Christopher Dresser was a pioneer modern designer working in England in the late 19th century. He created unusual forms and decorations that were "cutting edge" for the day.
From 1879 to 1882, he originated 37 radical designs for silver and silver plate made by James Dixon and Sons. Dresser had been in Japan, and his designs reflecting Asian ideas included a geometric teapot shaped like a cube, another like a disk and another like a box with a square hole in the center.
All of the pots had ebony or ebonized wood and silver handles made of straight pieces -- no curves. Dresser also designed for more than 50 manufacturers, making ceramics, textiles, furniture, wallpaper, glass and metalwork. Today his designs are collected by museums as well as those who appreciate originality.
Q. I bought a small corner table at a garage sale about 25 years ago. If you pull on the curved apron, you actually pull out a small chair that's attached to one corner of the table. The label on the bottom reads "Superior Table, 9100C, 1951." What can you tell me about it?
A. Your small convertible table-desk was made in 1951 by the Superior Furniture Co. of Lowell, Mich. The firm was founded in 1936 by William S. Lee. It's still in business and is owned by the same family. During its first decades, Superior manufactured solid cherry tables of all kinds in 18th-century revival styles. Since then, the company has expanded its lines and uses various woods to produce various styles and designs.
Q. My husband has had a round Mickey Mouse belt buckle since he was a child. It's 21/2 inches in diameter, with an embossed Mickey holding a paintbrush. Above him are the embossed words "Mickey Mouse, 1937, Hollywood, Cal., U.S.A." Can you tell me what it's worth?
A. It's worth very little, because it's one of two well-known Mickey Mouse belt-buckle fakes manufactured in large quantities during the 1970s. No buckle like it was ever authorized or licensed by Disney, in 1937 or any other year. The other fake that often turns up is a rectangular buckle showing Mickey peering through a telescope.
Q. My brother, born in 1919, got a set of children's dishes from our grandparents when he was a baby. The set includes a cup and saucer, bowl and two plates -- one 7 inches, and the other 81/4 inches in diameter. The dishes are in excellent condition. What's unusual about them is that they are decorated with colored pictures of children playing war games with toy rifles and artillery. The mark on the bottom of the plate is the word "Bavaria" below what appears to be a pottery bowl with the word "Thomas" on the front. Can you tell us anything about the dishes?
A. Your brother's dishes were manufactured by Thomas & amp; Co. Porcelain Factory, founded in Bayreuth, Bavaria, Germany, in 1920. It later moved to Selb, then to Sophienthal, Germany. The Thomas factory was acquired by Philip Rosenthal & amp; Co. in 1928, but the Thomas trademark continued to be used. The mark on your brother's set indicates that the dishes were made between 1920 and 1928. The decoration on your dishes is unusual and increases their value. The set, without flaws, could sell for about $200.
Q. My husband has about 40 round metal baseball cards that he thinks he collected in the 1940s. Each is 11/2 inches in diameter and has a color photo of a player on one side and his name and statistics on the other. One of the players he has is Rich Rollins. There is other printing on the back of the card that says "Packed in Salada tea and Junket brand desserts." Can you tell me what the metal cards are worth?
A. Baseball collectors call your husband's cards Salada Tea Coins or Salada-Junket Dessert Coins. Find a magnifying glass and look at the tiny words on the back of the coin. You'll see that the statistics are from the 1962 season. Rich Rollins played for the Minnesota Twins from 1961 to 1968. There were 63 coins in the 1963 Salada set. Most of the coins, including Rollins, retail today for $5 to $10. But a few famous players sell for a lot more. Mickey Mantle retails for $120, Willie Mays or Roberto Clemente for $80 and Hank Aaron for $60. Take an inventory of what your husband has, and check the condition of each coin. Condition plays a big part in pricing these collectibles.
Q. I inherited a small, brass-plated jackknife with one blade at each end. The handle is embossed on one side with the names and inauguration years of all the U.S. presidents through Hayes. The other side is embossed with a bust of Woodrow Wilson and the names and terms of the presidents from Garfield through Wilson. We collect antique watches, but have no idea what this knife is worth.
A. Your jackknife is a political collectible made to honor Wilson's 1912 election victory. The knife was manufactured in Germany and sells today for about $50. Jackknives have been made as political souvenirs since at least 1900. Early examples have brass shells, like yours, or celluloid handles.
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