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Check Out What Makes It Tick

March 11, 2000|RALPH KOVEL and TERRY KOVEL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Some collectors feel that a ticking clock is the heart of a home. The grandfather clock has long been a favorite, and it is still being made.

The traditional grandfather (or tall case) clock became familiar in this country in the 18th century. The design was determined by the works. A long pendulum hung down and swung back and forth, keeping the hands of the clock moving.

About 1850, less expensive, mass-produced grandfather clocks were made. Many had inexpensive wooden works instead of the early brass works. The shelf clock could not be made until the invention of the small spring-wound movement.

When buying an antique grandfather clock, always examine it and ask questions. Prices can vary from $1,000 to more than $35,000.

Does the clock have its original dial, glass and wooden parts? Is all the decorative trim in place? Did the case and the works start life together or are they "married"? Look for holes in the case that don't seem to belong. Early clocks were often taller than 8 feet, which is the height of an average ceiling. Have finials or feet been removed to make it shorter? This can lower the value.

Refinishing, repainting dials or other alterations that change the original look can also lower the value.

Features that add value are chimes or extra moving parts, like rocking boats, dials for phases of the moon or calendars. Extra decorations, such as scenes painted on the dial, also add to the value. A maker's label is very valuable. Study many clocks before you buy. The grandfather clock is very often an heirloom passed on to future generations.

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Question: My mother is cleaning out her house before selling it. She still has some of my childhood books on her shelves. There are about 10 different Little Golden Books, which I know are still sold new at bookstores. Are the old ones worth anything?

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Answer: Little Golden Books were first published in 1942. Any near-mint copy of the first 35 titles published between 1942 and 1947 is worth $20 to $30. The early editions had blue spines and dust jackets. If your mother has the dust jackets, double the value of each book. If your books are the 1950s or '60s reissues of the early books, they are not valuable.

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Q My husband just bought an English pottery bowl-and-pitcher set. Both pieces have bright-green bases and are decorated with a multicolored hunt scene. They are marked "Palissy" inside a crest above the word "England." Can you date the set for us?

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A The mark you describe was used from about 1908 to 1936 by A.E. Jones & Co. and its successor, Albert E. Jones Ltd. The company made earthenwares at the Palissy Pottery in Longton, Staffordshire, England, beginning in 1905. The firm's name changed to Palissy Pottery Ltd. in 1946. The mark on your pitcher and bowl was used again, but it was combined with other factory marks. The company took its name from a man named Bernard Palissy who made French majolica in the 16th century.

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Q I have a copper-and-glass sign with gold and silver lettering. It is advertising the N. Thomas Brewing Co. of Dayton, Ohio. The sign is 29 inches in diameter. Can you tell me anything about its history?

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A The Thomas Brewing Co. was in Dayton from 1880 to 1893. The company changed its name to the N. Thomas Hydraulic Brewery from 1893 to 1906, and it was later changed to Dayton Breweries. An early glass beer sign like yours, that dates before 1893 would be worth more than $1,000.

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Q I have a blue-and-white coverlet. My great-grandmother's name, the date 1843 and a lion are woven in the corner. It has a border of trees growing near a fence. Can you tell me about where it was made?

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A The lion mark was used by Harry Tyler (circa 1801-1858) until 1845, when he started using an American eagle. He lived in Butterfield, N.Y. He was a weaver who made his own looms and designs for coverlets and ingrain carpets.

Many weavers used symbols instead of their names and initials. Your coverlet is worth more than $1,000 if it's in good condition. Family history always adds to the value. Be sure to write it down and keep it with the coverlet.

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Q I have a piece of robin's-egg-blue milk glass that is marked with a paper label that reads, "France P.V."

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A The "P.V." mark was used by Vallerysthal Glassworks of France. They had one glassworks in Vallerysthal and another in Portieux. They exported milk glass in several colors from about 1870 to 1918, when the factory was destroyed. They made butter dishes sugars and creamers, covered dishes with animal covers, candlesticks and vases. Old pieces can be found at antique shows. Many reproductions of the old patterns have been made since the 1970s.

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

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

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