Creative Playthings aren’t toys to collectors

  • Wednesday, July 21, 2004 9:00pm
  • Life

Designs for furniture, glass, pottery and even kitchen appliances changed dramatically in the 1950s. New materials such as plastics, which could be molded and easily shaped, made revolutionary designs possible.

The modern look even extended to toys, and several companies began to manufacture slick, colorful, abstract toys. Creative Playthings, founded in 1950 by Bernard Barenholtz and Frank Caplan, made toys to develop a child’s imagination, such as stacking blocks of soft rubber or cloth, and sturdy, unpainted wooden toys with smooth finishes.

Its riding toys just suggested a car or plane – imagination supplied the rest. Other Creative Playthings toys included a puppet that resembled a whale, a peg that held rings of graduated sizes, and a rhythm band of percussion instruments.

The sculptural toys are collected today by toy collectors and those who are re-creating the ’50s look. Some can still be found at rummage sales for bargain prices.

I bought an unusual ceramic cup at an auction, and no one there could tell me how it was used. It’s the size of a teacup, but it has two sections. One section is a small open “mouth” opposite the handle. The other is larger and shallow, with three holes that drain into the other section. The auctioneer thought it might be a tea strainer or perhaps an egg separator.

Your ceramic cup is a scuttle mug, also called a shaving cup. They were popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The cup’s upper part with drain holes is designed to hold a small bar of shaving soap. The bottom section holds warm water. A man dampened his shaving brush by putting it in the smaller, open hole. Then he rubbed the wet brush across the bar of soap to make shaving lather. Scuttle mugs sell for $50 or more.

Ihave a clear glass jar shaped like a man’s head. It has a red metal screw-on lid with a coin slot. Printed on the lid is the name “Lucky Joe Bank.” In smaller type are the words “Nash Underwood, Inc., Chicago” and “Nash’s Prepared Mustard, 8 oz.” The bottom of the 5-inch-high glass jar is embossed “Design Patent No. 112688.” Can you tell me when this jar was made and if it has value?

Your Nash’s Mustard “Lucky Joe Bank” jar was designed to look like the boxer Joe Louis, who became world heavyweight champion in 1937. The design patent number was issued in 1938. Jars like yours are easy to find and sell for about $25.

My mother-in-law owns an antique tool that we can’t identify. It is a brush with metal bristles mounted on a small, flat piece of wood. A round, wooden handle is attached to one side. The words on the back of the brush are stamped in black ink: “The only genuine old Whittemore Patent No. 10 Cotton, Watson-Williams Mfg. Co., Leicester, Mass.”

Your tool is a cotton carder – a brush used to untangle cotton fibers to prepare them for spinning. We have seen other Whittemore carders with the word “Wool” instead of “Cotton.” Whittemore carders of all kinds sell for about $10 to $20 apiece.

My mother gave me her Apostle tea set. The creamer, sugar bowl, teapot and pitcher all have the same raised designs that look like men standing in gothic arches. It is made of white pottery, but is unmarked. What do you know about Apostle pieces?

The Apostle pattern was very popular in the 19th century. An Apostle-pattern relief-molded tea set was first made by Charles Meigh of Hanley, England. It was soon copied by many other English companies and by the American Pottery Co. in New Jersey. Today a pitcher sells for $400.

We inherited a bedroom set from a friend’s great-grandmother. The set includes a dresser, full-size bed with head- and footboards and a dressing table with a mirror and bench. The pieces are made of mixed wood with decorative inlay and carvings. The only mark we can find is inscribed under the bench: “Thomasville Chair Co.” Can you tell us anything about the age of the set and the history of the maker?

Thomasville is a well-known American 20th-century furniture manufacturer. The Thomasville Chair Co. was founded in 1904 near High Point, N.C. It was soon manufacturing 180 chairs a day. By the 1920s, the company was making furniture suites and had salesrooms in Chicago and New York. The style of your set dates it to the 1920s. Thomasville is still in business, and its corporate offices are still in North Carolina. The firm’s name was changed to Thomasville Furniture Industries in the 1960s. It is now owned by Furniture Brands International of St. Louis.

The Kovels answer as many questions as possible through the column. Write to Kovels, The Herald, King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019.

2004 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.

Salt and pepper shakers, Washington Monument and U.S. Capitol, gold trim, Ceramic Arts Studio, 4 inches, $20.

Political button, “Minnesota Women for Humphrey,” black, pink and white, celluloid, 1954, 21/4 inches, $185.

Roseville hanging planter, Gardenia pattern, ocher, embossed white flowers, green petals, 6 inches, $210.

Holland Butter banner, graphic of two Dutch children standing on pound of butter, gold ground, 30 x 37 inches, $250.

Celluloid dresser set, pearl-ized yellow, butterscotch, black trim, 1930s, 11 pieces, $310.

Royal Doulton plate, “Mary Arden’s Cottage,” Shakespeare Series, 1922, 101/4 inches, $370.

Amoeba-style cocktail table, free-form inset glass top, bleached ash and birch veneer, 1950s, 52 x 30 x 15 inches, $515.

Boston &Sandwich glass candlestick, apple green, petal-form socket on columnar square-step base, 1850-65, 9 inches, $560.

Steiff Red Riding Hood doll, pressed felt swivel head, black shoe-button eyes, red cape, 101/2 inches, $910.

Appliqued quilt, Sunbonnet Sue, red and white, picket finch border, 1800s, 84 x 88 inches, $1,200.

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.

“Candid Camera” board game, Allen Funt, Lowell, 1963, $80.

Enameled flat mesh evening bag, geometric designs in gold, lime, pink and black, Whiting &Davis, 1920s, $215.

Northeast Woodlands moose call, cone-shaped bark, ash ring and binding at horn and mouthpiece, figures of moose, birds and horses, scalloped edge, 19th century, 20 inches, $230.

Universal Bread Maker, table clamp, Gold Medal winner at St. Louis Exposition, 1904, $345.

Mickey Mouse stuffed figure, Dean’s Rag Book Co., 1930s, 9 inches, $450.

Hopalong Cassidy night light, bullet form, decal of Hoppy, by Aladdin, $515.

Royal Bayreuth berry set, Peasant Musicians, marked, 93/4 inches, $575.

Czechoslovakian glass liqueur decanter and glasses, ruby flashed, etched with geometric pattern, 1920s, 7 pieces, $1,830.

Chum’s Confections sign, cardboard, two-sided, two boys eating candy, girl with prize, “Prize in every package, something new every time, a Cracker Jack product,” 1905, 11 x 14 inches, $2,475.

Victorian library steps, walnut, carved, chair form, Boston, c. 1880, 21 inches, $2,900.

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