Space age design shaped items of ’50s

  • Wednesday, June 16, 2004 9:00pm
  • Life

Space-age technology reflected in the machines used in everyday life, such as TV sets, telephones or computers, are being saved by a small group of collectors.

In the late 1950s, modern designs influenced by the look of rocketships and streamlined trains became the inspiration for cars, furniture, electric fans, kitchen utensils, radios and even patterns on fabrics.

Designers were faced with the dilemma of how to design a TV set for home use. One of the most advanced designs was for the 1959 Philco set known as the Predicta. It had a futuristic design, with the screen at the top, like the mirror on an art deco dressing table. The control knobs are in a large box below the swiveling stem underneath the screen. The support pieces were made of golden chrome-plated metal.

These sets are rare because once they stopped working, they were usually discarded. The tubes are hard to find, and the blond-wood cabinets were often marred. A Predicta TV set auctioned last year for four times the estimate, at $3,580.

I have dishes with Mulberry printed patterns, and I wonder if Mulberry is another name for Flow Blue? The patterns look alike in books.

Both Mulberry and Flow Blue dishes were made in the Staffordshire district of England during the 19th century. The transfer-printed floral or scenic patterns on both wares are similar – and some are exactly the same – except for the color. Mulberry ware, produced from about 1850 to 1860, features reddish-brown patterns. Flow Blue dishes, produced between about 1830 and 1900, have cobalt-blue patterns. The blue color “flows” from the design onto the white body of the dishes, creating a smeary look.

I inherited a Federal-style china cabinet mounted on a sideboard. The cabinet has two wide glass doors enclosing three shelves. The sideboard has curved legs and one long drawer. There’s a small metal label inside that’s inscribed “Paine Furniture Co., Boston, Mass.” Age and value?

Paine (or Paine’s) Furniture Co. of Boston manufactured Colonial Revival furniture from about 1870 to 1910. Your sideboard could be 100 years old, but it was made in a style that was popular almost 200 years ago. A Paine Furniture sideboard and china cabinet like yours, with curved legs and glass doors, is worth about $1,000.

I have a pair of bronze-finished bookends. They are in the shape of an American Indian on horseback. The man is holding a long spear, but his head and the horse’s head are both bending forward. Have you ever seen bookends like this?

We own a pair of bookends like yours. They are copied from a famous sculpture called “End of the Trail” by James Earle Fraser (1876-1953). The sculpture was designed for the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco, and it is now on display at the National Cowboy &Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. The image became famous and has been used for posters, bookends, sculptures, bookmarks and other souvenirs. Bookends have been made in several sizes by several makers. Today they sell for $50 and up, depending on age, material and condition.

I have been collecting billiard balls for years. Most of them are hard synthetic plastic, but I have a few made of celluloid or clay and one that’s ivory. I understand the differences in materials as times changed, but why are they different in size? Some are only 1 inch in diameter, while others are as big as nearly 3 inches.

Your small billiard balls were probably made for child-size tables. The largest were most likely used on a “carom table,” one without pockets. Pocket-billiard balls, also called pool balls, are usually around 21/2 inches in diameter. Snooker balls are smaller. Playing billiards is a popular pastime today, and collectors shop for sets of balls, cues and even chalks.

We have a black cast-iron rooster that’s 13 inches high, 17 inches long and just 1 1/2 inches thick. It’s mounted on a rectangular cast-iron base and is very heavy. The rooster’s body is flattened, and he has a five-tooth comb and a tail with five points on the bottom. What is it?

We think you might have a windmill weight. A windmill weight counterbalanced the heavy wheel on a windmill. Weights were used on many rural windmills from the 1880s to the 1920s, and collectors consider them great examples of American folk art. “Rooster” weights were manufactured by the Elgin Wind Power and Pump Co. of Elgin, Ill. Reproductions of rooster windmill weights are common. So, you must show yours to a dealer or collector of weights to learn whether it is an original made by Elgin or a recent copy. If it’s a genuine old weight, it could sell for $300 or more.

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.

Franciscan vegetable bowl, Tiempo pattern, divided, chartreuse, 11 inches, $40.

Pepsi-Cola glass, “Hits the Spot,” with syrup and fill lines, Anchor Hocking, 1930s, 41/4 inches, $65.

Crocheted bedspread, pink, 1930s, 88 x 80 inches, $285.

Thumb-back Windsor side chairs, mustard paint with black-and-gold design, flowers on crest, bamboo turnings on legs, signed “P.A. Willard, Warranted,” 33 inches, pair, $320.

Wheelbarrow, wooden, red with gold trim, iron wheels, New England, early 1900s, $365.

Stoneware advertising jar, cobalt stenciling, “S. &L. Vickers, Dealers in Dry Goods &Groceries, Lloydsville, O.,” 10 inches, $865.

Hooked rug, black horse on pale-blue ground, tan-and-red oak leaf on border, c. 1900, 24 x 38 inches, $1,295.

Hopkins &Alfred shelf clock, stenciled half-columns and eagle design, painted dial, divided door, reverse painting, claw feet, 1820s, 27 inches, $1,455.

Emile Jumeau bebe doll, bisque socket head, blue paperweight eyes, brown human-hair long ringlets, plump composition and wood-jointed body, c. 1885, 33 inches, $3,255.

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