See the many age clues on beer keepsakes

  • By Ralph and Terry Kovel Antiques & Collectibles
  • Wednesday, November 28, 2007 3:35pm
  • Life

Is it better to buy an expensive old advertising piece or an inexpensive new one? It depends on why you want it. Beer bottles and beer advertising have been popular collectibles for years. Beer memorabilia is plentiful, colorful and, very often, free. Beer companies give huge bottles and cardboard stand-ups of bottles to restaurants and bars, along with coasters, menus, large signs and even display figures.

Some collectors want just enough to decorate a room. Some want a few items that commemorate special family events. Most others specialize in collectible wall-hung signs, trays, coasters, bottles, mouse pads, pens, golf tees, key chains or jewelry.

Metal trays with beer-company ads have been used since the 1890s. Many were made by H.D. Beach and J.F. Meeks, two firms in Coshocton, Ohio, that made other types of advertising gimmicks. Many other companies soon were selling similar trays.

Date your beer tray from the graphics, the dresses on the women, the type styles, the name of the beer and the maker. But be careful: Many old trays and artwork have been copied on new trays. The reproductions are sometimes identified with a name or date in tiny letters on the rim.

A 1940s Consumer’s Beer tray sold recently at a Morphy auction. It showed a jolly man holding a glass of beer and included the slogan, “Ask Father.” The brand was made by the Hollen Brewing Co. of Warwick, R.I. It is no longer made, but the same artwork is used on a modern mouse pad that sells for $5.99 and on a clock priced at $13.95. When these new ads are resold, they will be worth less. The 1940s tray auctioned for $115, but will probably be worth that much or more in future years.

I need to reupholster an antique rocking chair. The last time I did this, I saved the original horsehair. But this time I want to replace it with foam. Is the horsehair at all valuable, like most things 100 years old?

If the chair needs new upholstery, it must be in poor condition. New fabric will add to the value. You could store the old horsehair and a sample of the old fabric to give to the next owner.

I‘m trying to find information on a small dog figurine carved from solid salt. I was told that figurines like it were carved during the Depression by men trying to sell them door to door. But I have seen some that appear to be factory-made. Many are Scotties.

Salt carvings have been made for many years. Souvenirs are still made from salt mined in the Himalayas, Bolivia, Peru and other places. In past decades, carved salt souvenirs also were made in the United States and in other countries that had necessary hard-salt deposits. Sometimes collectors think small white Parian figures are made of salt because salt from human perspiration lingers on the figures. So if you lick a Parian figure, the taste might be salty. There is little interest in either type of figure.

My dishes picture a huge rooster in the center, with green leafy vines all over and roses with blue leaves on the border. Some are marked “PY Japan,” some “Ucagco.” Mother called them her rooster dishes. We want to buy more and wonder if there is an official name for the pattern.

Your pattern originally was called “Early Provincial,” but collectors usually call it “Rooster and Roses.” Although it looks like an Italian design, it was made in Japan by the Miyawo Co. in the 1950s. There was a complete line: dinner sets, mug, coffeepot, creamer and sugar, salt and pepper, ashtray, basket, watering can, cheese dish, salt box, cookie jar and more. Pieces were marked “Ucagco” by the United China and Glass Co., an American importer. Copies of the pattern were made, so look at the rooster closely. He should have crisscross lines on his yellow belly and a split at the top of his legs.

How do I clean an antique gesso-gilded picture frame?

Gesso is made by applying a mixture of plaster of Paris and glue to a wood surface. Gilt or a thin layer of gold, silver or bronze leaf is added after the gesso has dried. Don’t clean a gesso or gilt frame unless absolutely necessary. The frame should be dusted once a year with a soft brush, but be careful — pieces break off easily and the gilt or leaf will wear off if rubbed too much. Don’t use water to clean gesso — it will damage the plaster of Paris. If the frame is very dirty or if the gilt is flaking off, you should consult a professional restoration service. Gilt frames should not be hung in damp areas or near fireplaces, radiators or other heat sources.

Write to Kovels, The Herald, King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019.

&Copy; 2007 by Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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