Question: We have a pair of fireplace andirons that probably date back to the late 19th Century. They stand almost 2 feet high and have a braided, or twisted, pattern running around the main legs of the set. What sort of value should my family attach to them?--T.A.
Answer: Depending on condition and rarity, andirons have sold in a wide price range, from a few hundred dollars a pair to well in excess of $1,000 a set, according to information provided by dealer catalogues and collectors.
Some of the more valuable andirons were fashioned in the East, such as in Pennsylvania.
Other factors that will affect price include the unusual shape of the andirons, who designed them and the materials from which they are made.
Generally, andirons made of brass or copper will bring more cash than iron. But an intricate iron pattern can neutralize this rule of thumb, collectors say.
Another collecting hint is the fact that a matched set of andirons invariably attracts greater collector interest--and hence bigger cash sales--than simply one andiron.
Some 18th- and 19th-Century designs include andirons designed with animal and human heads. Others were more functional, topped off, for example, with hooks where plates and tankards could be hung.
Collectors also specialize in related items, such as fireplace tools, bellows and warming pans. The shape of these items hasn't changed much over the years, so the beginning collector will have to be careful in sorting out the old from the new.
Associated with collecting andirons are cooking items, such as pots and pans designed for the open hearth and used at a time when the fireplace played a major role in preparing meals for the early American family.
Raymond Sherrard, a government investigator, is an expert on law-enforcement patches. We recently received two illustrated manuals he wrote on the subject, "Federal Law Enforcement Patches," Vols. I and II (illustrated).
Volume I (1983, 40 pages) sells for $13.20, including postage; Volume II (72 pages) has a $21.50 price tag, postage included. The latter volume includes a detailed listing of government agencies that issue patches, plus insignia suppliers.
Sherrard writes: "I plan a series of books relating to the history of federal badges and insignia and have two in the works now: 'Badges of the United States Marshals' and 'Badges of the United States Treasury Department.' "
Sherrard said he will take reader inquiries at (714) 892-9012. His address for orders: RHS Enterprises, P.O. Box 5779, Garden Grove, Calif. 92645.
Making its way into bookstores is "American Indian Collectibles" (first edition, House of Collectibles, New York, 394 pages, illustrated, index, $12.95) by Dawn E. Reno.
Writes the author in an introduction:
"When I traveled throughout the Southwest and other parts of the United States to obtain materials and photos for this project, I heard, more than once, that people were taking money out of the stock market and instead were investing in American Indian art/artifacts. That fact intrigued me, because it meant the market for antiques would be strong--and that the Indian market was becoming even stronger."
Among other collectibles, the book covers art, baskets, blankets, clothing, jewelry, leather, pottery, tools and weapons. Also included are listings of dealers, auctioneers and collectors, plus a bibliography.
Soble cannot answer mail personally but will respond in this column to questions of general interest about collectibles. Do not telephone. Write to Your Collectibles, You section, The Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053.