Homemade weather vanes a growing folk-art favorite

  • By Terry Kovel
  • Tuesday, January 7, 2014 4:13pm
  • Life

If you can’t afford a rooster or running deer weather vane, or any other 19th-century weather vane made by an important company, you might be able to find a homemade example.

Most folk-art collectors consider all weather vanes, commercially made or homemade, to be folk art.

Prices are highest for the most elaborate 3-D vanes by known makers.

Homemade vanes often are cut from sheets of iron to look like silhouettes of deer, men, animals, birds, cars, trains, Indians, flags or occupational examples, like a photographer with a camera or a sailor with a telescope.

It is difficult to date a homemade weather vane. Collectors pay the highest auction prices for good design, unusual subjects, good paint and old patina.

Bullet holes, missing paint and dents don’t seem to lower the value if the cutout is unusual, perhaps a 1930s car or a large and artistic whale.

Some homemade vanes sell for thousands of dollars, but others might turn up at your local yard sale or flea market.

Whirligig weather vanes, often of wood, also are going up in price. Horses, roosters and eagles are the most popular shapes today and, unfortunately, often are the most reproduced.

Always look in the back yard, in the garage and up at the roof when going to an estate or house sale. Buyers often overlook outdoor folk art.

Q: Years ago, I was given a very heavy glass vase. It’s 6 inches high by 4 1/2 inches wide and is made of black cased glass within clear glass. The etched mark on the bottom is “Kosta 1556/046.” I’m wondering what the vase is worth.

A: The Kosta glassworks factory in Sweden dates back to 1742. Its name is a combination of the last names of the two founders, Koskull and Stael.

Kosta manufactured only window glass, glass for light fixtures and drinking glasses until the late 1890s, when it hired its own designers and started making art glass.

Glass artist Vicke Lindstrand (1904-1983), who had previously worked at Orrefors, was Kosta’s artistic director from 1950 to 1973.

During Lindstrand’s tenure, model numbers starting with a “1” were “production vases” made in large quantities.

The number 1556 on your vase probably is the model number. Kosta merged with Boda and Afors in 1976 and became Kosta Boda, so it’s likely your vase was made before 1976.

In 1989 Kosta Boda merged with Orrefors and was renamed Orrefors Kosta Boda. Then, in 2005, the company was sold to the New Wave Group, which closed the Orrefors factory and today uses only the Kosta Boda label.

While your vase may not be rare or extremely valuable, it still is a good piece of Swedish art glass.

Q: Could you tell me the value of a set of dining-room furniture made by American of Martinsville? The walnut set, which was purchased new in 1942, includes a table, six chairs, sideboard, china cabinet and hutch.

A: American of Martinsville was founded in 1906 in Martinsville, Va. It made only bedroom sets until the 1920s, when it introduced dining-room sets.

The most valuable American of Martinsville vintage dining room sets today are in the Danish Modern style, which didn’t become popular in the United States until the 1950s.

Still, if your set is in good shape, you could sell it locally (so shipping costs aren’t involved) for several hundred dollars.

Q: I have two child-size glass root beer mugs from the 1960s. They are each 3 inches high. One is stamped “A&W Root Beer” with a circular design. The other has a red printed design that says “Dog n Suds” and pictures a dog holding a tray. I remember my dad getting me a kid-size root beer in them. Do you think they’re worth something?

A: The first A&W drive-in restaurant opened in Sacramento, Calif., in 1923. The company name is based on the initials of the owners, Roy Allen and Frank Wright.

The first Dog n Suds opened in Champaign, Ill., in 1953. Most advertising glasses from restaurants and fast-food chains don’t sell for much money because they were issued in large quantities and are easy to find.

If a mug’s design is unusual and the mug was issued in limited quantity, it might be of interest to collectors. Common glasses like yours sell for as low as $1 to $5.

Q: We are looking for information about an item that’s hanging on a wall in a restaurant in Doon, Iowa. It’s a semicircular piece of wood about 48 inches long. The ends are 24 inches apart. It’s marked “Louden’s Patent, Oct. 30, 1895.” It looks old. What is it and what was it used for?

A: It’s a singletree, which also is often called a “whiffletree” or “whippletree.” It was used to hitch the traces of a horse’s harness to a plow or other implement.

William Louden (1841-1931) held several patents for improvements to farm equipment. He invented a hay carrier in 1867 and founded Louden Manufacturing Works in Fairfield, Iowa, a year later to manufacture hay carriers and other farm equipment.

From 1906 to 1939, the company, by then named Louden Machinery Co., also designed barns. Louden Machinery Co. was sold in 1956 and its farm equipment was not made after 1965.

Singletrees don’t show up for sale very often. When they do, they usually sell for under $50.

Write to the Kovels, (The Herald), King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019.

&Copy; 2014, Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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