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By Any Other Name in England

May 13, 2000|RALPH KOVEL and TERRY KOVEL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

People who live in England and those who live in the United States often have different names for the same thing. Most Americans know that in England an elevator is called a lift. How many know that a davenport in England is not a sofa, but a desk?

If you use the Internet to bid on an overseas auction or you do research with books written in Europe, you must know some of the differences. Silver plate in England is solid sterling silver and not white metal or copper covered with a thin layer of silver. A four-post bed is sometimes called a tester in England, as it always has a top, or a tester, attached to the four posts. Most Americans think that a tester is not a bed, but the cloth or netting draped on the posts.

An English night table always held a chamber pot. A canterbury is a music or magazine holder. One confusing term is "loo table." Loo is a card game that was popular in England in the 18th and 19th centuries. It was played on a round or oval table.

The table was usually made so the top could be flipped to be parallel with the wall. That meant it could be stored against a wall and would take up little space. The top was often decorated because it was so often kept in the tilted position.

In the United States, this form is called a "center table" or "flip-top table." The name "loo table" might have misled some people because "loo" in England is also the name for a lavatory.

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Question: I was in Mexico a month ago and bought a very pretty belt made of what the shopkeeper called "alpaca silver." The belt looks like shiny silver, but it is inexpensive and does not tarnish.

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Answer: We have heard that term. Mexican sterling silver is expensive. Real sterling silver and silver plate tarnish. We suspect that what the Mexican dealers call alpaca silver is actually an inexpensive metal plated with nickel.

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Q I have an old cast-iron doorstop that's shaped like a Boston terrier.

It is 9 inches tall. The black-and-white dog is standing on four legs, with his head looking over his right leg. Can you tell me when it was made and what it's worth?

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A Original Boston terrier doorstops were made from the 1920s through the late '40s. Hubley Manufacturing Co. of Lancaster, Pa., and National Foundry of Whitman, Mass., were among the manufacturers.

Most doorstop designs were not patented.

Different companies felt free to copy each other. Modern reproductions of your doorstop are still being made. If your doorstop is original, it is worth $100 to $200, depending on the condition.

A Boston terrier looking to the left is a rare variation and is worth more.

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.

* Clarabelle Cow book, story of Clarabelle Cow, with adventures of Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse, Whitman Publishing, 1938, 94 pages, 5 by 5 1/2 inches, $50.

* Hand-woven wool blanket, 2 panels of orange-and-blue checkerboard, 1850, 85 by 81 inches, $110.

* Postcards, days of the week, depicting mama bear and baby bear doing weekly chores (washing, ironing, sewing, baking, sweeping), visiting and church on Sundays, c. 1907 by Wm. S. Heal, New York, $125.

* Handwerck doll, No. 99, bisque socket head, sleep eyes, open mouth, 4 teeth, c. 1900, 22 inches, $910.

* Lladro figurine, Adoring Mother, No. 2235, 13 1/4 inches, $400.

* "Alice In Wonderland" movie cel, Alice swings a paintbrush brimming with red paint, 1951, 10 by 12 inches, $1,610.

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QI recently discovered my old Thumbelina doll in my parents' attic. I remember receiving it the first year it was made. I am hoping you can tell me what year it was made and what it is worth today.

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A Thumbelina was introduced by Ideal in 1961. She came in a 16- or 20-inch size. She has a vinyl head and limbs, and her cloth body has a mechanism inside. If you wind the knob on her back, she wriggles like a real baby. She was very popular, so Ideal made several variations and sizes during the next three decades. If your doll is in excellent condition, she would sell for about $150.

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Question: I know that mah jong is an ancient Chinese game, but I have two mah jong sets that belonged to my grandmother, and the instructions are in English. When did it become popular in the United States?

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Answer: Mah jong became the game of choice for women in America in the 1920s. It replaced many card games. The game was introduced by a Standard Oil Co. representative who learned the Chinese game. In 1920, he imported some sets that were made for Americans. The tiles had letters and numbers, as well as the Chinese symbols, and the rules were in English.

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