Antiques and collectibles are sometimes used today in ways unrelated to their original purpose. In the 1950s, when "Early American" style first became fashionable, many decorators made lamps from butter churns, magazine racks from cranberry scoops and coffee tables from cobblers' benches.
No one thought it odd the living room was filled with tools.
When the "country look" came into fashion in the 1980s, no one was surprised to find chicken coops, pickle crocks and pitchforks in a living room. In the 1990s, the informal look often included old advertising signs, boxes and bins from country stores. Even benches from shoe stores or baseball stadiums were incorporated.
If you like the look, think imaginatively at old furnishings and try to find a new use for an old product. Do not refinish or remodel antiques. You could destroy the resale value. Try to learn the history of your collectibles.
A painted Poll Parrot bench sold recently. The company history helped determine the age. The International Shoe Co. started using the brand name in 1922. Mr. Paul Parrot owned a shoe store and kept a pet parrot in the store. This inspired the name Poll Parrot for a brand of shoes that was advertised nationally.
Question: My mother collected old glass bottles and jars. One of my favorites is a blue glass, bell-shaped bank about 4 1/4 inches tall and embossed with "1776 Liberty." There's also an embossed "crack," making it even clearer that the bell is a Liberty Bell souvenir of some type. The slotted screw cap on the bottom is embossed "Robinson & Loeble, 723 Wharton St., Phila, Pa."
Answer: Many people mistakenly think the glass Liberty Bell banks like your mother's were souvenirs made for the U.S. Centennial Exhibition, held in Philadelphia in 1876. The bank was actually patented and manufactured about a decade later. It was made for Robinson & Loeble, a manufacturer and wholesaler of preserves, mincemeat and fruit butters that worked during the 1880s.
Q: My grandparents left my mother two shoe boxes full of small paper cards that must be about 100 years old. There are postcards, greeting cards, religious cards and cards that advertise a product. Some double as greeting cards. For instance, there's a postcard that reads "Happy Birthday" on the front. Do people collect old cards like these?
A: All of your grandparents' paper ephemera are collectible. Sort the cards. Collectors are especially fond of old advertising cards that picture unusual or still-famous products, elaborate old greeting cards and postcards that picture famous locations or events.
After sorting the cards and arranging them by holiday or product, you can consult a price book for values or talk to a local dealer. Some of the best cards in your collection could sell for $20 or more.
Q: My mother's expandable side table was originally purchased in New England. There's a label on the bottom that reads "Made by Fine Arts Furniture Co., Grand Rapids." Can you tell us when the table was made?
A: The Fine Arts Furniture Co. worked in Grand Rapids, Mich., from 1925 to 1977. The company made chairs and occasional tables.
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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Figures are recorded from antiques shows, flea markets, sales and auctions throughout the United States. Prices vary because of local economic conditions.
* Eegee cowgirl doll, sleep eyes, soft-molded head, hard-plastic body, blue denim suit, red felt hat, cap gun with holster, marked "Eegee," 1966, 20 inches, $60.
* Tin lithograph shoehorn, "Red Raven Splits--World's Fair 1904," red, green and white, 4 1/2 inches, $85.
* Dover eggbeater, plated, "Dover eggbeater, Pat'd May 6, 1873, Apr. 3, 1888, Nov. 24, 1891" on wheel, "Dover Stamping Co." on back of handle, 9 1/4 inches, $75.
* Howdy Doody wristwatch, Howdy's face, red hair and freckles, green-and-tan band, Patent Watch Co., 1954, 1 inch, $110.
* Sterling-silver flatware punch ladle, Francis I pattern, Reed & Barton, 1907, 12 inches, $400.
* Jewelry, ballerina pin, green rhinestones, gilt sterling, stamped "Eisenberg," 3 1/2 inches, $735.
* Sampler, Happy Man, Tree of Life, Adam and Eve, 1846, silk on linen, 27 by 24 inches, $1,300.
* George III mahogany and embroidered needlework fire screen, urn shape, adjustable shield-shaped panel, down swept legs, spade feet, 1790-1810, 4 feet 8 inches, $2,500.