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Collectors have itch for antique shaving mugs



Published: Sat, January 8, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Old-time barbershops featured an elaborate, adjustable barber's chair, bottles of shampoo or dandruff cure, bowls for powder, razors and decorated shaving mugs.

Men of means would go to the barbershop for a shave each day. But they faced the problem of contracting "barber's itch," a skin disease properly called folliculitis, in which the hair follicles become infected, red and painful. Shaving, because it might cut the skin, makes the infection possible.

So barbers kept a mug, brush and bar of soap for each customer. The mug was identified by a special symbol or picture and the client's name.

A personal shaving mug was often also used at home.

Collectors have been interested in occupational mugs since the 1930s.

Mugs can picture a train conductor, butcher, undertaker, banker or any other occupation suited to the client. The more unusual the occupation, the more valuable the shaving mug is today.

Q. My parents have a mahogany grandfather clock with the name "Jacques" engraved above the number 6 on the clock face. The inside works are labeled "Germany." The clock plays Westminster chimes on the hour and quarter-hour. How old is the clock, and what's the history of the Westminster tune?

A. Charles Jacques was a clockmaker in New York City between about 1880 and 1920. Other Jacques clocks also have imported German works. Lord Grimthorpe, who designed Big Ben for the Palace of Westminster in London, chose the tune for his clock's chimes. The tune had been composed around 1793 for Great St. Mary's Church in Cambridge, England.

Q. On or about June 3, 1945, I was one of three men in the 101st Airborne Division who explored Hitler's hideout on a mountain near Berchtesgaden, Germany. The 101st was the occupying force in that part of Germany. We climbed through an open window into the living room. Nearby was a small dining room with cupboards full of china. I took two dinner plates and mailed them home. I had the plates framed when I got home, and they have been hanging in my house ever since. The plates are white with a scalloped, gold-painted edge. The border of each is decorated with two red dragons and an abstract floral design. In the center there are two stylized red birds posed in a fighting stance. The only mark is a set of two crossed swords. Can you tell me how old the plates are and identify the maker? The design looks Chinese to me.

A. There are photographs showing Hitler and his cohorts using these dishes in the "Eagle's Nest" hideout. The dishes were manufactured at the Meissen factory in Saxony, Germany. The pattern, known as Meissen Red Dragon, has been made since the early 1700s, and was used not only by the German High Command, but also by several European royal families. Write down the story about how you came to own the plates, and be sure your family has a copy. Although no one is likely to consider your plates anything other than wartime souvenirs, you should be aware that ownership of items removed from Germany and other European countries during World War II can be legally challenged. Your plates could be worth $1,000 or more with proper documentation.

Q. I recently purchased a few box lots at auction and found four uncut cloth advertising dolls in one box. They are Aunt Jemima, Uncle Mose, Diana (holding a black doll) and Wade. All four advertise Aunt Jemima pancake flour and buckwheat flour. The company name on the cloth is Aunt Jemima Mills Co., St. Joseph, Mo. The dolls range in height from 11 1/2 inches to 18 inches. What are they worth?

A. Uncut cloth advertising dolls are sought by collectors of both dolls and advertising. Your dolls are also wanted by collectors of black memorabilia. The dolls represent Aunt Jemima, her husband and their two children. The first Aunt Jemima uncut dolls were sold in 1905 by the Davis Milling Co. The company's name was changed to Aunt Jemima Mills Co. in 1914, and the business was sold to Quaker Oats in 1925-'26. Your dolls are from one of the sets issued in 1924. Today an uncut set is worth more than $200.

Q. I read an article about antique furniture that said not to clean the grime off of old wood. What do you think?

A. Some American collectors of antique furniture have decided that a dirty finish makes their antiques look more authentic -- and helps them grow in value. European collectors don't agree, and neither do we. If a piece is valuable, don't clean it yourself, though; have an expert do it. And cleaning means cleaning -- removing built-up dirt and grease -- not refinishing. Removing the original finish decreases the value of any piece of antique furniture.

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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