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COLLECTIBLES

Picking Right Toys Isn't Child's Play

June 20, 1998|RALPH KOVEL and TERRY KOVEL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Collecting toys? Serious buyers should look at the toys from the last 100 years and determine which have remained popular and become expensive. Age and condition are important, but the oldest toy is not necessarily the most valuable.

Certain eras excite collectors at certain times. The most popular old toys are usually those that collectors remember from their childhood.

Here's an easy-to-remember Kovelism: If it moves or makes noise, it has added value. Toy cars, battery-operated toys, music boxes and "walking" animals all bring premium prices.

Historic connections also add value. A 1910 tin boat labeled "Titanic" would have five times the value of a similar toy with no name.

Any form of transportation toy has a higher value than a similar toy showing everyday life. A 1900 car is worth more than a comparable 1900 kitchen stove, for example.

Toys related to outer space and technology, such as robots, are popular among collectors.

Toys featuring celebrities, cartoon characters and movie images tend to bring high prices.

Three-dimensional toys and dolls have become the most popular, but flat games and puzzles have been increasing in value in recent years.

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Question: When was the La-Z-Boy chair first made?

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Answer: The first La-Z-Boy was made in 1928 in Monroe, Mich. It was a wood-slat porch chair.

The first La-Z-Boy Reclina-Rocker, the platform rocker-recliner that most of us think of when we hear the name La-Z-Boy, was made in 1961.

Various models of the chair are still being made by La-Z-Boy Inc.

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Q: Your price list in a recent column included a Pilkington Pottery vase. My mother's maiden name was Pilkington. Can you tell me more about the pottery?

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A: Brothers Edward and Alfred Pilkington were hired in 1865 to manage a coal-mining business in Clifton Junction, England, five miles north of Manchester. Two more Pilkington brothers, Laurence and Charles, later joined the company. By 1885, the Pilkingtons owned the coal-mining business.

About 1888, an unsuccessful attempt to drive a new mine shaft led to the company's discovery of red marl clay. The Pilkingtons consulted a chemist at the famous Wedgwood factory. He suggested they use the clay to make decorative tiles.

In 1891, Pilkington's Tile and Pottery Co. was formed to produce decorative tiles and, eventually, art pottery.

Pilkington's Tile, now part of Quiligotti, is still in business at Clifton Junction.

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Q: My grandfather worked for the Firestone Tire Co. He gave me an old Firestone ashtray. The glass ashtray sits inside a 5 1/2-inch-diameter black rubber tire. On the glass are the embossed words "Great Lakes Exposition, Firestone, Cleveland, Ohio 1936." Are these common?

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A: Harvey S. Firestone (1868-1938) founded the Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. in 1900 in Akron, Ohio.

Several examples of Firestone advertising ashtrays are known. Some say just "Firestone." Others were made for special events.

Cleveland's Great Lakes Exposition, which was set up on the Lake Erie waterfront, celebrated the centennial of the city's incorporation.

We have seen another Firestone tire ashtray made for the 1934 Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago.

Your ashtray is worth about $40.

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Q: My grandmother gave me a strange family heirloom. It is a round brass box that unscrews, revealing several pieces of brass. The pieces can be joined to form a simple candleholder and snuffer. When was this sort of candleholder box used?

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A: Before electric lights became commonplace in the 20th century, candles often were used as portable lights. The chamberstick was a small candleholder with a dish-like vase that could catch the dripping wax. It usually had a handle and a snuffer.

Plain brass traveling chambersticks such as yours were made during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. By the 1850s, many chambersticks were embellished with trim and engraving. Some were made of silver or silver-plated metal.

An 18th century brass box-candleholder such as yours is rare and worth at least $500.

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Q: Can you identify a piece in my collection of cut glass? It's an hourglass-shaped vase with sterling-silver foot, rim and decorative trim. The mark on the silver bottom consists of four symbols--a small trident, a lion, an anchor and a fancy letter G.

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A: Your vase was made in 1897 by the Gorham Manufacturing Co. of Providence, R.I.

Gorham has used its traditional three-symbol mark of a lion, anchor and G since the middle of the 19th century. The lion represents silver; the anchor, Rhode Island; and the G, Gorham. The trident was a dating symbol that was used in 1897.

Gorham, like other silver companies at the turn of the century, used several methods of combining glass and silver to create new designs.

For a copy of the Kovels' 1998 leaflet listing 153 books and pamphlets that are price guides for all kinds of collectibles and antiques, send $2 and a self-addressed, stamped (55 cents) No. 10 envelope to Price Guides for Antiques and Collectibles, Kovels, P.O. Box 22900, Beachwood, Ohio 44122.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

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