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Lost Art of Making 'Ripple Front' Helps Hike Clocks' Value to $2,000

May 01, 1999|Collectibles RALPH and TERRY KOVEL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Collectors often have nicknames for their antiques. The "ripple front" clock was probably named long after the first one was made. The clocks were usually made around 1850 to 1875. They had a distinctive applied ripple veneer on the clock case that made them easy to identify. The clocks were primarily made by J.C. Brown Co. of Bristol, Conn. or by its successor companies, Forestville Manufacturing Co. and E.N. Welsh. They were usually made of rosewood or mahogany. Many had reverse-painted glass fronts on the clock. The method of making ripple-cut moldings is considered a lost art. A clock collector managed to make some of the molding in the 1970s, using the old tools. He found it to be a tedious process of pushing, pulling and firing the wood. Ripple clocks sell today for about $2,000 or more.

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Question: I go to a lot of bottle shows and recently saw a quart-size Royal Ruby milk bottle for sale. The word "Borden's" was embossed on the side. The bottom was embossed with an anchor, the word "Anchorglass" and the numbers "5" and "50." I didn't buy the bottle because it was priced at $700.

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Answer: Red milk bottles did not go over well with the public, so not many were made. That's the reason the price was so high. Experts believe that fewer than 100 Borden's Royal Ruby quart milk bottles were made and that only about 25 still exist. The marks on the bottom are clues to its age and maker. Anchor Hocking, the big Ohio glass manufacturer, made the bottle. The 50 refers to 1950, the year it was made, and the 5 refers to the plant where it was manufactured, Anchor Hocking in Connellsville, Pa. $700 was a fair price.

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Q: My blue-and-white plate shows a man in a small boat landing on a rocky shore where two Indians are waiting. The border reads "The landing of the Fathers at Plymouth, Dec. 22, 1620." The back is marked "Enoch Wood & Sons, Burslem." I have been told they were used at a special dinner in 1820 that commemorated the landing of the Pilgrims.

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A: The 200th anniversary of the landing of the Pilgrims was a major event in Plymouth, Mass. Dishes similar to yours were used at a special banquet where Daniel Webster spoke. They were ordered from England by two local merchants, Davis and Russell. Some were sold as souvenirs after the banquet. A year later, another shipment of dishes arrived in Plymouth and was sold.

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Q: My old cast-iron sprinkler is painted green. It is shaped like a fish standing on its tail. There is no name or mark on it, but it still has the nozzle. The water travels through the nozzle at the base and out of the fish's mouth. Can you suggest a value?

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A: Your sprinkler probably dates from the 1920s or '30s, when the use of lawn sprinklers became widespread in the United States. Many sprinklers could be considered lawn sculptures. Yours sounds as though it might have been copied from a Chinese sculpture. Old sprinklers like yours sell for about $50. There is also the possibility that what you think is a sprinkler is actually the central piece in a garden fountain. You may be able to tell by hooking up the sprinkler and testing how far the spray reaches.

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Q: I like the modern Swarovski costume jewelry made with crystals and colored stones. Did the company make earlier costume jewelry?

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A: Daniel Swarovski was born in 1862 in Bohemia. He joined his father in the gem-cutting business. The family cut glass stones, and they were soon known for the fine quality of their work. They kept experimenting with a way to make more brilliantly cut crystals. To cut costs, Daniel invented a mechanical stonecutter to facet many stones at once. In 1891 he obtained a patent for his invention. He built a new plant in Austria and soon started selling quantities of his "Tyrolean Cut Stones." Swarovski crystals are still well-known. The company is making small figurines and jewelry today.

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Q: I bought a cast-iron mechanical bank at an estate sale in my neighborhood. It is in the shape of a bulldog sitting on a red-carpeted brown box labeled "Bull Dog Bank." When you put a coin on the dog's nose and push his tail, his mouth opens and the coin drops in. There's a date on the bottom, April 27, 1880.

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A: The date on the bottom of your bank is the patent date. The bank was originally patented by James H. Bowen and manufactured in the 1880s by the J.& E. Stevens Co. of Cromwell, Conn. The only color combinations found on the original Bull Dog banks were a brown dog on a blue carpet or a black dog on a red carpet. If your bank does not match either combination, it may have been repainted, or it may be one of the many 20th century reproductions of the original bank. An original Bull Dog Bank with original paint is worth thousands of dollars.

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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