Collecting is fun, and there are many humorous antiques and collectibles.
One category that has attracted attention is salt and pepper shakers. They are inexpensive and amusing, and most cost from a few dollars to $50. Collectors can search for a single kind or for any that are attractive.
Many collectors like vegetable-shaped shakers. Some want only vegetables that are realistic; others want those that look like vegetable people.
Some collectors specialize in souvenir shakers that include the name of a place or perhaps are in the shape of a state.
Some want & quot;huggers, & quot; shakers that are a pair of related figures with outstretched arms so that they appear to hug each other.
In the past few years, very inexpensive plastic shakers have become more popular. Sets like a mixer and an electric coffeepot, or a toaster and a piece of bread are sought-after.
Shakers in special holders are also popular -- a bowl holding fruit, with a peach and a pear as the salt and pepper, or a stand holding two bunches of grapes.
Sometimes the holder is metal or a composition material that would not be used for the salt and pepper containers.
One unusual holder that looks very much like a toy is a fuzzy plastic animal.
Start a collection that reflects your interests.
Shakers are still inexpensive and don't require much room.
Q. I have a tall secretary/bookcase that a friend calls a & quot;cylinder secretary. & quot; I guess that's because the small, built-in desk has a cylinder-shaped roll top.
The front of the piece is black walnut, and the sides are poplar. A tag behind the crown reads "Eyer, Rockford Union Furniture, Rockford, Ill. & quot; Can you tell me history and value?
A. The Union Furniture Co. was formed in Rockford in 1876 and worked at least until the Depression. It was a cooperative made up of Swedish furniture makers who had settled in the town.
The company was run by Pehr A. Peterson (c. 1846-1927), who became something of a legend in Rockford. He rebuilt the Union Furniture Co. after it burned down in 1889, knew all his employees by name, never drove a car, adopted two homeless children and left a good portion of his estate to charity.
Your cylinder secretary, if in excellent condition, could sell for more than $2,000.
Q. My Mickey and Minnie Mouse porcelain figurines are 5 inches tall and have old-style & quot;pie & quot; eyes. My grandparents bought the figurines at the 1933 Chicago World's Fair. Minnie is wearing a red polka-dot skirt, yellow shoes and a yellow cap. Mickey is dressed in red shorts with white buttons and darker-red shoes. Both are posed with their hands on their hips. Each figure is marked with the character's name on the front and with the words & quot;Made in Japan & quot; on the back.
A. Between 1931 and 1941, George Borgfeldt Corp., a New York importer, sold hundreds of sizes and styles of bisque Disney characters. These figures were made from a clay that was fired once and then painted. They were not refired, so the paint has tended to chip and wear through the years. Check the bottoms of your figurines. They should be incised with a Disney copyright notice and a number: A116 for Mickey, and A117 for Minnie. If your figures are in excellent condition, with their original paint and long tails, they would sell for more than $100 apiece.
Q. My family owns a large, old wooden trunk with a rounded top. It has decorative metal trim. The trunk once held letters an ancestor wrote during the American Revolution. The ancestor emigrated from Ireland about 1750. An old, torn tag inside the trunk reads & quot;Zinc Saratoga, manufactured by Seward & amp; Munt, Petersburg. & quot; Can you date the trunk for us?
A. Large, dome-top trunks like yours became popular at the end of the 1870s. The trunks were called & quot;Saratoga trunks & quot; because they were used by wealthy tourists who visited the spas and racetrack in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. The company that manufactured your trunk was founded by Simon Seward in Petersburg, Va., in 1878. Your trunk was probably made shortly after that date.
Even though your trunk does not date from the time of the American Revolution, if it is in excellent condition, it could sell for $300 or more.
Q. My husband inherited a set of silver flatware around 1958. The handles are mother-of-pearl. The ornate knife blades are carved with flowers and leaves. A plaque on the lid of the set's case reads & quot;Mermod Jaccard & amp; Co., St. Louis. & quot; Can you tell us how old the set is?
A. Mermod Jaccard & amp; Co. was a St. Louis retail jewelry store that also sold silver. The company dates to about 1845.
Mermod Jaccard silver was made by various silver manufacturers, but the store marked pieces with its own name.
The firm became Mermod, Jaccard & amp; King in 1905, so your set was made before 1905.
If a piece of paper becomes stuck to the finish of a dresser top, try this: Soak the paper with mineral oil. Let it sit a few hours, then rub it with a rough cloth.
Repeat until the paper is removed.
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