Unusual pieces of furniture often fought over by collectors

  • Wed Sep 26th, 2012 8:07pm
  • Life

By Terry Kovel

Sometimes an unusual piece of furniture is offered for sale, and many collectors fight over it.

A “Dr. Byrne’s Medical Examination Chair” was offered by Skinner Auctioneers of Boston. The odd chair was clearly labeled with its name and the maker, S. Betz &Co. of Chicago. The red-painted steel chair also was marked on the footrests with the maker’s name and the words “Model 1901 Prof. A.H. Ferguson.”

The chair has levers to adjust the back, footrest and height, and it can be flattened to use as a table with stirrups. It is about 56 inches high. Nineteenth-century medical chairs are not often sold. This one brought $475.

Would you buy a 1930 permanent-wave machine with a chair hood and dangling cords? Would you put a 1940s washing machine in your living room near a wall of polished steel school lockers?

Few pieces of furniture representing technology (rather than decorative arts) have survived, but all of the ones we mentioned have sold at recent auctions.

Q: My child-size green lusterware tea set is decorated with white and pink flower blossoms. The set includes four cups and 3-1/4-inch-diameter saucers, a 3-1/2-inch teapot, and a sugar and creamer. Some of the pieces are marked “Made in Japan.” There’s not a chip anywhere. Age and value?

A: Many lusterware children’s tea sets were made in Japan during the 1930s. Your set was probably made then, or perhaps as early as the late 1920s. Your set is a small one, without plates. It would sell for about $35 to $50.

Q: I have an original Woodstock poster in mint condition. What is it worth?

A: The famous Woodstock Music and Art Fair was held near White Lake, N.Y., in 1969. The festival is considered one of the most important moments in American music history.

The best-known Woodstock poster was designed by Arnold Skolnick and came in two sizes, 18-by-24 inches and 32-by-24 inches. It was printed on either heavy cardstock or very thin paper, and features a white dove perched on the neck of a guitar on a red background.

The true “original” poster was designed by David Edward Byrd and shows a nude woman surrounded by cupids and flowers. When the location of the festival was changed, Byrd was on vacation and unreachable, so Skolnick was commissioned to create the new poster.

Woodstock memorabilia are popular collectibles. An original Byrd poster in excellent condition recently auctioned for $468.

The Skolnick version in near-mint condition sold for $1,156. But beware. Many reproductions exist.

Q: We bought an elaborately decorated silk robe while on a trip to Japan years ago. What is the best way to display this? Is it better to hang it up or to frame it?

A: If the robe is in good condition and not too heavy, it can be hung on a hanger. The Textile Museum recommends wrapping a wooden hanger in polyester quilt batting to support the shoulders. Cover the padding with washed muslin. If you are hanging it in a closet, you should cover it with washed muslin to protect it from dust.

Archival storage items can be purchased at closet shops. Don’t display the robe where it will be exposed to sunlight or fluorescent light. Even incandescent lighting can cause fading over time.

Extreme heat or cold also can damage textiles. If the robe is framed, special UV-filtering glass and acid-free materials should be used.

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.

•Cambridge Glass Co. bud vases, Crown Tuscan line, peach color, 1930s, 10 in., pair, $45.

•Trench art vase, brass shell casing, scalloped top, hammered design at top, tri-footed, c. 1917, 3 x 3 1/2 inches, 460.

•Planters Peanuts drinking glass, circus theme, Mr. Peanut as stilt walker, juggler, trapeze artist, leopard trainer, black and gold design, 1950s, 5 x 3 inches, $85.

•Peters &Reed double bud vase, glossy red, blue, yellow and green on ivory, 1920s, 6 1/4 x 6 1/4 inches, $95.

•Buster Brown Shoes flapper advertising doll, purple fabric body, elongated arms &legs, ads on front &back, 1930s, 28 inches, $125.

•Daisy Target Special BB pistol, Model 118, steel, blue finish, .118 caliber, 1920s-40s, $135.

•Sterling-silver berry serving spoon, Empire pattern by Towle, patented 1894, 9 1/4 inches, $180.

•Swivel armchair, oak, shaped spindles, wide arms, sculpted seat, floor mount, c. 1915, 18 x 23 inches, $395.

•Men’s dress tailcoat, wool, black, double-breasted, knee-length tails, two pockets in tails, c. 1840, 36-inch chest, $495.

•Mickey Mouse Slip-Overs for Boys and Girls store display sign, cardboard, easel back, Mickey standing on clothing box, black, gold and white, 1920, 20 x 12 inches, $630.

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

&Copy; 2012, Cowles Syndicate Inc.