This heavy 20-inch-tall head is made of iron. It was painted red and white. The auction catalog said it was a clown because of the pointed hat with a tassel. It’s a not-very-funny shooting gallery target that pictures a clown with a mask. It was made in America and used around 1911. The strange item was wanted by many collectors, and the high bid was $12,000. (Cowles Syndicate)

This heavy 20-inch-tall head is made of iron. It was painted red and white. The auction catalog said it was a clown because of the pointed hat with a tassel. It’s a not-very-funny shooting gallery target that pictures a clown with a mask. It was made in America and used around 1911. The strange item was wanted by many collectors, and the high bid was $12,000. (Cowles Syndicate)

When somebody pays big money for something that’s useless

Antiques made of iron, even clown’s heads like this one, have long been coveted by collectors.

Part of the fun of bidding at auctions is seeing unusual, and perhaps useless, antiques selling for a lot of money.

One of those, a very noticeable iron head of a clown with a mask, about 20 inches high, was offered in a Michaan’s Auctions in Alameda, California. It was marked “J.T. Dickman, Pat’d Sep 19, 1911.” Only the clown, squirrel and rabbit shooting gallery target shapes with the Dickman patent information are listed for sale online. The clown sold for $12,000.

Iron tools were the only antiques to be pricey before 1950. Tongs, building supports, fences, hardware, boot scrapers, safes and windmill weights were selling at antique shows. By 1900, iron was used to make frying pans and attractive pieces like bookends, doorstops, large statues of animals and garden furniture. Iron can be molded or shaped by hand, is heavy and durable, and is often used for manhole covers.

Q: I bought a beautiful hand-carved white alabaster confessional divider at an auction of the church damaged in New York on 9/11. It meant a great deal to me. My house was broken into last week and the piece was broken. I have no idea of the value. I want to see if it can be repaired. I’ve looked on the internet and can’t find anything that resembles my piece.

A: Alabaster is a stone that resembles marble but is softer and more fragile. While some sites suggest using metal pins and epoxy to hold pieces together, the National Park Service says temperature changes can cause additions and other materials to expand and result in further damage. Contact antiques dealers in your area to see if they can recommend a qualified restorer. They may be able to give you an idea of the value. Without knowing what the divider looked like and its size, it’s not possible to speculate on the value before it was broken. If you think your homeowner’s insurance will cover the cost of repair, you’ll need to find out from your insurance agent what the requirements for proof of value are. Its original value is at least what you paid for it, and probably more because it has a history of being part of 9/11.

Q: What can you tell me about the Weed Family Favorite sewing machine? It’s in a wooden box. The lady who gave it to me said it was patented between 1867 and 1869.

A: Theodore E. Weed received a patent for a sewing machine in 1854 but died before the patent was granted. Investors secured the rights to his patent and began manufacturing Weed patent sewing machines in New Hampshire. In 1865, production moved to Hartford, Connecticut. Pratt & Whitney made Weed sewing machines from 1865 to 1871. The Family Favorite, or F.F., was another, simpler machine patented by George Fairfield in 1867. Production moved to Sharps Rifle Factory in 1871. The company began making “Columbia” bicycles in 1878, and the production of sewing machines ended in 1891.

Q: I have a political button that says “Fred Harris, President, ‘76.” The button is dark blue with white letters and is about 1½ inches in size. There are three white stars at the top and bottom. Does it have any value to a collector?

A: Fred Harris is the son of an Oklahoma sharecropper who grew up to run for president of the United States. He served in the Oklahoma state Senate for eight years and in the U.S. Senate from 1964 to 1973. Harris ran as a candidate for the 1972 Democratic Party nomination for president but withdrew after a few weeks of campaigning. His book “The New Populism” was published in 1973 and proceeds helped finance his candidacy for the 1976 presidential election. He declared his candidacy in January 1975 and traveled the country in a Winnebago. He withdrew from the race in April 1976. Harris became a college professor and has written several books. He now lives in New Mexico. The most collectible political buttons are those of popular presidents, those that have historical significance or buttons that have a unique feature. Common buttons like this sell for under $10.

Q: Is there any interest in a 1940 World War II photo album? It says, “Gen Armin Vormarsch Luxemberg/Belgien.” The cover is bonded cloth. The album contains over 100 photos and pictures of the general with his troops. There’s writing under most of the pictures.

A: Photos from World War II are collectible, especially if they include important people or cover important events. The German word “vormarsch” means “advance.” The photos were evidently taken during the Battle of France in the spring of 1940, when German troops advanced through Luxembourg and Belgium on their way to invading France. It was a major campaign during World War II and included attacks by the German air force, panzer division and infantry. The troops were commanded by Gen. Armin, who is probably Hans-Heinrich Sixt von Armin (1890-1952). Armin was captured during the Battle of Stalingrad in 1943 and died in Russia in 1952. Contact an auction house that sells photographs or historical or military items if you want to sell the album. Albums of World War II photos depend on the information and history in the book. Your album could sell for $300 to $400.

Tip: When stacking dinner plates, put a piece of felt or paper between each plate. Never put more than 24 plates in one stack.

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.

Prov Saxe vase, woman in garden with dogs and birds, blue and gold beaded enamel, 3½ inches, $120.

Roseville urn, Baneda pattern, yellow flowes, orange fruit, green leaves, two handles, round foot, 9¼ by 8 inches, $450.

Candlestick, bronze, empire style, robed men, gilt, candle cup, green marble stand, swags, 1800s, pair, 13¾ inches, $510.

Bronze statue, stag, “Le cerf bramant,” rocky ground, Antoine-Louis Barye, circa 1800, 9½ by 8 inches, $640.

Sevres box, center reserve, standing woman, gilt rose border, pink, fuchsia highlights, circa 1900, 2¼ by 4¾ inches, $700.

Library table, Spanish revival, carved wood, five drawers, rosette reserves, arched bands, trestle base, 30 by 60 inches, $770.

Leather trunk, embossed, crisscrossed bands, handles, locks, continental, 26½ by 38 inches, $830.

Alabaster bust, Caesar Augustus, circa 1875, 17 inches, $960.

Mantel clock, marquetry, Greek columns, reclining Greek male, bench, gallery, red, 1700s, 25 by 16½ inches, $1,920.

Anatomical bust, male, marble, muscles, tendons, white, Italy, 18 inches, $8,320.

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