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Tramp Art Recycled Into Sophisticated Sales

April 10, 1999|RALPH KOVEL and TERRY KOVEL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Some collectors want only formal arts and crafts made by name artists and important factories. Others search for less sophisticated works by housewives, amateur painters and local potters. Furniture and boxes made with layers of chip-carved wood was named "tramp art" by collectors in the 1960s.

Tramp art was made from the 1860s to the 1930s, and again in the 1980s. Pieces have been found in the United States, Canada and many parts of Europe.

The idea of tramp art may have followed the use of boxes for cigars. Frugal Victorians hated to discard anything that might be useful, and the wooden cigar box had many uses. Carvers were able to transform the soft wood of the boxes into picture frames, jewelry chests, mirrors and even full-size chairs and sideboards. Sometimes the carved patterns were painted, but most were left with the natural finish.

Collectors now pay high prices for examples of tramp art. A box is worth $100 to $500; a mirror and drawer could sell for $825. Picture frames range from $75 to $250, and last year a four-drawer chest sold for $2,000.

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Question: I have an assortment of a dozen framed daguerreotypes. They are round, oval and square. Some of the pictures are on metal, and some are on glass. One is colored. Most of the frames are metal with impressed designs, but two are leather. Are these valuable?

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Answer: A daguerreotype is a picture produced on a silver plate or silver-coated copper plate. They were the most popular type of photos in America from about 1839 to 1854. Your glass photo is called an ambrotype. It dates from about 1852 to 1858. The less expensive and lower quality tintypes, made on thin sheets of metal, were made from about 1856 to the 1870s.

Some photographers hand-painted the photos to add color. The quality of the frame affects the value of an old photo, but even more important are the photos themselves. The most valuable daguerreotypes date from before 1845 in the East, or before 1858 in the far West. Collectors also like daguerreotypes or ambrotypes that are larger than average and those that picture outdoor scenes or famous people.

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Q I bought a boxed set of antique paper dolls at a Massachusetts estate sale. The box is marked "Raphael Tuck & Sons, London, Paris & New York, Publisher to Her Majesty the Queen, copyright 1894." The set is titled "Dolly Delight." It includes a pasteboard girl doll and several fancy paper dresses and hats. Can you tell me anything about Raphael Tuck or the value of the dolls?

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A Raphael Tuck & Sons Ltd. was founded in London in 1866 by a German immigrant printer named Raphael Tuck. At first, the company made fine-art prints, but Tuck quickly expanded his business to include postcards, bookplates, stamps, Christmas cards and paper dolls. Tuck was granted a royal warrant of appointment to Queen Victoria, and he published lithographs of the royal family.

He also exported his work to other countries, including the United States. Other manufacturers soon began copying his ideas. Your doll set was published in 1902. In good condition, it would sell for about $250.

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Q My grandfather owned a glass store on the south side of Pittsburgh in the 1920s. He left me a ruby glass hatchet with a metal blade and an etched inscription that includes his initials and the words "Libbey, 1893" surrounded by a leaf border. Have you ever seen anything like it?

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A The Libbey Glass Co. of Toledo, Ohio, was founded in 1818 as the New England Glass Co. It is now a division of Owens-Illinois Inc. Libbey made a glass hatchet souvenir for the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. That one did not have a metal blade and was decorated with a profile of George Washington and the inscription "The Father of Our Country." Libbey probably made other hatchets, with or without monograms or metal blades, as gifts for the retailers who sold their glass.

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Q I have a pair of 9-inch ceramic figurines marked "Kaye of Hollywood." One is a woman wearing a pink and blue dress and bonnet, and the other is a man wearing a blue jacket and pink bow tie. Each is holding a small, empty basket. Is it old?

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A Kaye of Hollywood appears to have worked in California from the late 1940s through the early '50s. Many Kaye of Hollywood figurines carried baskets, which could be used to hold flowers or trinkets. Some of the figurines are marked simply "Kaye." Your pair would sell for $50.

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.

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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.

* Little Mary Proctor iron, 1960s, boxed, $35.

* Charlie Chaplin sheet music, the Charlie Chaplin Walk, new Fox Trot, 1915, $75.

* Gunsmoke lunch box, metal, 1959, $150.

* Desk clock, American gilt-brass, cylindrical, Spider model, by Waterbury Clock Co., 3 inches, $225.

* Volupte compact, woman's hand shape, black lace glove, bracelet, 1940, 4 3/4 inches, $275.

* Van Briggle bowl, Lady of the Lake, turquoise, kneeling woman looking in pool, flower frog, 15 inches, $310.

* American coin silver ewer, globular shape, slender neck, skirted domed foot, foliage, scrolls, diapers and flowers, by G. K. Childs, 1828-1850, 15 1/4 inches, $400.

* Effanbee doll, Skippy Soldier, composition head, blue painted eyes to side, closed rosebud mouth, cloth body, uniform, 14 inches, $450.

* Charles & Ray Eames armchair, white molded fiberglass, purple upholstered seat, on polished aluminum and black four-star base, set of four, $520.

* Pennsylvania-Germany quilt, Drunkard's Path, red, green calicos, yellow and red saw-tooth border, brown, white and blue check, 84 inches square, $610.

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