Folk art collectors set their own rules on what's good or bad

Terry Kovel
  Is this chair art? Collectors answer that type of question every time they go antiquing. Clever, unfamiliar designs are becoming more desirable and more expensive. This folk-art chair of no special design period sold for $968.

It is sometimes the unique collectible at a show or sale that is a "must have" for an unsuspecting collector. Folk-art collectors often see "one-offs" that are too expensive, too large or too outrageous to fit into the house.

Recently, James Julia auctions had a "Late 19th-century American ... unique spool art chair." It was too big, too unfamiliar, too gaudy and too uncomfortable-looking for most collectors. It was made of padded upholstered panels joined to make arms, a seat and a back. The frame was made with spool-turned legs, and other parts of the frame looked like real spools. There was more - the chair featured gilt metal scrolling, cast metal serpents and brass rosettes, and its back was 53 inches high.

It sold for $968. Folk-art collecting started in the 20th century, and there are few rules about what is considered "good" or "bad." Collectors are writing these rules with their purchases.
Q: When were typewriters invented? I know mine is very old. It is an AARoyal Quiet Deluxe, and it was bought by a relative in the 1940s to use at college.
A: Your typewriter is not very old to a collector. The first commercial typewriter in the United States was the Sholes & Glidden typewriter, which was made by E. Remington & Sons in 1874. It typed only uppercase letters. Hundreds of different types of typewriters were made, and there were many that were very different in appearance and how they worked. The earliest ones did not have the letters in the order used today (known as the QWERTY keyboard). Your typewriter was popular in the 1940s and would sell today for about $25. Unusual-looking, older typewriters can sell for thousands of dollars if they're in good condition with the original decoration. About 10 years ago, a new group of typewriter collectors started buying working machines. They wanted to use them instead of a computer or electric typewriter. Those who learned to type on the old machines with a bell, typing sounds and the noise of the return couldn't get used to the new improved machines. So there now are clubs, social events, type-ins, writing parties and even a typewriter orchestra. And there is even a book and a movie about the typewriter revolution.
Q: What is the value of a ticket with Amelia Earhart's signature on it? The ticket was for the dedication of the Canastota Municipal Airport in Canastota, New York, on Aug. 28, 1928. We lived a few miles from there and my parents gave me the ticket.
A: Amelia Earhart was born in Atchison, Kansas, in 1897. She took her first flying lesson in 1921 and bought her first plane later that year. In 1932, she became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, were attempting to fly around the world in 1937 when their plane was lost. The plane is believed to have crashed on an island in the Pacific Ocean, but the wreckage has never been found. The value of an autograph depends on the importance of the person who signed it, its rarity and what it's on. Signatures on important documents or letters are worth more than an autograph by itself. The dedication of the airport may add some interest. The autograph, not a photograph of it, must be seen by an expert to authenticate it. You should contact an auction house or gallery that holds sales of autographs to see what it is worth.
Q: We came across several pieces of china made by Bauscher when my mother died. One is marked "The Vienna, Model Bakery-Restaurant" and one is marked "Arthur Schiller and Son, Chicago, 1921," Can you tell us the history and value of this china?
A: Bauscher was founded by brothers August and Conrad Bauscher in Weiden, Germany, in 1881. The company still is in business, now part of BHS tabletop AG, with branches in over 50 countries. The company makes chinaware for hotels, restaurants, hospitals and care facilities. Vienna Model Bakery-Cafe started out at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia and soon had locations in several cities in the United States. Arthur Schiller and Son distributed Bauscher china in the U.S. Commercial or restaurant china is inexpensive, unless there is some appeal because of the name of the establishment it was made for. A Bauscher plate marked "Arthur Schiller and Son, 1931" sold for $10 recently. 
Q: I have a 9-inch-by-12-inch picture of Allan Jones and Kitty Carlisle singing a lovesong to each other from the movie "A Night at the Opera." The Marx brothers are pictured at the top of the picture of the couple. It reads "Alone" at the top. It's 9 by 12 inches and is in a nice frame. I think it was a poster for the movie. I also have the sheet music. What is it worth?
A: "A Night at the Opera" is a 1935 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer movie starring Kitty Carlisle, Allan Jones and the Marx brothers. The picture you describe is on the cover of the sheet music for "Alone," one of the romantic songs sung by Carlisle and Jones. It's fairly common and sells for about $5.
Q: I inherited a book called "Through the Year with Longfellow," which has readings for a full year and many color illustrations. It was published by DeWolfe, Fiske & Co. There is a portrait of Longfellow on the cover, and his signature is on the inside of the cover. I'd like to know if this book has any value and where I might sell it.
A: DeWolfe, Fiske & Co. was a publisher in business in Boston, Massachusetts, from 1880 to 1905. It published a series of "Through the Year" 12-month books, including readings from Longfellow, Tennyson, Shakespeare and other famous authors. The book evidently doesn't list the publication date, but most sources say it was 1890. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow lived from 1807 to 1882, so the signature in your book probably is just a facsimile. These books sell online for about $8 to $16.
Sign up for our free weekly email, "Kovels Komments." Terry Kovel writes about the latest news, tips, questions and her views of the market. If you register on our website,, there is no charge. 
       ** *
Tip: If you have museum-quality wooden furniture, do not use modern furniture-spray polish. Use wax and apply it about once a year. Just dust it regularly.
Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel answer questions sent to the column. By sending a letter with a question and a picture, you give full permission for use in the column or any other Kovel forum. Names, addresses or email addresses will not be published. We cannot guarantee the return of photographs, but if a stamped envelope is included, we will try. The amount of mail makes personal answers or appraisals impossible. Write to Kovels, (Name of this newspaper), King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803.
       * * *


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.
Medal, red cross, donor award, Dr. Landsteiner portrait, bronze, 1939, 2 1/4 inches, $20.
Gustavsberg vase, aquatic rider, horse, fish, teal, mottled, inscribed Svenska Simforbundet, 7 x 6 inches, $100.
Sweetmeat jar, white iridescent glass, gold speckles and green drip design, silvertone lid and handle, Kralik, Art Nouveau, 4 inches, $145.
Omega wristwatch, 14-karat gold, oval face, brushed gold band, felt case, Swiss, woman's, late 1900s, $375.
Coffee Table, walnut, surfboard shape, tapered square legs, c. 1950, 16 x 67 inches, $430.
Vase, glass, green iridescent, flaring rim, Orient & Flume, Dan Shura, 1982, 5 1/4 x 3 1/2 inches, $385.
Furniture, table, work, Gothic Revival, mahogany, slide top, drawers, cast iron, 1800s, 31 x 23 in.    $560.
Candlestick, brass, bulbous stem, dome base, mid-drip pan, threaded posts, Spain, 1600s, 10 inches, pair, $660.
Weathervane, silhouette of St. Florian, patron saint of firefighters, black metal, stand with arched base, Austria, 1700s, 30 x 15 inches, $1,500.
Letter box receptacle, U.S. mail, eagle and shield front, brass, Cutler Mfg. Co., 21 x 36 inches, $4,350.
The 50th Anniversary edition of Kovels' Antiques & Collectibles Price Guide 2018 book is available now. The book includes a special new section containing Terry Kovels' reflections on 50 years of collecting, with prices, trends, special events and surprises. If you order directly from the Kovels, you'll receive our FREE Companion eBook with ALL of the book's 20,000 prices - ready for downloading to your eReader. "Kovels" is the best book to own if you buy, sell or collect.

The paperback has more than 2,500 color photographs and over 700 categories of antiques and collectibles. You'll also find hundreds of factory histories. It's available for $29.99 plus $4.95 postage. Purchase directly from the Kovels if you want the free eBook Companion and be sure to include your email address. And, if you order the book now, you'll receive a copy with Terry Kovel's autograph.

Visit, call 800-303-1996, or write to Price Book, P.O. Box 22900, Beachwood, OH 44122.