or amethyst bulls-eyes. Some pieces were also trimmed in gold. To find a matching creamer, shop online or contact a matching service like Replacements.com. The creamer with ruby stain should cost you about $45. Your butter is valued at $100, and your sugar at $70.


Be sure to rinse fabrics until all soap residue is gone. Soap in the textile will scorch when you iron.

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, Thanksgiving turkeys, Chase, Japan, 1950s, 3x2 inches, $25.

- Postcard, A Blessed Thanksgiving, two children in Colonial dress saying grace at table, With Thankful and Contented Hearts, Ellen Clapsaddle, early-1900s, $25.

- Humidor, turkey wearing suit and spectacles, porcelain, multicolor matte glaze, 7x5 inches, $80.

- Sterling-silver stuffing spoon, George III, hallmarked, Alice and George Burrows, London, c. 1803, 11 inches, $125.

- Clarice Cliff turkey platter, strutting gobbler, haystack background, brown and beige, Royal Staffordshire, 20th century, 19x15 inches, $125.

- Fiestaware salad serving set, 10-inch green fork, 8-inch red spoon, $150.

- Murano glass ladys bonnet, slag, white, tan and clear, black trim, white bow, 1950s, 10x5 inches, $200.

- Toy speedboat, Miss America, windup, mahogany, brass fittings, draketail stern with elephant emblem, Mengel Playthings, Louisville, Ky., 1920s, 4x14 inches, $550.

- Sterling-silver vegetable bowl, scrolling rim, border of scalloped flowers, vines and leaves, Bailey, Banks and Biddle, Philadelphia, c. 1897, 11 inches, $1,400.

- Doorstop, turkey, cast iron, Bradley & Hubbard, 12 inches, $4,600.

For more information about antiques and collectibles and free price information, visit Kovels Web site, 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.