By Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel
Rookwood pottery probably is the most famous of the art potteries made in the United States in the late 19th and 20th centuries. It was started by Maria Longworth Nichols of Cincinnati in 1880, the first of many art potteries founded by women. She saw some French Haviland pottery at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition, and after experimenting she was able to make pottery with similar decorations.
In 1880, she started the Rookwood pottery where they made white graniteware and yellow clay pieces. By the next year they were making vases with underglaze blue or brown prints, some with Japanese inspired designs. A few years later the main product had “standard glaze,” a more even-shaded glaze. Rookwood used many glazes, decorating techniques and designs before it went bankrupt in 1941, and it has been bought and sold several times since then.
The company now makes new items, architectural tiles and art pottery. The best of Rookwood sells for high prices, modern pieces for very little. But the company has always marked pieces with marks that can be dated. The most famous is the RP mark with flames. After 1900, Roman numerals were added that give the year of manufacture. One unusual Rookwood piece that collectors like is the advertising tile made in 1915. It was given to stores that had Rookwood pottery in the giftware section. Today the 4-inch-by-8-inch tile picturing a bird called a rook sells for more than $5,000.
Q: I have a solid oak glider rocking chair that belonged to my grandparents, who were married in 1894. The label on the underside of the seat reads “Wisconsin Chair Co.” Can you tell me something about this company and if the rocker has any value as a collectible?
A: The Wisconsin Chair Co. was in business in Port Washington, Wisc., from 1888 to 1954. The company began making McLean Patent Swing Rockers in 1891. By the next year the Wisconsin Chair Co. was making a line of “fancy floor rockers and platform spring rockers,” declaring that “all of our designs for 1892 are new and tasty.” The company was the largest employer in Port Washington. The factory was destroyed by a fire in 1899 but was rebuilt and the company continued to make chairs until it closed in 1954. Montgomery Ward sold several styles of McLean Patent Swing Rockers in its 1895 catalog for about $3 or $4. Platform rockers don’t sell well today. Your rocker might be worth $100-$200.
Q: I have an oak spool cabinet with nine drawers. It reads “Willimantic Co.” on the top drawer. There is a picture of an owl with a spool of thread around its neck. It is sitting on a branch with the moon behind it. It has the original hardware and lettering on six of the drawers. Can you tell me its age and value?
A: Austin Dunham and Lawson Ives bought a cotton mill in Willimantic, Conn., in 1854 and founded the Willimantic Linen Co. The company began making thread for sewing machines soon after. Before the 1850s, colored thread came in skeins, and black and white thread came on spools. Willimantic was one of the first to make colored thread on spools. The owl was a logo used by the company. The company opened a factory to make wooden spools in Howard, Maine, in 1879. The name of the town was changed to Willimantic in 1881. Willimantic Linen Co. became part of the American Thread Co. in 1898. Your spool cabinet was probably made in the late 1800s. Its value is more than $1,000.
Q: I have a Beatles metal lunch box made by Aladdin Industries. It’s light blue with the faces of the four Beatles and facsimiles of their autographs on the front and a picture of the band playing their instruments on the back. It has a small amount of rust and the original thermos is missing. The inside has a poem about safety rules from the National Safety Council. I’ve seen these sell for upward of $1,000 on the Internet and I’m wondering what this is worth.
A: Don’t believe every price you see on the Internet. Look for prices of items that actually sold. Sellers can ask high prices, but items don’t always sell for that much. Lunch boxes in good condition, with no rust, and complete with thermos sell for the highest prices. A lunch box like yours with thermos sold for $450 in 2012.
Q: I have an Emmett Kelly Jr. Collection figurine called “The Teacher.” It’s marked “Flambro, made in Taiwan, Republic of China.” Is it worth anything?
A: “The Teacher” is one of several figurines made of Weary Willie, a clown dressed as a hobo. The character was created in 1933, during the height of the Depression by Emmett Kelly Jr.’s father, who also was a circus performer. Emmett Kelly Jr. (1923-2006) performed as “Weary Willie” from 1960 until 2006. Flambro Imports was in business in Atlanta, Ga., from 1965 to 2006. The company imported figurines, giftware and other items. Flambro sold more than one line of Emmett Kelly Jr. figurines, and prices vary. Your figurine was made between 1987 and 2002 and sells for about $50 today.
Write to Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel at Kovels, The Herald, King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019.
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.
Buffalo Pottery cup and saucer, Blue Willow, marked, 1911, $45.
Fenton cruet, Coin Dot, cobalt blue, reeded handle, 7 inches, $95.
Amberina water pitcher, Spot Optic, spiral ribs, reeded handle, c. 1890, 8 1/2 inches, $185.
Cribbage-dominos game set, bone dominoes, red, brown circles, sliding box-top board, made by prisoner of war, c. 1810, 5 1/2 inches, $210.
Cookie jar, black mammy, hands on hips, yellow scarf, white apron, zigzag border, Brayton Laguna, c. 1950, 12 1/2 inches, $280.
Chalkware figurine, stag, reclining, painted reddish brown, c. 1850, 9 inches, pair, $425.
Wall bracket, giltwood, serpentine, plume-carved, Continental, c. 1780, 15 inches, $565.
Chair, Charles &Ray Eames, yellow fiberglass, enameled steel, Herman Miller Furniture Co., 1940s, 32 x 25 inches, $625.
Souvenir plates, Duke University, blue transferware school scene, raised border, Wedgwood, 1937, 10 5/8 inches, 8 pieces, $770.
Cutlery box, Federal, mahogany, string inlay, slant top, c. 1800, 15 x 9 inches, $3,185.