THE KOVELS | Antiques and collecting Refinishing furniture will reduce its value



If you refinish your antique furniture, you will lower its value.
Museums and serious collectors want pieces in their original condition.
Antique wooden chests that have been stripped and refinished, bedroom sets that were painted and then repainted when the original finish was worn and dirty, even 20th-century plastic chairs that have been buffed have less value than those in original condition.
The well-to-do Victorian housewife had her furniture polished, touched up or refinished regularly to keep it looking like new. The hardware was sometimes replaced to "update" the look. Legs on Victorian pedestal tables were often cut to make low coffee tables in the 1950s.
Today, even peeling paint showing wear is selling better than newly repainted pieces.
But what about upholstery?
Most chairs and sofas from Victorian times were used until the fabric was worn or torn, then were re-covered and used for more years.
Keep original fabric
Original upholstery is not often found in good condition.
Museums now want authentic fabrics and trim, and will even make expensive repairs to worn fabrics.
The original upholstery, if unusual, can raise the price when a chair is offered for sale.
A typical chair by Hunzinger with original needlework upholstery sold at a July auction for $1,035.
It must have been bought to admire, not to use every day.
Q. Since the early 1940s, my grandmother had a glass cane hanging on her wall. It is green but sometimes looks burgundy when the light changes. There are no marks on it, and I have not been able to learn any history. When were these canes made?
A. Glass canes have been made by glassworkers since the mid-1800s. Factory owners allowed workers to make their own small pieces, called whimsies, during off hours or from glass batches that were considered inferior. The workers made a variety of items -- canes, chains, bowls, rolling pins -- that they kept for their own use or sold to their neighbors. Glass canes are also called parade canes because workers often carried them in their union's Labor Day parade. Unless the family of a glassworker has saved a cane and knows its history, it is impossible to guess a cane's age or factory origin.
Q. I have a tiny boxing glove, about 4 inches long, and a souvenir card that came with it. The card reads "Official Souvenir, Sept. 3, 1906, Goldfield, Nev., Nelson-Gans Championship Contest." There's a round photograph of Nelson on the card. Did this fight really happen?
A. The fight, for the lightweight world title (weight limit 135 pounds), really did happen. It was held on Labor Day, went 42 rounds and took in a record $69,715 at the gate. Joe Gans (1874-1910) was the first native-born black American to win a world title. He had started boxing professionally in 1891 in Baltimore, his hometown, and was the lightweight world champion from 1902 to 1904. He fought Oscar "Battling" Nelson (1882-1954), the reigning lightweight champ, in 1906 to regain the title. At the time, black and white fighters did not often face each other in the ring, and Gans was offered only one-third of the purse. Nelson landed a low blow to end the fight. The referee called the punch a foul and declared Gans the winner. Your souvenir is rare and would probably be of interest to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, N.Y.
Q. We were given a 15-inch-high figurine of a nude girl riding a bucking horse. We weren't fond of it and displayed it in a less-than-prominent place in our house. A visitor was shocked at our lack of appreciation for the piece and said, "This is the most valuable art in your home." The bottom of the piece is marked with a crown above the letter "W" and the year 1764. There's also a sticker that reads "Made in Germany (East)." Was our visitor right?
A. That depends on your art collection. Today your figurine would sell for about $500. The mark you describe was used by the VEB Wallendorf Porcelain Factory of Wallendorf, East Germany, starting in 1964. It is still being used today, 13 years after Germany reunited and the factory was privatized.
Factories in the German Democratic Republic (the formal name for the former East Germany) did not label their products with stickers reading "East Germany." The sticker was probably attached by someone who owned it before you. Your figurine is one of several designed by artist Kurt Steiner between the two World Wars.
The Wallendorf factory, founded in 1763-64, was nationalized in 1953. It continued to produce Steiner figurines.
Meanwhile, Heinz Schaubach, who had owned the factory, settled in West Germany and gave permission to his friend, Franz Goebel, to produce the Steiner figurines. So the same figurines made in East Germany were also made by the Goebel Porcelain Factory in Bavaria. Goebel stopped making the figurines in 1970, the year Schaubach died. The Goebel figurines are stamped with the "Bee over V" Goebel mark above the word "Schaubachkunst."
Tip
Silver salt shakers should be emptied after every use or lined with gold plating to avoid corrosion.
XThe Kovels answer as many questions as possible through the column. By sending a letter with a question, you give full permission for its use in the column or any other Kovel forum. Names and addresses will not be published. We cannot guarantee the return of any photograph, but if a stamped envelope is included, we will try. The volume of mail makes personal answers or appraisals impossible. Write to Kovels, The Vindicator, King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019.
& copy; 2003, Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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