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Place to Park Inkwells, Computers

August 12, 2000|RALPH KOVEL and TERRY KOVEL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Desks from past centuries were designed to solve problems of the past. Where to place the inkwell? Could there be a locked drawer or a hidden compartment for valuable papers? Could papers be filed in some meaningful way? Would there be a way to hide work and still have an attractive piece of furniture?

The desk of the 1830s used a "fall front." It looked like a large drawer, but it opened into a flat writing surface in front of a section of small drawers. The clever design hid drawers, and had a space to store messy work and a writing surface that protruded so you could use it without bumping your knees.

The closed desk could be kept against a wall, where it took up less space. The fall-front desk, which often had small posts as decoration on the front, was popular in the eastern United States and Midwest for about 20 years.

The roll-top desk of Victorian times hid the drawers and writing surface behind a roll-up, slatted top. The Victorian Wooten desk closed two side sections of the desk and all the drawers into a locked "cabinet."

Today's desk must hold a computer monitor, printer and hard drive. It could also have a series of small shelves on top and a few drawers and more storage space on the bottom. Holes are necessary for electrical connections.

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Q My grandfather gave me a Buddy "L" toy tow truck during the 1950s. I still have the truck and its original cardboard box, both in excellent shape. The truck is 24 1/2 inches long. It has a cranking tow hook, three tools, a spare tire and a working jack that can be used to change the truck's tires. The decal on the side of the truck reads, "Buddy 'L' Repair-It Service." The number 5667 is on the box. Can you tell me anything about the maker, age and value?

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Answer: Your Buddy "L" Repair-It truck was made in 1956. Buddy "L" toys were introduced in 1921 by the Moline Pressed Steel Co. of Moline, Ill. The company's early trucks and trains are the most valuable. The Buddy L brand name (now without the quotation marks around the L) is now owned by Empire of Carolina, a firm in Delray Beach, Fla.

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Q My husband's electric cigarette lighter has a cord that can be plugged into a wall socket. The lighter is porcelain and shaped to look like a drunken man in a tuxedo. He is sitting down and holding a bottle of liquor in the crook of his left arm. The lighter fits into his top hat. Can you tell us anything about it?

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A Most plug-in electric cigarette lighters were made during the 1930s and '40s. Your novelty lighter was probably sold to tobacco shops and bars of that period. It is worth about $50.

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Q Where can I find an old, left-handed grapefruit spoon?

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A The grapefruit spoon, sometimes called a citrus or orange spoon, was an idea that was first popular in the 1890s. Citrus fruit was plentiful, and the growers offered special silver or silver-plated serving pieces to encourage women to serve citrus.

We doubt if there are left-handed spoons, just those that can be used with either hand because both edges are serrated.

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Q We are in the salad-dressing business and want to collect antiques related to salads. What do you suggest?

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A The salad was a French idea, introduced at a New York restaurant in 1831. According to legend, early salads were made with cooked vegetables and either a mayonnaise-type dressing or an oil-and-vinegar French dressing.

By the 1880s, salads included lettuce and other fresh greens, as well as chicken, meat or fish. Salads were so popular that they were served in special dishes.

By 1900, most sets of dishes came with an 8-inch plate, which is now called a salad plate. There was also a large salad bowl and sometimes a cruet set for oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. A silver spoon and fork were used to serve the salad. The 1950s salad set was often a wooden bowl with matching wooden serving pieces.

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Q Do pearls come in colors or are they dyed?

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A Natural pearls come in many colors, including white, pink, black, cream, yellow and orange. There are also artificially colored pearls in shades of bronze.

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.

Current Prices

Figures are recorded from antiques shows, flea markets, sales and auctions throughout the United States. Prices vary because of local economic conditions.

* Moser glass vase, hexagonal, classical design of Amazon women, Bohemia, circa 1925, acid stamped, 6 1/4 inches, $150.

* Copper cooker, two doors, Conservo, Toledo Cooker Co., patented 1907, $220.

* Chesterfield cigarettes display board, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis in sailor outfits promoting "Sailor Beware," 1950s, 30 by 60 inches, $275.

* Tiffany iridescent gold glass toothpick holder, flared rim over 4 pinched sides, light amber with overall gold, marked "L.C.T. O 2607," 3 inches, $290.

* Splint basket, lid, white paint over oak splint rounds, tapered sides, wrapped rim and bottom, curved handle, circa 1900, Franklin Co., Va., 10 by 9 1/2 inches, $365.

* Bakelite Pygmy pin, head with smiling face, torso and legs attached by string, arms with rings, trinkets dangling from hands, swiveling bone ornament on head, 1920s, $400.

* Outer Space Moving Target Shooting Range game, mechanical key wind, Marx, 1950, $575.

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