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Look in Granny's Kitchen for Collectibles

May 06, 2000|RALPH KOVEL and TERRY KOVEL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Industrial design and the antiques of commerce are becoming important areas of collecting. The history of commerce and industry, lifestyles, eating habits or even methods of transportation and communication can be explained by looking at "things" of the past.

Cooking began with an open fire and eventually moved indoors to a fireplace, then to a stove. The stove was then updated with electricity or gas.

These new appliances and others gained some acceptance during the first decade of the 1900s.

Inventors gradually created such appliances as the coffee percolator (1908), toaster (1910), toaster stove (1910), electric frying pan (1911), table stove and broiler (1916), waffle iron (1918), automatic toaster (1924), mixer (1927), juicer (late 1920s), blender (1935), coffee grinder (the first home-use model, 1937), heating tray (1948) and can opener (1956).

They also created a few strange items, such as a combination lamp and grill (1925), and a perc-o-toaster (1918) to make coffee and toast. Early examples of all of these appliances are being sold to collectors.

Take another look at your grandmother's kitchen--there could be an unexpected collectible that is still being used.

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Question: How long has the Good Housekeeping Seal been used? And how did it come about?

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Answer: The editors of Good Housekeeping magazine established the Good Housekeeping Institute in 1900. It was the country's first "consumer protection" organization. Staff at the institute evaluated products before they could be advertised in the magazine.

By 1910, the institute's "tested and approved star seal" was being printed on labels of approved products, including food, toothpaste, appliances and beauty products. The seal's name and design have changed over the years, but it continues to be an aid for consumers and a marketing tool.

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Q Can you tell me anything about my toy robot? The name "Mr. Machine" is on his hat. He looks more like a walking caricature of a man than a robot. He is made of red and clear plastic. When you wind the key in his back, he walks, swings his arms and rings a bell.

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A Mr. Machine was first produced by the Ideal Toy Co. in 1960. He quickly became the world's best-selling mechanical toy. Kids could wind him up and watch him go. They could also take him apart and put him back together.

The toy was created by a freelance designer named Marvin Glass. Glass also designed several other popular toys for Ideal. Another version of Mr. Machine was made in 1977. It was marked with the year and could not be disassembled. A 1960 toy, in excellent condition but without the original box, sells for $250.

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Q Is an antique doll with a closed mouth older and worth more than a doll with an open mouth? And what does "open-closed mouth" mean?

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A The value of a 19th century doll is not determined just by the style of its mouth. Collectors tend to like open-mouth dolls because their smiles are more appealing than the somber faces of closed-mouth dolls. Bisque-head dolls with open-hole mouths that show teeth were first made in Germany and France in the early 1890s.

These dolls were more expensive to make than closed-mouth dolls. An "open-closed mouth" has molded teeth or a tongue visible between the lips. The mouth looks open, but it has no open hole--so it is actually closed.

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Q I collect cow creamers. These are cream pitchers made in the shape of a standing cow, with the cow's open mouth forming the spout, and her tail the handle. Most of my creamers were made in England and the United States after World War II. I am wondering when the first cow creamers were made.

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A The first pottery cow-shaped creamers were made in the famous Staffordshire district of England in the 1760s. Some included a calf or milkmaid on the base. The shape was based on a silver cow pitcher made by a London silversmith a decade earlier.

The silversmith, John Schuppe, had based his design on a Dutch model. Pottery cow creamers from the 18th century sell for hundreds of dollars if they're in excellent condition.

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Q What is the difference between Depression glass and Elegant glass from the same era?

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A Researchers have divided the glass with those terms for a number of reasons. Elegant glass was originally more expensive. It contains lead. The less-expensive Depression glass does not.

Both types were made during the 1930s, the years of the Great Depression. Collectors and researchers started calling the inexpensive glass Depression glass in the 1960s. The name has remained.

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.

* "California Magic With Cottage Cheese" cookbook, California Dairy Industry, 24 pages, 1956, $12.

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