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Women's Heads Top the Vase Crop

ALSO: * Faux bamboo furniture; * Wedding-cake toppers; * Humphrey's 'Butterfly Time'; * Devon Ware

April 18, 1998|RALPH KOVEL and TERRY KOVEL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Collectors have different names for many of their favorite collectibles. "Head vases," "lady head vases" and "figural planters" all refer to the same florist containers that were popular from the 1950s through the '70s.

Most of the vases were imported from Europe or Japan and sold to florists and gift shops.

Manufacturers called such vases "figural planters." The term covered vases and planters that represented full figures of women as well as the smaller head vases that held flowers in the top of the hairdo or hat.

A small group of collectors started buying up head vases in the mid-'80s. Prices were low then, often less than a dollar. By 1988, the first book about the vases appeared and, by 1990, there was an organized group of collectors.

Today a good lady-head vase at a show costs between $50 and $100. A celebrity example depicting someone such as Marilyn Monroe or Jacqueline Kennedy would sell for more than $1,000 if in excellent condition.

Bargains still can be found at rummage and garage sales. Many figural planters were saved to be reused.

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Question My grandmother's bedroom set looks as if it were made of bamboo. I believe the pieces are actually wood carved and painted to look like bamboo. When was this type of furniture popular?

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Answer Japanese designs fascinated Europeans and Americans after 1868. Faux bamboo furniture was made in England and the United States from the 1870s to about 1900, when Victorian designs were going out of style.

Bamboo is lightweight and is not as durable as carved mahogany or maple. Such hardwoods were turned to form round rods with the characteristic protruding rings found on bamboo. The wood was then colored to resemble bamboo.

Many pieces used strips of faux bamboo as trim on door and drawer fronts.

The intricate forms and decorations worked well in the Victorian period.

Faux bamboo furniture has only recently been rediscovered by collectors. Favored pieces are marked by R.J. Horner, George Hunzinger or Herter Bros.

*

Q My son-in-law has his great-grandmother's 19th century wedding-cake "topper." She was of German ancestry. The topper displays a Victorian bride and groom on a fancy base made of stiff netting and hard sugar. It's decorated with silk flowers around a double arch. What's the history of cake toppers?

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A Wedding cakes date back to ancient times. Bride-and-groom cake toppers did not become popular until the 1870s.

The earliest American toppers had bases made in Germany that were molded out of marzipan. American bakers imported the bases and added a decorative arbor or archway and a bride and groom made of porcelain or hard-sugar frosting.

Your topper is probably one of the German-American combinations, which sell for $125 to $200.

Later brides and grooms were made of porcelain, then hard sugar frosting, then plastic.

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Q What can you tell me about a 1903 print titled "Butterfly Time" by Maud Humphrey? It has been in our family for many years.

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A Humphrey was born in 1868 in Rochester, N.Y. She started taking art classes when she was 12. At 18, she moved to New York, and within a few years, she was earning a living as a watercolorist.

Her work was used for book illustrations, advertising cards, prints and calendars. She specialized in portraits of children dressed in Victorian fashions.

She continued her career after she married and had children. One of her children was movie star Humphrey Bogart.

A Humphrey print sells for about $50 today.

*

Q I have a 6-inch oval bowl with an inch-wide rim. The inside is decorated with a country scene of thatched cottages and trees and the words "Cockington Village, Devonshire." The bottom is marked with a crown and the words "Devon Ware, Stoke on Trent, Made in England, British Scenes, 2028." Who made my bowl?

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A Your bowl is a souvenir made about 1929 at S. Fielding & Co.'s Devon Pottery. Devon was one of the English Staffordshire potteries.

Souvenir ware decorated with scenes and town names became popular after World War I.

S. Fielding & Co., founded in 1879, made souvenir dishes for the British, American, Canadian and Australian markets. The Devon Pottery closed in 1982.

If you'd like a listing of helpful books and publications on antiques, send a self-addressed, stamped (55 cents) envelope to the Kovels, Los Angeles Times, King Features Syndicate, 235 E. 45th St., New York, NY 10017.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Current Prices

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.

* Keen Kutter alligator wrench, No. 30: $30.

* "Richard Diamond, Private Detective" TV series record album, Mercury Records, 1959, 33 1/3 RPM: $40.

* Planters peanut jar, slanted fishbowl shape, peanuts embossed on front, threaded tin lid, 8 1/2 inches: $80.

* Whitman statuette dolls and their clothes, paper, uncut, 1946: $95.

* Noritake bowl, gold handle, blue, gold, orange and black, peacock feathers design inside, 10 inches: $110.

* The Dandy automatic pencil sharpener, circa 1900: $150.

* Webb vase, etched grape-and-vine design, faceted body, hexagonal stem, footed, 11 1/2 inches: $210.

* Brown velvet coat, fur trim on sleeves, brown silk lining, Franklin Simon, 1920s: $235.

* Happy Hooligan target set game, lithographed cardboard figures on wooden bases, metal-and-wood cork gun, 1925, Milton Bradley: $305.

* Howell upholstered settee, chromed-steel tubular frame, olive green suede cushions, circa 1930, 48 inches: $2,875.

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