By Terry Kovel Syndicated Columnist
Fresh vegetables were part of the diet of the Victorian household during the warm, growing months. But stored root vegetables and home canned food were used on winter days.
Advertisers knew that imaginary vegetables acting like humans were as popular a fantasy as fairies, elves, brownies, pixies and gnomes.
Few color pictures were available. In the 1880s, retail stores advertised with colored trade cards, about 6-inch-by-2-1/2-inch, that were often saved.
There were many different anthropomorphic fruit and vegetable cards. Humanized veggies were pictured not only in the U.S. but also in England, Germany, France and Italy. The comic figures with human bodies often had names, Mr. Prune, The Baldwin Twins (apple heads) or Mr. Pumpkin.
And there often was a funny caption, like two strawberry heads asking “What are you doing in my bed?”
Vegetable people postcards came next, about 1900. Figural salt and pepper shakers, children’s books, decorated plates and even small figurines were popular in the early 1900s.
Now that eating fresh food is a national goal, veggie people are being noticed by collectors.
Trade cards can be $10 to $25 each, postcards a little less. Many salt-shaker sets sell for less than $40.
Q: About 25 years ago, I bought a kitchen table with one leaf and four chairs at a used-furniture store in Connecticut. On one end of the table, there’s a label that says “Dinah Cook Furniture” around the image of a black woman wearing a kerchief on her head. Can you tell me when the set was made and who made it?
A: “Dinah Cook Furniture” was a trademark used by the Western Chair Co. of Chicago. The trademark may have been used to appeal to black customers during the great migration of black Americans from the South to Northern cities.
If so, the set probably dates from the 1920s or ’30s.
Q: My two 12-inch ceramic Jim Beam decanters are 1968 election bottles. One is an elephant and the other a donkey. They’re both dressed in polka-dot clown costumes. With presidential elections coming up this year, I was wondering if they have any value.
A: The Jim Beam brand of whiskey dates back to the late 1700s. The company started selling special decanters filled with Kentucky Straight Bourbon in 1953.
Political bottles were made for the presidential-election years from 1956 to 1988.
The bottles were made by Regal China Co. of Chicago. Your 1968 bottles sell today for $10 to $25 each. They’re not as popular as they were 30 years ago.
The most valuable Beam political decanter is a 1970 elephant bottle made for a Spiro Agnew vice-presidential fundraiser., selling at one time for more than $1,000.
Write to Terry Kovel, (The Herald), King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019.
&Copy; 2012, 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.
Super Suds detergent box, “Super Suds, Floods o’ Suds for Dishes and Duds,” blue box and letters on white, Colgate-Palmolive-Peet Co., 1930s, 1 lb. 7 oz., $20.
Carnival glass toothpick holder, Octagon pattern, marigold, curved-in lip, Imperial Glass Co., 2 1/2 inches, $35.
License plate, Illinois, 1947, fiberboard (to save metal for war effort), black, white numbers 1144-114, $50.
Model kit, U.S. Army Patton Tank, Monogram Co., red box, unopened, 1959 $80.
Mortimer Snerd ventriloquist dummy, painted face, crooked mouth and buck teeth, cloth body, vinyl head and hands, pull string moves mouth, Jurn Novelty Co., 1950s, 29 inches, $85.
McCoy jardiniere, Springwood pattern, mint green, white flowers, 6 3/4 x 8 1/2 inches, $125.
Gentleman’s smoking jacket, cotton and polyester, red-and-black print, black grosgrain sash belt, collar and cuffs, State O’ Maine Co. label, large size, $145.
Sewing bird, brass, cast flowers, leaves and rope edges, c. 1856, 3 1/2 x 2 inches, $155.
Ericsson Bakelite telephone, black, curved mouthpiece, chrome dial, 1950s, 6 x 8 inches, $185.
Thonet bentwood dining chairs, upholstered seats and backs, 1950s, 32 1/2 inches, set of four, $695.