Humble iron doorstop from century ago may be valuable

This Uncle Sam doorstop sold for $21,240 in a New Jersey 2016 auction. It was listed as worth $250 in 1985. Vintage doorstops have all gone up in value, especially those with the original paint.

Iron doorstops became a hot collectible with rising prices about 1990. A 1985 book picturing doorstops and several auctions, which included rare doorstops, sent collectors searching for examples of the 1930s and ’40s collectible. They became so popular that thousands of copies were made, many from the original molds.

Bright new paint identifies many recent doorstops, but some, with artificial wear and tear, are good enough to fool collectors today. It is almost impossible to break an iron figure, so many iron doorstops still are available with little damage. Top prices are paid for doorstops in great condition with almost all of the original paint. And, of course, rarity adds value. This original Uncle Sam doorstop has the words “For the Open Door” on the base. The words “For the Open Door” had a political meaning, and it was not just a statement about how the doorstop was used.

A complicated “Open Door” policy was promoted by the U.S. in 1899. It suggested that all countries should allow China and other countries to trade with no tariffs, no special harbor charges, and with no interference or attempts to divide China. There was another Open Door political discussion in 1922, and this discussion probably is the one mentioned on the doorstop. China opened special investment zones in 1928. There were more international discussions and changes in 1978 concerned with China’s industry, trade and foreign investment. The Uncle Sam doorstop is rare and desirable, and this one, with great paint, sold recently at a Bertoia Auction for $21,240. The 1985 value was $250.

Q: I have a wooden table that is marked “Larkin Soap Company.” Does that mean it was used in the company office or was it made by a soap company? How old is it?

A: John D. Larkin (1845- 1926) worked for a soap factory in Buffalo in the 1860s. He became a partner and moved with the company to Chicago. He met and married a girl from Buffalo and they moved back to their home town in 1875. There he started his own company, John D. Larkin, and sold “Sweet Home” soap. By 1881, he had a full line of related products and gave a free colored picture card with each bar of soap. Cards were not enough, so he started giving better premiums including, handkerchiefs, towels, dishes and even furniture. The desk was the gift with ten dollars’ worth of soap. Soap sales changed by the 1940s, premiums were no longer popular and the company closed in 1962, Your table was made from 1899 to 1904 when the company name matched the label on your table.

Q: We have a 10-inch antique plate and would like to know its value. It is by Sarreguemines, signed by L. Moux, and dated late 1800s.There are well dressed 19th century men and women in a room. Can you help?

A: Sarreguemines is the name of a French town that is used as part of a china mark. Utzschneider and Co., a porcelain factory, made ceramics in Sarreguemines, Lorraine, France, from about 1790. In the 19th century, the factory made majolica and transfer-printed wares picturing peasants. When a local innkeeper ordered a table service with local scenes, a local artist Henri Loux (1873-1907) designed a series of 56 illustrations that depicted the daily lives of the people of the Alsace region. Jugs, plates and other dishes were made using the designs starting in 1904. The dishes have come to be known as the Obernai series. Sarreguemines ceased production in 2007, and the factory no longer exists. A factory at Luneville-Saint-Clement still makes several of the designs that made Sarreguemines famous. The marks and scene on your plate suggest it was made about 1898. It probably pictures a scene from the 1898 comic play “D’er Herr Mayor” by painter, writer, and creator of the Alsatian theater, Gustave Stoskopf. It is worth about $50.

Q: We own an 1800s free-blown glass flask embossed with a dancing sailor on one side and a banjo player sitting on a bench on the other. It’s a half pint and is greenish-blue with an open pontil and sheered lip. It’s in excellent condition with no marks or chips but it’s dark in some areas as if something dried up in the bottle. How much is it worth and who might be interested in buying it? We are late in years and want to sell it as we don’t want our children fighting over our riches (haha!).

A: Your sailor flask was made by the Maryland Glass Works of J.L. Chapman in Baltimore, sometime between 1849 and 1860. The flask is listed in catalogs as McKearin number GXIII-8. It can be looked up online or in libraries in the McKearin book. It was made in amber, aquamarine, golden amber, olive-amber, olive-green and yellow-tone green. Collectors are very concerned with the slight color differences. This sailor-banjo player flask is comparatively rare and has been selling at auctions. A yellow-olive sailor-banjo flask sold recently for $527. Your flask probably will sell to an eager and knowledgeable bottle collector. You can contact a bottle auction or a dealer at a bottle show to sell your bottle. Don’t be surprised if a dealer buys it, then sells the bottle for at least two to three times as much as he paid you. Dealers must make a profit. An auction might want to sell your bottle and you will be charged a commission, about 25 percent to 30 percent of the bidding price.

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