Most Americans in the 17th and early 18th centuries had very small houses with no clothes closets and little storage space. Storage consisted of built-in corners, shelf units, chests and often was located under the eaves or the stairs. Odd-shaped cupboards were made to fit into the space. They did not use the wall as part of the cabinet. A piece was made so it could be moved.
Folk-art cupboards of all kinds made before Victorian times are popular with collectors. The most efficient cupboard is made from square or rectangular sections. The simple panel door framed by four narrow boards is preferred. Even the sides are made from rectangular panels.
In May 2016, Garth’s Auctions of Ohio sold an “under-the-stairs” cupboard. It was made of pine and painted a mustard color finish. The three doors in the front are made with applied molding to match the panels on the side. The inside has a red wash. The doors open so that all of the extra space inside can be used. The color and condition made this cabinet a popular auction item. Even though there was no maker’s identity, it sold for $1,140, several times estimate. An oddly shaped piece like this often sells for a low price.
Q: I have a piece of Niloak pottery, which has some stains that look like drips, possibly from furniture polish. Is there a way to clean this?
A: Niloak Pottery was made at the Hyten Brothers Pottery in Benton, Arkansas, from 1910 to 1918, and again from 1921 to 1947. The pottery was made from Kaolin, a soft, white clay. The name “Niloak” is “kaolin” spelled backwards. To clean Niloak pottery, use a soft cloth dampened with water. If the drips are furniture polish, they may be hard to remove since the polish probably contains oil, wax or another water-resistant ingredient. Some people recommend using a mild solution of water and dish detergent. Don’t soak the pottery, avoid rubbing the surface too hard and be sure to blot it dry.
Q: I recently discovered the work of Peter Max, the artist. I know he made posters, paintings and other art but I am interested in the commercial things he made like greeting cards and shoes.
A: Peter Max has a very easy to spot style — cartoon figures. Psychedelic colors and stars, sunsets, hearts, bubbles and other unusual patterns mixed together. He was born in Germany in 1937 and moved with his parents to escape the Nazis. His family then went to Israel, Paris and finally New York City where he went to high school and art school. By 1962, he had a studio and created advertising illustrations, labels, and commercials. His work was so popular that he was featured in Life magazine in 1969. Some of the things you can look for are wrapping paper, sunglasses, paper napkins, women’s jeans, multi-color Wrangler shorts, scarfs, men’s shirts, bed linens, curtains, needlepoint patterns, jigsaw puzzles, clocks, trash cans, umbrellas, Borden Yogurt coolers, Jell-O and Swiss Miss cereal packaging, dinnerware, cookware and much more. Almost everything is signed with a cursive writing of “Max,” or the name “Peter Max” printed in a rectangle with rounded corners. A good poster today can cost $500 to $1,500; an original signed painting is more than $5,000. The original 1970s Randy Mfg. Co. sneakers in the box sold for more than $800 three years ago. Many of these things can be found at house and garage sales for bargain prices.
Correction: In a recent column we mentioned Wild Bill Hickok and his horse. Unfortunately, we used the wrong name. His horse was Buckshot. His sidekick, played by Andy Devine, was Jingles P. Jones.
Write to Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel at Kovels, The Herald, King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019.
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.
Belt buckle, metal, oval shape, raised design, square dancing couple, banjo and fiddle, sheet music, 1980s, 3½ x 2½ inches, $20.
Apple peeler, iron, round blade, hand crank, gears, embossed, “Made only by the Reading Hardware, Pa., 1868,” 11 inches, $65.
Bank, skyscraper shaped building, 6 towers on top and openwork windows, cast iron, A.C. Williams, 1920s, 6¼ x 4 inches, $150.
Pin and clip-on earrings, cherries jubilee, dangling cherries, red bakelite, green celluloid leaves, red chain, 1940s, 5 x 3 inches, $230.
Comic book, detective comics no. 27, 1st Batman appearance, DC golden age, 10 cents, May 1939, 8 inches, $660.
Teddy bear, tan mohair, glass eyes, jointed arms and legs, Hecla, c. 1906, 13 inches, $3,700.