Keep an eye out for fake antiques

  • By Terry and Kim Kovel
  • Tuesday, August 26, 2014 3:26pm
  • Life

Watch out for fake antiques, especially copies of well-known pieces. In about 1820, some potters in the Staffordshire district of England made portrait figures of famous politicians, actors and athletes to sell in local shops. Remember, this was a time when there were no color images of people except paintings.

Often the potters confused the personalities. A famous error was the figure of Benjamin Franklin made in about 1820. Some had the name “General Washington” painted on the front of the base. In the 1950s, when Staffordshire figures were again very popular, many copies of both the correct and incorrect Franklin were made. Other old fakes still are around.

Some are antique jokes, like “The Vicar and Moses,” which shows a judge sleeping in court. “The Tithing” is another faked figure, a group with a tax collector taking a percentage of the crop — and a new baby — as a tax from a farmer and his wife (sometimes the farmer was less cynical and brought a pig). Other named copies show well-known men of the day, including Shakespeare, the comic Joseph Grimaldi, a bust of Washington or even a pair of cricket bowlers. Be careful. It is harder to recognize the 1990s Chinese copies than it was the 1950s copies.

Q: We have a rocking chair that has been in my husband’s family for about 60 years. It’s Craftsman-style and has armrests. It also has the original leather seat cushion with springs. On the bottom of the seat it reads, “Northwest Chair Co., Tacoma, Wash.” I’m having a hard time finding information about the company and our chair. I would like to sell it. What do you think it’s worth?

A: The Northwest Chair Co. made furniture in South Tacoma from about 1900 to the 1950s. In the mid-1920s, they opened distribution warehouses in Los Angeles and Berkeley, California. An advertisement claimed the company made “bedroom, children’s, dining room, kitchen, library and store chairs made of ash, birch, mahogany, oak and walnut.” In addition to furniture, the company made airplane parts for Boeing in 1944. We’ve seen a similar Morris-type rocking chair priced at $100.

Q: My mother has a very old set of china. The mark on the back reads “T &R Boote and Co.” and has an image of a ship called Tusculana. Do you have any information about the maker?

A: T. &R. Boote was founded by Thomas and Richard Boote in Burslem, Staffordshire, England, in 1842. The company made pavement tiles, Parian ware and earthenware. It began making white graniteware for export to the United States in 1888. Production was limited to tiles after 1906. T. &R. Boote used a boat as part of its mark from 1890 to 1906. Tusculana is the name of a pattern that was made from 1903 to 1906.

Q: I bought an advertising booklet that has a man’s frowning face and “Dyspeptic Pete” on the front and a smiling face with “Happy Pete” on the back. It also reads “The Walther Peptonized Port Co., Sole Proprietors, Pittsburgh, Pa., U.S.A.” I bought it at an estate. Can you tell me its history and value?

A: Walther’s Peptonized Port contained port wine and pepsin and was advertised as a cure for dyspepsia (indigestion). It was sold in drugstores and advertised “for nursing mothers, tired women, old folks, invalids, convalescents, weakened and run down folks generally.” Your 12-page booklet includes a story in verse about Peter Gradgrind, who changed from “Dyspeptic Pete” to “Happy Pete” after trying a bottle of Walther’s Peptonized Port. Many medicinal remedies sold during the 19th and early 20th centuries contained alcohol, although it didn’t have to be listed as an ingredient until the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906. Some popular remedies contained more than 40 percent alcohol. Walther Peptonized Port was sold from about 1901 through 1915, so your booklet was published during those years. Value: $10 to $20.

Q: Is there any kind of a market for used shoe-topped roller skates from the 1940s? They’re in very good shape, but I used them a lot because I used to dance in them several times a week.

A: Your skates are not what we’d call “collectible.” That word would apply if, for example, someone famous once owned them. But it’s possible you could sell them on eBay or Craigslist for $20 or even a little more.

Q: I found a very old straight razor in the original box. It was made by Johnson Brothers Hardware Co. of Cincinnati. How old is it? Are old razors collectible?

A: The Johnson brothers had a wholesale and retail hardware business in Cincinnati beginning in 1881. According to an 1886 listing, the company carried general hardware and “pocket and table cutlery.” The name of the business became Johnson Bros. Hardware Co. in 1891. By then it was selling tools as well as hardware and cutlery. It still was in business in 1913, when it was listed in a directory of hardware dealers. Collectors of old razors want razors in good, unrestored condition. If you are thinking of selling the razor, don’t polish it. The original box adds value. Old straight razors sell for $15 and up, depending on condition and maker.

Tip: Do not hang photographs in direct sunlight. The UV rays will damage photographs.

Write to Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel at Kovels, The Herald, King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019.

Current prices

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.

Campbell Kids print, “Tomato is a Fruit,” blackboard, textured paper, 1970s, 8 x 10 inches, $15.

Pewter plate, round, Samuel Pierce, double touch mark, c. 1790, 8 inches, $105.

Wave Crest glass dresser box, oval, blue, pink flowers, enameled, marked “Kelva, CFM Co.,” 51/2 x 4 inches, $240.

Carriage lamp, silver plated, two gothic arches, glass panels, electrified, 1800s, 421/2 inches, $295.

Tea caddy, mahogany, casket shape, lion’s head handles, ivory, brass, 8 x 12 inches, $355.

Coca-Cola tray, woman wearing yellow dress, wide white hat, 1920, 13 x 11 inches, $360.

Metal inkwell, figural, woman sitting in bathtub, copper surface, glass well, footed, Kercher Baths, Congress &Wabash, Chicago, c. 1916, 23/4 x 4 inches, $415.

Montblanc fountain pen set, propelling pencil, black hard rubber, clip, 1920s, baby size 0, $560.

Tiffany glass bowl, Favrile, iridescent gold, intaglio cut vine &leaf, flared rim, signed, 1925, 31/2 x 8 inches, $750.

Weather vane, running horse, full bodied, copper, zinc head, gilt, tan paint, Dexter, c.1890, 181/2 x 311/2 inches, $1,530.

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