By Terry Kovel
Don’t forget to look in the back yard when you go to a yard or house sale. If the house is old, you may spot a concrete birdbath, an iron garden gnome, old tools hanging on a fence or even a log cabin playhouse.
Landscaping and outdoor decorating styles have changed through the years just as styles for houses and living rooms have changed. And a modern landscape can update any house.
During past centuries, trees and plantings were not placed near a house. They were far enough away to provide shade but not harm the roof. By the 1930s, a flat row of bushes, trees and other green plants were placed in a straight line against the house.
Today homes have curved beds and walks, colorful flowers in the front and back yards, paved seating areas, patios, fountains and other water features.
In the 1900s, Weller Pottery of Zanesville, Ohio, began to make “Gardenware.” It was not part of the company’s art pottery lines, but it has become popular with today’s collectors. Weller garden figures include a pelican, a pop-eyed dog, a variety of frogs, hen and chicks, dogs, squirrels, swans, rabbits, ducks, a boy fishing and even Pan with a flute or rabbit.
The figures are about 19- to 20-inches high. They are all realistic. Weller also made a variety of large frogs with coppertone glazes — a bold green with large blotches — and some figural sprinklers and birdbaths.
All of these are popular today and expensive, many costing more than $1,000.
Q: I inherited four Gothic Revival side chairs attributed to J. and J.W. Meeks. I was told they once belonged to the White House and were used in Abraham Lincoln’s Cabinet Room. How can I establish authenticity?
A: It probably is impossible for you to determine that the chairs were used in the White House during Lincoln’s administration (1861-65). It is known that during the Polk administration (1845-49), as many as 24 black walnut Gothic Revival chairs made by J. and J.W. Meeks of New York City were purchased for the White House.
Lincoln used some of the chairs in his Cabinet Room (now the “Lincoln Bedroom”). The chairs are shown in the painting, “First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation of President Lincoln.” Four chairs are still in the White House collection.
First see if your chairs match those shown in the painting, on display at the U.S. Capitol (the image can be found online). If the chairs match, at least you can say your chairs are identical to those in the White House and were made by Meeks.
But without any additional history, it’s unlikely you can ever prove the chairs were once owned by the White House.
Q: I found a metal bracelet while using my metal detector. It may have been silver-plated at one time. It has six links that look like shields. There’s a different name on the back of each shield: Lorraine, Flandre, Normandie, Paris, Alsace and Bretagne. The word “Moutereau” is on the clasp. I would appreciate any information you can give me.
A: The words on your bracelet are the names of six French provinces. The metal is probably brass and would have originally had a silver tone. Montereau, not Moutereau, is an area in France. It could be the name of the maker or just the place it was made.
Bracelets like yours were made for the tourist trade and don’t sell for much today. Some have enameled coats of arms and sell for a little more.
Q: We have an ax with a square hole in the blade. A small square piece with a circular hole in one end fits into the square hole in the blade. The words “Bell System” are stamped on the ax. Do you know what it was used for?
A: This type of ax was used by Bell Telephone linemen. The ax was used to cut notches into utility poles. The blunt end of the blade could be used as a hammer, and the square hole could be used as a wrench for turning square nuts. When the “small piece” is inserted into the square hole, it can be used as a wrench on round nuts.
Old-timers say the ax also was used to set insulators on poles or to install metal “steps” up the side of poles. Value: about $50.
Q: I’m preparing a program on piano babies for our doll club and have read several articles that say if the hole on the baby’s bottom is big, the baby is “fake” and not original to Germany. Is this true?
A: There are several clues to spotting “fake” or reproduction piano babies or other ceramic figures. Early pottery and porcelain pieces have a smaller hole in the bottom than later reproductions.
The hole let gas out so the figurine didn’t explode during firing. Older porcelain figures are heavier than newer reproductions because more clay was used to make them.
Reproduction figures, made from a mold cast from an original, are smaller because the material shrinks as it cools.
Write to Terry Kovel, (The Herald), King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019.
© 2013, Cowles Syndicate Inc.
On the block
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.
Easter greeting card, boy, basket of eggs, rooster pulling pants, c. 1930, $6.
Trading card, Woolson Spices, sleeping girl dreaming of Easter bunnies, 1893, 7 X 5 inches, $18.
Candy container, egg shape, papier-mache, children, ducks, bunnies, gold ground, Germany, 4 x 6 inches, $19.
Window pane, acanthus and flowers, cobalt blue, Addison Glass Works, New York, c.1900, 5 x 5 inches, $60.
Dresser set, sterling silver, mirror, brush, monogram, Alvin, 2 pieces, $115.
Mary Gregory barber bottle, amethyst glass, white enameled girl, c. 1900, 7 1/4 inches, $120.
Toy truck, Easter greetings, rabbit driving, Courtland, No. 88, 9 inches, $375.
Movie poster, “Easter Parade,” Judy Garland, MGM, 1948, 27 x 41 inches, $470.
Minnie Mouse doll, Easter parade outfit, cloth body, felt, composition, Knickerbocker, 1930s, 12 inches, $2,995.
Easter hare automaton store display, seated, glass eyes, turns head, “lays” eggs, Belgium, c. 1930, 27 x 19 1/2 inches, $5,260.