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Pairpoint Co. a Luminary in Lamp Field

ALSO:* Locked drawers;* Lithophane stein; * Sterling pendant; * Fish bottles; * Jack-in-the-box; * Monginot doll

October 31, 1998|RALPH KOVEL and TERRY KOVEL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Strange and wonderful lamps from the past sell well to collectors. Not everyone in the early 1900s could afford a beautiful electric lamp with a decorated glass shade. But those with money bought lamps by Tiffany, Handel or Pairpoint.

The Pairpoint Manufacturing Co. made only silver from 1880 to 1894, then added glass products. From 1907 to 1929 it also made lamps. The best of the lamps had mold-blown reverse-painted glass shades.

The designs of flowers or fruit were raised in the glass, then painted the proper colors from the inside. Collectors today call these "puffies." Other shades were made of ribbed glass to resemble pleated silk. Less dramatic shades were made of reverse-painted smooth glass. The style of the shade and the base will date the lamp.

Early lamps had metal bases shaped like tree trunks or other natural forms. Then the company made urn-shaped vases, and by 1910 some bases were made of metal and glass. One special design in a 1910 catalog featured a base with two branches joined by a clear glass ball filled with bubbles. Any Pairpoint table lamp with a painted glass shade sells today for over $500. Most sell for more.

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Question Why do so many pieces of antique furniture have locks on their drawers?

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Answer The most likely explanation is that people who owned high-quality furniture in past centuries had servants. The locks protected personal papers or valuables from prying eyes or tempted hands.

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Q My great-grandfather had a German beer stein of porcelain with a pewter lid. If you empty the stein and hold it to the light, you can see a scene in the bottom. It is a picture of a dog and three people. How was it made?

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A It's a lithophane, a porcelain picture made by casting the clay in layers of various thickness. When held to the light, the picture is visible because of the shadows.

The makers first made a picture using translucent beeswax. It was placed on a lighted glass shelf and the wax was carved to show the picture. The wax was then used to make a plaster mold. Clay was cast in the mold for the stein.

Lithophanes have always fascinated people. They were most popular between 1825 and 1875. Some are still being made. The lithophane panels have been used in teacups, steins and lampshades. Some are now seen in night lights. Few are marked.

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Q My arts-and-crafts sterling silver pendant is marked with the initials "H.W." in a monogram. I'm told it came from England.

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A Henry Wilson was an English designer who began making jewelry about 1890. He made silver and gold pieces and often added to the designs with enamel or gemstones.

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Q We just found a bottle shaped like a fish. Is it valuable?

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A There have been many fish bottles in the past 150 years. The best known and most expensive are the 19th century bottles used to hold Dr. Fisch's Bitters or Fish Bitters. These bottles were copied in the 1970s by Wheaton Nuline of Millville, N.J., who marked the bottom of the bottles.

Today, there is an Italian Antinori Soave wine sold in a fish-shaped bottle.

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Q I have a Snoopy jack-in-the-box made by Mattel. It dates from the early 1960s. The box is metal, and the music and spring mechanism still work. Is it worth anything?

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A Jack-in-the-boxes were first made in England as practical jokes about 300 years ago. They became popular novelties in the 1890s and were exported to the United States from Italy and Germany. By the 1930s, the American toy companies Marx and Gabriel were making boxes based on characters from children's stories. Early boxes were made of composition, papier ma^che, wood or hard cardboard.

The Mattel Toy Co. created its first jack-in-the-box in 1951, a Jolly-Tune the Clown cardboard box that played "Pop Goes the Weasel." It sold for $1.98. Today it is valued at $75 to $150. By the mid-'50s, Mattel was using lithographed tin for its boxes and was licensing characters from popular cartoon and TV shows. Your Snoopy box is one of the more common boxes, but it still is worth $20 to $50. Mattel switched to plastic boxes in 1976 and stopped making jack-in-the-boxes in 1992.

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Q My 24-inch-high bronze figure of a girl has a white marble face and hands with some gilt decoration on the dress. It is marked "Monginot."

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A Charlotte Monginot was a French painter and sculptor born in 1875. Your bronze is probably an adaptation of a large sculpture she made about 1900. Bronze figures were often made with marble or ivory faces and hands. A bronze like yours, with the original finish, is worth over $2,500.

For a listing of helpful books and publications, include a self-addressed, stamped (55 cents) envelope to Kovels, Los Angeles Times, King Features Syndicate, 235 E. 45th St., New York, NY 10017.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

SH Current Prices

Current prices are recorded from antique shows, flea markets, sales and auctions throughout the United States. Prices vary by location because of local economic conditions.

* Bottle label, Tomas Hollis, Jaundice Bitters, Boston, Mass., 1850s: $25.

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