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THE KOVELS \ Antiques and collecting Many a child played with toys by Crandall



Published: Sat, February 19, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The name Crandall is associated with many early wooden toys.

The company made horses, sleds, velocipedes and many other toys in the 19th century.

It became more famous for its wooden blocks. Some had designs of letters, while others had figures in costume.

They also made building blocks.

Wooden figures of animals and people were made to set up a small scene.

By the 1870s, Crandall was making games and puzzles.

All Crandall toys are collected. Most of them are made of wood with colored lithographed paper glued to the wood.

One unusual toy is the Hero of '76. It is a figure of George Washington on a horse. The toy is made of wood with metal rivets at the knees, ankles and wrists.

Q. According to a story my grandmother told me, in 1881 a bunch of stuff stored in the basement of the White House was taken across the street to the War and Navy Building. A sale was held, and my great-great-uncle bought a couple of items, including Lincoln's field desk. We have no paperwork from the sale and wondered if there is any way we can prove that it was Lincoln's desk.

A. Verifying the sale date and what was sold might be possible if you do some research at the National Archives. The building where you were told the sale was held was called the State, War and Navy Building in 1881. Today it's known as the Old Executive Office Building. It is highly unlikely that what you have is a field desk actually used by Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. But if it was used by any Union commander during the war, it will still be valuable. You should contact the various Civil War and Lincoln museums and historical associations, and also have an expert in your area take a look at the desk.

Q. My unusual glass decanter looks like four bottles joined together to form one bottle. The top has four separate spouts, each with a cork-and-glass stopper. Friends gave it to me 30 years ago. The words "Made in France" are embossed on the bottom.

A. The four-section form of your decanter is not as unusual in France as it is here. Yours, embossed with English words, was made for export. Each compartment is meant to hold a different liqueur, each a different color. Some four-part decanters have a label on each compartment. One decanter we have seen has labels that read "Apricot Brandy," "Kummel," "Curacao" and "Cr & egrave;me de Menthe."

Q. When I was a kid in the late 1960s, I collected a series of small, plastic figures of the U.S. presidents. I remember buying some of them at my local grocery store. The figurines are finely detailed and multicolored, and each one stands on a gold-colored base. I still have my collection and the Styrofoam display stand that came with the set. But I have only 25 of the presidents and would like to find the rest. How do I go about doing that?

A. Your molded-plastic figures were made by Louis Marx & amp; Co., one of America's most famous toy-makers. The last president in your series was Lyndon Johnson, the 35th president. (Marx also made a Hubert Humphrey figure, anticipating the results of the 1968 election, but Richard Nixon won.) Another 1960s Marx set came with 35 presidents molded in gold-colored plastic. More than a decade earlier, in 1954-55, Marx had marketed its first series of American presidents. Those figures, molded totally in white or off-white, came in different sizes -- and, of course, the sets included the presidents only up to Eisenhower. Some were sold with paint kits. You can probably complete your set by searching online auctions and sales. Try searching for "Marx U.S. presidents" or "Marx president." If that doesn't work, use "Marx" and the name of the president you're looking for. Part of the fun is the hunt.

Q. Should I save the old, colorful paper napkins and tablecloths I found in my great-aunt's closet? They're all in their original plastic wrap. I can't imagine why she bought them but didn't use them. Some are decorated with Christmas trees or valentines. Others have pictures of Mexican scenes or famous landmarks.

A. Don't throw any away. Unused paper products, particularly those decorated with holiday pictures, unusual scenes or famous places, are growing in popularity and price. Disposable party goods were introduced in the early 1900s, and also included decoration kits, crepe paper, game ideas and instruction booklets. Companies that made these products included Dennison, Kitchenette, C.A. Reed and Hostess. Collectors pay a premium for early Disney items as well as for Christmas or Halloween designs. Prices for a package of napkins can run up to $10; a tablecloth is worth more.

Tip

Don't heat food on a cracked plate in either an oven or a microwave. The crack might widen.

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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