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Terry Kovel, Published August 15 2013

Kovel: The many uses of dual-purpose furniture can inspire new designs

Some old pieces of dual-purpose furniture are so useful they should inspire new designs. One such famous design is a convertible “desk and chair” originally designed by Stephen Hedges of New York City in about 1854. The desk has an oval top and four legs. It opens and a chair with a rounded back swings out so it can be used to write at the half-round desk. It has drawers, a leather writing surface and casters on its legs. When not in use, the desk could be put back together and used as a plain table about 35 by 29 inches. The desk-chair was patented, but not for the design – just for the hinge mechanism. About 17 of these desks are known, and several of them are in museums. But 19th-century “brown” furniture is not selling well to average collectors. One of these desks sold at a 1998 Christie’s auction for $29,900. Neal Auction Co. of New Orleans sold one for just $4,481 in November 2012.

Q: I have several crockery jars about 6 inches tall stamped “Weyman’s Snuff.” Can you tell me when they were made and what they’re worth?

A: George Weyman opened a tobacco shop in Pittsburgh in 1822. He was the inventor of Copenhagen snuff. The company became Weyman & Bros. in 1870, so your jar was probably made before then. There were several changes in name and ownership until it became the U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co. in 2001. That company still is in business. Your Weyman’s Snuff jar is worth about $25.

Q:A relative left me a Swiss-made clock called a “Twin Dial Alarm Clock.” It has a clock face on both sides and still runs. The box it’s in says the maker is Semca. Please tell me something about it and what it’s worth.

A: Semca Clock Co. was based in Germany, but it had an office in New York City. It made a lot of styles of clocks and wristwatches, including a few double-face clocks like yours. Your alarm clock dates from the middle decades of the 20th century. We have seen your clock sell online for $25 to $50.

Q:My son inherited a cast-iron mechanical bank that has been in the family for five or six generations. I think it’s called a “Hoover bank.” It’s in the form of a man sitting in an office chair with one hand extended. When you put a coin in his hand, he puts it in his jacket pocket and nods his head. The bank has its original paint and has never been refurbished. We are curious about its value.

A: The design for your son’s mechanical bank, known as the “Tammany Bank,” was patented by John Hall of Watertown, Mass., in 1873. It also has been known as “Little Fat Man Bank” and “Boss Tweed.” Tammany Hall was a New York City political organization, and William “Boss” Tweed was its corrupt leader. He was jailed for embezzlement in 1873. J. & E. Stevens Co. of Cromwell, Conn., introduced the bank in 1875 and continued making it for about 45 years. Early versions of the bank did not include its name, but later banks were labeled “Tammany Bank” on the side of the chair. In most versions, the man is wearing gray pants. A rare version with brown pants sells for the highest price, $500 to $600.

Q:I would like some information about a TV lamp that has been in my family since the 1950s. It’s a figural leopard designed by Leland Claes in 1956. If I decided to sell it, what would a fair price be?

A: Figural TV lamps were popular for one decade, the 1950s. Television sets were being purchased by families across the country, and many people thought watching TV sets without indirect lighting could harm their eyes. Leland Claes (1916-2000) of Turlock, Calif., designed a lot of TV lamps shaped like cats or dogs. The lamp sat on top of a TV set and shed light through the animal’s eyes or open back. Most Claes TV lamps sell for under $100, but yours is extremely rare and could bring 10 times that if it’s in perfect condition.

Q:I own a white linen tablecloth with 12 matching napkins. The tablecloth is rectangular and measures 80 by 64 inches. The napkins are 21 inches square. The set is in its original box and has never been used. The box is labeled “Trousseau Linen Outfitters, Inc., Originators of the Famous Trousseau Linen Outfit, 187 No. LaSalle St., Chicago 1, Ill.” I have been told linen tablecloths are no longer made. Please tell me how old the set is and what it’s worth.

A: A big clue to the age of your set is the address. The use of a single-digit postal code means your set was made between 1943 and 1963. It probably dates from the 1940s or early 1950s. Linen tablecloths and napkins are still made both here and around the world. They have to be ironed once they’re laundered, which makes them less appealing to many people. Plain white linen tablecloth and napkin sets the age of yours sell for about $50.

Tip

Don’t lean back on your bed’s headboard if you have wet or oily hair. You will damage the headboard’s finish.

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Current price

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.

Spoon, silver plate, Gerber baby face, marked “Winthrop,” c. 1940, 4 1/8 inches, $10.

For more information about antiques and collectibles and free price information, visit Kovel’s 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.