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THE KOVELS \ Antiques and collecting Matches safer now than in the past



Published: Sat, February 5, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



It is always dangerous to play with matches, but today it is not as dangerous as it was in the past.

Early matches were made of flammable white phosphorous, which could light accidentally.

Not only was the unexpected flame a problem, but the fumes from the white phosphorous could actually cause tooth and jaw decay.

Safety matches were an 1855 improvement. The match was lit by rubbing the head on an abrasive strip of safer red phosphorous. They did not come into common use for many years.

Matches were usually kept in a closed container so they could not catch fire.

Everything from hand-painted porcelain to tin to elaborately decorated silver was used.

A metal pocket match holder is called a match safe.

An open container that hangs on the wall or sits on a shelf is a match holder.

Q. The original rattan seat on our old twig rocker was ruined, so we got a new seat -- but it looks too new. What can we do to age it? And what should we do to preserve the chair's old wood frame? It looks washed out.

A. Rustic furniture, including twig rockers, should not be kept outdoors. Sunlight, rain and bugs ruin it. Try simple restoration methods first. Wash down the chair with soap and water, rinse and dry. This could perk up the twig frame and make the seat look a little less new. If you're still not happy, coat the whole chair with varnish or polyurethane, either flat or satin. Or try using orange shellac. Some people like shellac because it can brighten up a dull gray finish, but it tends to appear uneven and glossy on some surfaces. Test a small area first.

Q. My neighbors and I, all in our 70s, are having a disagreement about refrigerators. I say my mother had a Philco refrigerator in the '50s. It had a large, V-shaped handle in the middle of the door and opened from either side. They all say I'm crazy. Am I?

A. You are not crazy! Philco's "Golden Automatic" refrigerator was marketed in the early 1950s. The wide-V handle could open the door from either side because both sides had specially made hinges. The Philco trademark was first used in 1919 for batteries sold by the Philadelphia Storage Battery Co. In 1928 Philco introduced its first radios. It branched out into home air conditioners and refrigerators in 1939-'40. The firm made TV sets after World War II. A 1953 Philco V-handle refrigerator with a pink interior recently sold for $4,800.

Q. In the early 1930s I was given a Mickey Mouse china plate. It is white with a glossy glaze and a central picture of Mickey Mouse playing a guitar. Around the raised border there are five smaller pictures -- one of Mickey, two of Minnie blowing a horn and two of a black cat. The stamped mark on the back is: "Mickey Mouse China, authorized by Walter E. Disney, Made in Bavaria."

A. Schumann Bros. of New York City imported your plate and other children's dishes like it from Bavaria, Germany, between 1932 and 1934. George Borgfelt, another American importer and a major Disney license holder in the 1930s, might have sold Schumann Bros. a sublicense for these early Disney dishes. Schumann marketed the dishes -- including tea sets, cereal bowls, cups and saucers, mugs, plates, candy dishes and vases -- to department stores and movie-theater chains. Today your plate sells for $275 or more.

Q. A friend whose husband owned an antiques shop gave me two 8-inch glass car vases that she says were made for a Rolls-Royce. The vases are clear with dark-green edges and are shaped like long-necked lilies. What are they worth?

A. Car vases, designed to sit in circular metal holders mounted in the car's interior, were manufactured by many glass companies in the United States and Europe. They were used in all kinds of makes and models of cars -- not just Rolls-Royces -- from about 1910 into the 1940s. Because so many were made, most sell today for $10 to $40 each.

Tip

Samplers stitched with silk are usually more valuable than those stitched with wool. Alphabets and pictures are more popular with buyers than religious messages.

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; 2005 by Cowles Syndicate Inc.




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