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Terry Kovel, Published September 06 2013

Kovels: ‘Fantasy’ book spawned new furniture style

About 20 years ago, two antiques experts wrote a book titled “Fantasy Furniture.” It spawned a new style based on past ones. Pedestals shaped like blackamoors, chairs with seats that look like huge shells, Victorian furniture that seems to be made from plumbing pipes, and carved wooden chairs and tables that have full-size carved bears holding up tabletops or climbing on chair backs were pictured in the book. Dogs are carved as figures beneath a Victorian-style table. Lifelike figures of women with flowing hair are part of Art Nouveau pieces. Furniture pieces of any age selected for the book were not traditional.

The idea persists today. Modern artists have made tables that look like piles of books, and crouching men form the base of a modern cocktail table. Best-known of all is the work of Italian artist Piero Fornasetti, who made a cube-shaped table painted to look like a building, and an umbrella stand painted to look like a live cat sitting on a pile of books. Decorating magazines often show rooms with tables piled with real books to hold a lamp. A table made from a bronze life-size monkey sitting on a leather-bound book and holding another large book over his head sold recently. The 27-inch-high table adds humor to a room at a cost of $1,342. To add to the joke, the book held by the monkey is titled “History of Furniture.”

Q: Awhile ago, Charlie Sheen appeared on “The Tonight Show” wearing Babe Ruth’s 1927 World Series ring. What is that ring worth, anyway?

A: Experts think that if the Babe’s 1927 World Series ring were put up for auction, it could sell for close to $500,000. But the “if” is a big one. Sheen bought the ring in a private sale, and the ring’s history is murky. At one time it was owned by Barry Halper (1939-2005), a well-known baseball collector. But no one knows exactly how Halper got the ring – and some of the sports memorabilia he owned has been found to be fake.

Q: I bought a porcelain child’s cup at an estate sale. It’s white with a band of blue and white rabbits and gold trim. It’s marked “Favorite Bavaria” and signed “Marie Frances, 1916.” I would like to know its value.

A: Your porcelain cup was made from an undecorated piece (a blank) by the Hutschenreuther porcelain Factory of Bavaria, Germany, an area famous for porcelain production. “Favorite Bavaria” was a mark used by Hutschenreuther on pieces made for sale in the U.S. market. Some pieces also were marked “UNO.” Blanks were sold to professional art studios, china-painting schools and retail stores for amateur artists to buy and paint. Burley & Tyrrell Co. of Chicago was the U.S. importer of these items. Burley & Tyrrell also owned a decorating studio, but we don’t know if “Marie Frances” painted your cup there or someplace else. Value of your cup: $50.

Q: I recently discovered a 1939 World’s Fair silver souvenir spoon in my attic. The top of the handle has an embossed image of the fair’s EME Building (the engineering building), and the bowl has an etching of the Administration Building. It’s marked “Rogers Mfg. Co.” on the back. Is it worth much?

A: The 1939 New York World’s Fair is a favorite among World’s Fair collectors. Spoons like yours originally were sold in sets of 12 and picture various fair buildings. An individual spoon is not worth a lot. We have seen single spoons selling for $15 to $40.

Q: I would like to know the value of two brass grain probes I have. One is 62½ inches long, and the other is 50½ inches long. They are marked “Burrows Equipment Company, Evanston, Illinois.” They came from an old feed mill that opened in 1886. Members of my family worked there for years. The mill closed and was later destroyed in a fire.

A: Burrows Equipment Co. was founded by Parke W. Burrows in Evanston in 1947. It sold equipment for seed and grain farming. Grain probes are used to test samples of grain being brought to a grain elevator by truck, barge or other means. After Burrows died in 1979, the company was sold to Seedburo of Chicago. That company is still in business in Des Plaines, Ill. Your grain probes were made between 1947 and 1979. New brass grain probes sell today for more than $300 each. A 51-inch probe sells for $319, and a 63-inch probe for $336. Old ones are worth a little less.

Tip

Don’t put plastic covers on upholstered furniture or the top of a dining room table. Eventually, the plastic could stick to the furniture and ruin the finish.


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