Terry and Kim Kovel, Published October 31 2013
Kovel's Antiques: Lanterns collectible for all occasions
The early-1900s jack-o’-lantern was made of metal. Within a few years, jack-o’-lanterns were being made of pressed paper with thin paper inserts creating see-through eyes, nose and mouth. That way, a candle inside the paper pumpkin could light a path. But it was dangerous to walk and run with a lit candle in a flammable container. By the 1920s, special Halloween lampshades were made for display in a front window. You also could buy flat-sided lanterns made in a “stained-glass” style with black cardboard strips and translucent orange paper. These lanterns were made in Germany and the United States until the 1940s. But beware – some were reproduced in the 1990s. Old lanterns usually have round, indented candleholders on the bottom; most reproductions have flat bottoms. A very famous 12-panel lantern was made in Germany in the 1920s and was sold by Beistle, an important American company that sold (and still sells) holiday decorations. A vintage example sells for more than $500 today. One recently offered at Morphy Auctions had a presale estimate of $400 to $600.
Q: My mother left me a collection of Kewpie dolls, all in good condition. Please tell me something about them. I’m in my 70s now and probably will give them to my granddaughters rather than sell them. But I’d like to know if they’re valuable.
A: Artist Rose O’Neill (1874-1944) drew the first Kewpies, little naked, winged, Cupid-like characters, for a Ladies’ Home Journal story that ran in 1909. Within two years, O’Neill’s drawings were turned into 3-D designs for Kewpie dolls and figurines. They were made with small blue wings and a red heart as a mark. The dolls were an immediate success, and several companies made Kewpies and Kewpie-related products. Kewpie dolls still are being made. They can be found in bisque, celluloid, composition or hard plastic. Collectors love Kewpies and will pay hundreds, or even thousands, for rare, old figurines and dolls.
Q: I have a large Wagner Ware fry pan with cover. It reads “Magnalite No. 4569.” The pan is 10½ inches wide and 3 inches deep. I’m wondering what it might be worth.
A: Your fry pan is a chicken fryer. Wagner Manufacturing Co. was founded in Sidney, Ohio, in 1891. After several changes in ownership, the company closed in 1999. Wagner made Magnalite, a cast aluminum cookware, from 1934 to 1999. The value of your fry pan depends on condition. The average price is under $20.
Q: We own an old barber chair with a metal label that reads “Koken Companies, Manufacturers, St. Louis, U.S.A.” How do you suggest we sell it?
A: Ernest Koken, a German immigrant, was selling shaving mugs in St. Louis by 1874, when he was 19 years old. By the 1880s, he was selling barber chairs, and had started filing for patents on improvements to the chairs. His patents eventually included a reclining chair back and a hydraulic lift. His company, Koken Barbers’ Supply Co., manufactured chairs until it went bankrupt in the 1950s. (A successor, Koken Manufacturing Co., is in business today; it bought the original company’s assets.) Antique Koken barber chairs in excellent shape can sell for thousands, but they’re not easy to transport. So it would be better to sell your chair locally via a trade-paper ad, Craigslist or a local shop or auction.
Q: My child’s tea set includes a ceramic teapot, sugar bowl, creamer and four cups and saucers. The dishes are green luster and are decorated with pink and white flowers. I have the original box, too. The top of the box says it’s a “Little Hostess Set.” Also printed on the box is the phrase, “Nagoya Toy Tea Set, No. 600/424/2, Made in Japan.” I think the set has been in our family since the late 1920s. Please tell me what it’s worth.
A: Your set may date from the 1920s, or possibly the ’30s. If the pattern were more interesting – of Disney or other cartoon characters, for example – the set would be more valuable. Still, your set, with its original box, could sell for $75 or more if the dishes are in excellent condition. The word “Nagoya” on the box may refer to the company that made the set or to the Japanese city where the set was made.
Q: My husband and I found a very old pen-and-ink calligraphic drawing of a bird. It was stuck inside an old family Bible. The Bible dates back to the early 1800s, and the signed drawing is 7½ by 8½ inches. The bird in the center of the drawing is surrounded by lots of flourishes and doodads. I understand this type of drawing was done by students studying calligraphy back then. Can you give us an idea of value?
A: The art of calligraphy flourished in the United States during the 19th century. Elegant penmanship was a sign of refinement and was taught in private academies and writing classes. Drawings like yours were done with quills or steel pens, and typically have repeated cursive flourishes that also could be used in fancy handwriting. If your drawing is original, it could sell for $50 into the low hundreds.
For more information about antiques and collectibles and free price information, visit Kovel’s website, 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.