Screens went from functional to decorative

Terry Kovel
This screen, when opened, is 60 inches high and 69 inches wide. When completely closed, it is only 23 inches wide so it can be kept in a corner. The colorful flamingos helped the price reach $28,060.

Decorative screens were being used in rooms in China by the 7th century. But they were not used in Europe until the 1500s. It wasn't until the 17th century that they became popular.

Screens originally were used to protect those nearby from the heat of a fireplace or the cold from a drafty door. Europeans found many uses - screening a bed, acting as a fake wall or hiding an unattractive view. Movies often have a scene with a star changing costumes behind a screen in the dressing room. In today's modern house, the screen can act as a giant painting exhibited in a bare corner.

Recently, Neal Auctions of New Orleans sold a three-panel Art Nouveau screen for $28,060. A picture of pink flamingos standing in blue water was painted on the front. Marie Hull (1890-1980), a well-known Southern artist, painted the birds. She is known for her pictures of birds and flowers.

Bidders must carefully read the description in an auction catalog, and check the size of the item and other details. There may be extra unexpected value features, like a picture by a famous artist, which will add to the price. Sometimes a piece may be very small or very big, but the size usually is not obvious in a catalog picture. A grandfather clock or an antique bed with a large headboard that is too tall to fit in an average room, or a teapot that holds only two cups of breakfast coffee and is not a full-sized 6- to 8-cup pot can be a disappointment you can avoid.


Q: We found an old baby cup when we moved into my parents' 1898 house. It's marked "Pairpoint Mfg. Co., Quadruple Plate, New Bedford, Mass." Can you give me any information about it?

A: The Pairpoint Manufacturing Co. started in New Bedford, Massachusetts, in 1880. It was founded to make silver-plated items to go with Mt. Washington's glassware. The company was named after Thomas J. Pairpoint, a well-known designer who left Meriden Britannia Co. to become the superintendent of the new company. Mt. Washington Glass Co. became part of Pairpoint in 1894 and the companies became the Pairpoint Corporation in 1900. Silver production stopped about 1930. The value of your silver-plated baby cup is about $15 to $20.

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Q: My mother collected and restored dolls. After she died, I found a beautiful doll wrapped up and in a dresser drawer. The doll is 18 inches tall. The back of her head is marked "Made in Germany, Armand Marseille" and the number "390." There is a label on her body, between her should blades, that says "Real Seeley Body USA." I'd like to sell the doll so someone can enjoy her. What do you think it's worth?

 A: Dolls often were made with heads from one manufacturer and bodies from another. Armand Marseille was one of the world's largest makers of bisque dolls' heads. The company was in business in Koppelsdorf, Thuringia, Germany, from 1885 until the 1950s. The words "Made in Germany" were used on goods imported into the United States beginning in 1891.

The number on the doll's head is the mold number. Seeley doll bodies are composition reproductions of antique doll bodies. Mildred Seeley founded her company in 1946. Seeley bodies are now made by New York Doll Products. Your doll has an old head and a newer body, which lowers the value for a serious collector. The large size is a plus. Armand Marseille dolls are popular and some sell for several hundred dollars. Your doll with its newer body would sell for much less.


Q: My mother-in-law presented me with a family treasure, a reverse painting on glass picturing a landscape that includes a church with a steeple. A real clock is set in the steeple but it no longer runs. The painting is about 12 inches wide by 18 inches high. Is it really very valuable? Should I try to have the clock fixed?

 A: Reverse paintings on glass come in many sizes and qualities. The pictures with clocks were popular from the 1890s to 1910. The artists were run-of-the-mill painters who painted the same picture over and over. Many were made in Germany. The painting is fragile and needs special care. The value is determined by condition. If stored in a damp or very hot or cold place, the paint will crack or peel and may be lost. Sometimes a large piece of loose paint can be saved. Often the frames have been repainted. A reverse picture with no clock is worth about $150. The clock doesn't add much more value.


Q: I have a serving bowl that says, "Iron Stone detergent proof hand-painted Japan" on the back. There's no maker's mark. Can you tell me how old it is?

 A: Ironstone china was first made in 1813 and gained its greatest popularity during the mid-nineteenth century. A clue to the age of your bowl are the words "detergent proof," which was first used about 1944. Japan was under military occupation after World War II, and pieces made between 1945 and 1952 were marked "Made in Occupied Japan." Your bowl was made after 1952.


Tip: To untie knots in ribbons, shoelaces or necklaces, sprinkle a little talcum powder on them.



Current prices are recorded from antiques shows, flea markets, sales and auctions throughout the United States. Prices vary in different locations because of local economic conditions.

WWI rations tin, bacon, "Model of 1916" embossed on lid, green paint, rounded rectangle with flip lid, c. 1910, 2 1/2 x 7 inches, $15.

Draughts and Chess game, Red Cross "services" set, plastic pieces with oilcloth board and cardboard box, P.O.W. parcel, 1940s, 13 x 13 inches, $50.

Bronze badge, Labor Day-Hawthorne Park, round with bullion work border, Pacific Regalia Mfg., c. 1920s, $110.

Skyscraper ring, sterling-silver and  marcasite with red garnet cabochon center, geometric art deco design, 1920s, Size 6, 1 inch long, $180.

Cigarette case, Mozart and Madame de Pompadour, embossed scene, silver plate with beechwood interior, c. 1905, 1 1/5 x 8 inches, $335.

Elephant toy, stands on metal frame with wooden wheels, stuffed with excelsior, original eyes and saddle, France, 1910s, 8 inches, $535.

Hat box, lacquered cardboard, brown leather color, round with flip lid, fabric lined, side latches and top handle, France, c. 1905, 10 x 18 inches, $920.

Fireplace fire back, cast iron with raised relief, maiden with a harp in a field of cattails and crescent moon in sky, c. 1890, 25 x 20 inches, $1,100.

Continental Typewriter, glass keyboard and metal body in black with wooden case, Wanderer-Werke, c. 1913, 18 x 28 inches, $1,950.

Library cabinet, wood, 120-card catalog drawers and three pull-out reference shelves, Library Bureau Makers, c. 1910, 72 x 40 inches, $4,000.


The 50th Anniversary edition of Kovels' Antiques & Collectibles Price Guide 2018 will be available for purchase on Sept. 19, 2017. The book includes a special new section containing Terry Kovels' reflections on 50 years of collecting, with prices, trends, special events and surprises. Kovels' 50th Price Guide will be available starting Sept. 19, 2017, at