Sewing was as important as cooking in centuries past. The most valuable things in an 18th-century American home were linens, bedcovers and drapes.
The wealthy could import fabrics from Europe. The average family made their own fabric. They raised sheep or plants, sheared the sheep or harvested the plants, and went through many steps to make thread, color it and weave it into cloth.
Then the cloth had to be cut and sewn into clothing or household items. So it is not surprising that the sewing supplies in a well-to-do home were stored in a special sewing worktable in the main room.
The women of the household could take out the fabric and sew whenever there was time. It often was a winter job done while sitting near a fireplace.
Most sewing stands looked like small tables and stood about 28 inches high, the height of a desk. There was a drawer to hold sewing tools, needles, thread, scissors and measuring tape.
Many were made with a large fabric bag hanging below the drawer, accessible when the top of the table was lifted.
It is a form not seen in the average 20th-century home, so when the bag is missing from a table, collectors may not realize they’re looking at a sewing table with a missing part.
An October 2013 Skinner auction offered an early 19th-century sewing table missing its original bag. The maple and mahogany worktable with an attractive patterned top sold for $3,900.
Q: I have a 14-piece set of kitchen canisters that are the color of mother-of-pearl. They’re decorated with gold trim and red roses. There are six large canisters labeled Coffee, Rice, Oatmeal, Flour, Sugar and Tea; six smaller canisters for spices labeled Ginger, Cinnamon, Cloves, Nutmeg, Allspice and Pepper; and two cruets labeled Oil and Vinegar. The marks on the bottom are “Ditmar Urbach” above a star, the letter “Z,” an image of a wing and “Made in Czechoslovakia.” When were they made and how much are they worth?
A: The mother-of-pearl glaze on your set was popular in the 1920s. Sets like yours sell for about $200 to $400. The pottery where your set was made was founded in 1882 as Brothers Urbach in Turn-Teplitz, Bohemia, Austria (now Trnovany, Czech Republic).
In 1919 it merged with Ditmar and became Ditmar-Urbach. It was taken over by the Nazis in 1938 and became Ostmark-Ceramics AG
Q: My mother bought a beautiful American Character doll for my 9th birthday in 1932. The doll’s eyes open and close and her mouth is open in a smile that shows her teeth. She can’t say “Mama” anymore, but other than that she is in fine shape. Can you tell me her present value?
A: The American Character Doll Co. was founded in New York City in 1919. The company made baby dolls, toddler dolls, mama dolls and other dolls in several sizes.
The dolls were made of composition, rubber or hard plastic. American Character dolls were high-end dolls with well-made clothes.
Although they sold for only a few dollars in the 1920s and ’30s, they were expensive at the time. The company’s best years were in the 1950s and early ’60s when its Betsy McCall and Tiny Tears dolls were so popular.
American Character Doll Co. went out of business in 1968 and its molds were sold to Ideal.
It’s impossible to suggest a value for your doll without knowing exactly which American Character doll you have.
But the loss of its voice lowers the value. American Character dolls sell for prices from less than $100 to a high of a few hundred dollars.
Q: What is a “Mickey Mouse” telephone insulator? I keep getting that reference when I check online for Mickey Mouse collectibles.
A: Most telephone insulators, the glass pieces at the top of telephone poles that hold the wires, have rounded tops. A few varieties have protruding pieces that make the insulator look like a silhouette of Mickey Mouse’s head.
The protruding pieces look like large ears. Because the name and shape are unusual, these insulators are popular with collectors.
Q: I have a heavy brass letter opener marked “Harlow, Breed &Cooley Wool, 184 Summer St., Boston.” Does it have any value?
A: Harlow, Breed &Cooley were wool dealers in Boston from about 1912 until about 1926. Advertising letter openers made of brass sell for less than $20 to more than $100, depending on the design.
Q: I paid $50 for a hanging scale I bought at a yard sale. The scale says, “Pelouze Mfg. Co., Makers, Chicago, USA, patent pending.” It can weigh items up to 20 pounds. Can you tell me its possible value?
A: William N. Pelouze founded Pelouze Scale and Manufacturing Co. in Chicago in 1894. The company made several different kinds of scales.
It eventually was bought by Rubbermaid, which was bought by Newell Co. in 1999. Pelouze scales are now being made by Newell Rubbermaid.
The price of a collectible is what someone will pay for it. You paid $50 for the scale, so it was worth that much to you. Other similar scales have sold for $35 to $60.
Write to Kovels, (The Herald), King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019.© 2014 by 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.
Clifton Pottery teapot, Indian Ware, low lines, 2 7/8 x 8 ½ inches, $25.
Spool holder, tiger maple, carved, cutouts, cast iron, 7 ½ x 9 inches, $120.
Sterling-silver dish, Windsor pattern, lobed body, Reed &Barton, c. 1940, 8 ½ inches, $215.
Whirligig, wooden, painted, man, green jacket, metal rod, c. 1905, 18 inches, $250.
Toy Heinz truck, pressed steel, white paint, Metal Craft, 12 inches, $300.
Peachblow rose bowl, tri-fold, Mount Washington Art Glass Society sticker, 3 ½ inches, $375.
Tin shield, stars, stripes, red, white &blue paint, scalloped top, 17 ½ x 14 inches, $600.
Synagogue wall hanging, 10 Commandments in Hebrew &English, silk embroidery, c. 1920, 24 x 34 inches, $625.
Corner cupboard, walnut, glass door, 2 panel doors, Pennsylvania, c. 1800, 82 x 41 inches, $650.
Store sign, top hat, sheet tin, red paint, silvered buckle and band, c. 1820, 12 x 19 inches, $1,185.