The story behind the ‘Steelcraft’ mark on antique toys

  • By Terry Kovel
  • Wednesday, August 15, 2012 1:25pm
  • Life

Knowing the name of the maker of any collectible or antique adds value, but sometimes a name creates a mystery. There are many vintage children’s toys marked “Steelcraft,” but books or online searches don’t quickly turn up the history of the mark.

These toys were made by Murray Ohio Manufacturing Co., a Cleveland firm that opened in 1919 to make parts for that recent invention, the automobile. By 1923, Murray also was making toy cars using the steel and production methods it used to manufacture full-size car parts.

The toys were marketed as Steelcraft Wheel Goods. This diversity helped Murray survive the Depression. The company’s pedal cars, airplanes, coaster wagons, bicycles and smaller wheeled toys were marked “Steelcraft,” the identification seen by today’s collector.

Murray has made many other products, including lawnmowers and tractors. It even made special-order toy trucks that looked like a customer’s full-size delivery trucks. Murray is still in business.

Q: My antique Morris chair originally belonged to my grandfather. He was born in 1862 and left the chair to my father in 1936. The chair is oak with an adjustable back and loose cushions. I had the chair refinished once and the leather on the cushions replaced. Can you give me information on the current price?

A: The first Morris chairs were made in England by the firm of Morris, Marshall, Faulkner &Co. around 1866. The Morris chair is one of the first reclining chairs. Many furniture makers copied the design, and it was an especially popular style among Arts and Crafts furniture makers.

The most famous examples of antique Morris chairs were made by the Craftsman Workshops of Gustav Stickley in Syracuse, N.Y. A Stickley Morris chair from about 1912 recently sold for $4,500 at auction. Other antique Morris chairs can sell anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars.

Q: My hammered aluminum tray is at least 70 years old. It’s marked “Hand Wrought Creation by Rodney Kent 423.” Does it have any value?

A: Rodney Kent is the name of a line of hand-wrought aluminum giftware that was developed for Krischer Metal Products Co. of Brooklyn, N.Y. Hammered aluminum giftware was popular from the 1930s through the 1950s.

The Rodney Kent line was developed under the supervision of Stanley Gelford, who named the line after two streets near his office: Rodney and Kent. The line includes various serving pieces made of an alloy of aluminum and manganese. Most pieces are decorated with tulips. Some have ribbon and flower handles. Shapes were numbered from 400 to 499.

The number on your tray indicates it is the 14-by-20-inch tray. Some pieces are marked “Rodney Kent Silver Co.,” although the pieces are made of aluminum, not silver. Some had paper labels or tags instead of a mark; others have no tag or mark at all. Prices today are much lower than they were in the 1950s. Your tray might sell for $25.

Q: I have an unusual beaded evening bag that belonged to my grandmother. I guess it’s from about 1910 or 1920. The beads are sewn in a flower design in colors resembling peacock feathers. I think the top is silver plate. Both sides have a design of a man in a boat; on one side he’s being greeted, and on the other he’s being bid farewell. The clasp is two opposing acorns. I would like to know if it has any value.

A: Beaded bags were in fashion during the 19th century and the early decades of the 20th. Companies in the United States, Czechoslovakia, France, Germany and Italy made beaded bags. The foundations of the bags were knit or made on a loom.

Early bags were decorated with tiny blown glass beads sewn in floral or scenic designs. Some had as many as 1,000 beads per square inch. Only the well-to-do could afford them since they cost about $5, a considerable sum in the 19th century.

Bags with simpler designs or those made with a single color date from the early 1900s. Art Deco designs became popular in the 1920s. Cut-steel beads in silver and gold were used by some makers in the 1900s. Intricate designs sell for more than plain colors.

An ornate frame in gold or silver adds to the value. Prices have dropped during the past few years, however, and most beaded bags sell for less than $100. Older bags in excellent shape and with intricate and colorful patterns of tiny beads attract higher prices.

Q: I inherited one of my grandmother’s ceramic bowls. It’s decorated with white and purple flowers and yellow and green vines. It has yellow vine-shaped handles. It is about 8 inches high and 15 inches wide, including the handles. On the bottom, it’s marked “827” and “Frie Onnaing, Made in France.”

A: Onnaing Pottery was founded in Onnaing, France, in 1821 by Charles de Bousies. During the second half of the 19th century, the Mouzin brothers bought the factory and ran it until the factory closed in 1938. It was nearly destroyed by the Germans during World War I, but production restarted in 1921.

The factory made mostly majolica pitchers and planters. Onnaing designs included flowers, geometric patterns and famous historical figures, among others. Each design had a number and a corresponding model name. The number 827 on your bowl refers to a planter named “Mogador.”

The marks “Frie Onnaing” and “Made in France” indicate that it was made after World War I. Because it is large, it would sell in a retail shop for about $200.

Write to Terry Kovel, (The Herald), King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019.

&Copy; 2012, 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.

Royal Copley figural wall pocket, bust of Asian girl, black hair, yellow hat, green shirt, marked, 7 3/4 inches, $45.

Sonja Henie figural pin, ice skater, shiny white metal, red, white and blue rhinestones, late 1930s, $55.

Blushing Willy Bartender toy, lithographed tin, battery-operated, pours drink, raises to mouth, rolls eyes, lights up, Yone, Japan, 1960s, 10 1/2 inches, $75.

Baby Pikie fishing lure, blended red head and white body, glass eyes, double line tie, Creek Chub Bait Co., 1920s, $100.

Post Toasties Corn Flakes grocer’s apron, white cotton, red &yellow image of cereal box, top with clear pocket to advertise specials, 1930s, 22 x 35 inches, $115.

Robert Kennedy 1968 presidential campaign dress, fabric, black &white photo of Kennedy on front and back, sleeveless, 18 x 33 inches, $115.

Regency-style boudoir chair, bamboo-pattern upholstery, turquoise and white, 1950s, 30 inches, $195.

Art Deco beaded belt, five rows of black and red glass beads, clasp with plastic chiclets &tassels, 1920s, 35 x 1 1/2 inches, $425.

Cast-iron fat lamp, two spouts, dish base and handle, Marble Furnace foundry, Adams County, Ohio, c. 1820, 5 3/4 inches, $705.

Lenci doll, felt, blue glass flirty eyes, black mohair wig with bun, hand-

embroidered brown and orange dress, wicker basket with felt gourds, 1930s, 22 inches, $995.

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