Monday, December 15, 2003
The Victorian dining room was a room clearly dedicated to the art of dining. No informal potluck suppers, buffets or dinners would have been considered.
The meal was a many-course feast, with proper silverware, dishes and serving pieces for each type of food. The furnishings emphasized the function of the room.
Paintings of recently slain animals hung on walls alongside still lifes of food, including fruits of all kinds or even ingredients and pots waiting to be used. A huge sideboard or serving piece dominated one wall. Three-dimensional carvings of deer, birds and fish decorated the pieces. Sometimes the shelves were held up by carved dogs or hunters.
Although dining-room furniture could have been used to store wine, linens or dishes, there were not very many cabinets or drawers in these large pieces. It was as if the sideboard was made to glorify dining, not to be useful.
There were few buyers for these large Victorian pieces until about 15 years ago, when they became popular for use in large houses or restaurants.
In August, a rare walnut Victorian server by Alexander Roux of New York sold for $189,750 -- the highest price ever paid for a piece of Victorian furniture. The server, 49 1/4 inches high by 48 1/2 inches wide, was supported by two life-size carvings of dogs. Fruit, flowers, a frog, deer, grapes and other carvings were also part of the decoration.
Q. My wife's father gave her a painted and stuffed cloth doll around 1933. The doll is 27 inches tall by about 2 inches thick. On its back, the doll is marked "Uncle Walt" and "King." Please give me some information.
A. Uncle Walt was a character in the long-running and well-loved comic strip "Gasoline Alley." Walt was a bachelor who adopted a foundling child named Skeezix. Frank King introduced the strip in 1919 and drew it until he died in 1969. Other artists continued the strip with new characters. Comics- and sports-character collectibles became popular during the 1920s and '30s. Value depends on several factors, including condition, rarity and the familiarity and fame of the character. Mickey Mouse, for instance, would be more valuable than Uncle Walt.
Q. I have been collecting small pink china pig figurines. One is a pig in a shoe, another a pig with a rabbit, another a pig in a bathtub. Although the pigs are pink, most of the rest of each figurine is green. The largest is 4 inches tall. Some are marked "Germany." What do they represent, and when were they made?
A. Most pig figurines like yours were made in Germany, although most are unmarked. They were inexpensive souvenirs, manufactured from about 1890 to the 1930s. Pork was a favored food, and pigs were a symbol of good fortune. The pigs were always in humorous situations. Some are marked "Germany" or "Made in Germany," either incised or stamped in black. The most expensive figurines feature several pigs in one piece. At least 300 different pink pig figurines are known. There are figurines with white pigs, but they sell for less.
Q. I see that you list credit cards in your book "Kovels' Antiques and Collectibles Price List." When was the first one issued? Was it plastic?
A. We started listing credit cards in our annual price book in 1991. Gas stations were issuing metal "charge-a-plates" by the 1930s, and department stores soon did the same. Most of them required that the monthly bill be paid in full. Wanamaker's, a department store, started offering "revolving" credit by the late 1930s, and Franklin National Bank issued the first bank revolving charge card in 1951. Collectors look for early department-store and gas-company cards. The early paper cards issued by American Express and Diner's Club in the 1950s are also in demand. A paperboard American Express card that expired in 1959 recently sold for $530.
Q. I have quite a few dishes marked "Winfield China." One is a shallow bowl that's bright Chinese red on the outside and beige on the inside. Another is pale blue with white bamboo decorations.
A. A studio and clay-working school called Winfield Pottery was founded in Pasadena, Calif., in 1929. The founder, Lesley Winfield Sample, died in 1939, and the pottery was taken over by Margaret M. Gabriel and her husband. (Margaret had designed the hand-painted Bamboo pattern in 1937.) Winfield Pottery was overwhelmed with orders for dinnerware after World War II, so in 1946 it licensed the name "Winfield" and 450 of its molds to American Ceramic Products Co. of Santa Monica, Calif. From 1946 to 1962 -- when it closed -- Winfield Pottery marked its wares "Gabriel -- Pasadena." Any dish marked "Winfield China" was manufactured by American Ceramic Products, not by Winfield Pottery. American Ceramic Products became Winfield China Co. in 1959. It was out of business by 1969.
Be careful when you're removing a light bulb from an old lamp with a glass shade. Tiffany lily-shaped shades and other similar lampshades are made so that the shade is held in place by a screw-in bulb.
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