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Fashion changes in furniture and design

Terry and Kim Kovel

As fashions change in clothing, so do fashions in furniture and design. Norman Rockwell was considered a commercial artist of little value for many years, but now his original paintings for magazine covers can sell for millions of dollars.

 This rare table with carved top and sides was made in Minneapolis in 1905. It sold in 2016 for $24,000.

A strange table made by John Scott Bradstreet (1845-1914) recently was offered at a Cowan auction in Cincinnati. Bradstreet was a leading interior designer, decorator and tastemaker in Minneapolis for many years before he died in a car crash in 1914. The table was in the Arts and Crafts style - sort of. Bradstreet went to Japan many times, and his designs were influenced by Asian arts and bits of many other styles - English Arts and Crafts, Moorish, Gothic, the Aesthetic Movement and the works of Whistler. The wooden center table sold in the auction was covered with shallow carvings that followed the grain. The technique, called by the Japanese name jin-di-sugi, used cypress, a soft wood that, after a long time in water or mud, develops raised lines in the grain. The wood was then scorched, brushed, carved and waxed, a process that was modernized and patented by Bradstreet.

Few pieces like this are known, and many of these are in museums. The auctioned table had side panels that flipped down to make small display shelves on each side. We looked for more information about this table and the maker, and found that it had sold in 2005 for an estimated price of $50,000 to $75,000. This time, the table brought $24,000.
Q: I have three Royal Doulton blue-and-white vases depicting scenes of children playing blind man's bluff in the woods. They are dressed in 19th-century clothing. What can you tell me about them?
         A: These are part of Royal Doulton's "Blue Children" series, which was made from 1890 to 1930. The series often is called "Babes in the Woods" by collectors. The series included 24 blue-and-white scenes, most picturing young girls. The designs were hand painted on earthenware. Vases, plates, plaques, biscuit jars, jugs and other pieces were made, most before 1915. Some pieces made before 1902 were signed by the artist. Fakes also have been made. A 9 3/4-inch vase, signed with the artist's initials, recently sold at auction for $224. An 18 1/4-inch vase sold for $1,180. You should have an expert look at your vases to get an idea of their value.
Q: I'd like information about a teddy bear I have. It has long mohair, felt pads on its feet, glass eyes, straw stuffing and a growler. The arms, legs and head move. It's in good condition. There is a label that reads "Made in Federal Republik of Germany."
         A: Your teddy bear was made between May 1949 and October 1990, when the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) was in existence. Bears made before World War II are more desirable than newer bears. Without a maker's name, it's not possible to give a value for your bear.
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Q: My mother gave me the metal dentist chair from my father's office. It is not like today's dentist chairs; it's more like a lightweight skeleton chair with a round enameled metal seat, rectangular slotted metal back and spindles for the headrest, legs and mechanical parts. There are no arms. It looks very uncomfortable and smaller than a regular dental chair. Is it worth anything? How was it used? How old is it? 
         A: The 17th-century dentist held the patient on the floor to pull a tooth. By the early 18th century, a Windsor chair with a piece of wood added as a head rest was used. Then inventors made improvements to metal, mechanical and upholstered chairs. Your chair was made in about 1910.  Bacteria and diseases were a worry during that time. The enameled metal furniture was very popular in the 1930s. Large padded chairs used today and as early as the 1850s are sometimes bought for a family room or home bar as a conversation piece. They are hard to sell. A collector of dental antiques might pay a few hundred dollars for the chair, or a dental museum might give you a tax deduction if you donate it.
  Q: I'd like to know the value of a violin that is about 100 years old. The inscription inside reads "Copy of Antonius Stradivarius, made in Czechoslovakia." What is it worth?
         A: Antonio Stradivari (1644-1737) made violins, violas, cellos and other stringed instruments at his workshop in Cremona, Italy. Fewer than 600 of the original Stradivarius violins still are in existence, and they sell for several million dollars each. Thousands of copies have been made and don't sell for high prices. Your violin was made after the creation of Czechoslovakia in 1918. Recently, a violin like yours that included the case sold for $57.
Tip: To clean the stem and bowl of a collectible briar pipe, dip a pipe cleaner in vodka. Push the pipe cleaner through the stem. Use a dry pipe cleaner for any pipe but a briar pipe.
         Free Comic Book Day is May 6, 2017. Free Comic Book Day is held on the first Saturday in May each year, and it is the one day that participating comic-book specialty shops give away comic books free to anyone who comes into their shops. 
         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.
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Current Prices

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.
         Clothes brush, wooden penguin-shaped handle, paint, green and white, yellow beak, domed base, stand-up bristles, 1920s, 7 inches, $25.
         Baby bonnet, tatted lace, ivory, circle netting pattern, flowerhead and intertwined loop design border, late 1800s, $60.
         Girl Scout pin, figural Brownie holding her uniform dress to curtsy, painted hard plastic, 1941, 2 x 1 inches, $105.
         Sundial, armillary, bronze and copper, ringed sphere, arrow center, roman numerals, pedestal base, verdigris, c. 1910, 10 x 7 inches, $140.
         Babe Ruth doll, baseball uniform, holding wooden bat, hollow celluloid head, stuffed body, felt arms and legs, 1930s, 13 inches, $210.
         Walking stick, carved cow-bone handle, cluster of masks, wooden ribbon twist shaft, metal core, Japan, 1800s, 35 inches, $570.
         Reading table, library, wood and cast iron, adjustable tilt top, turned column post, lyre shape base, casters, c. 1905, 32 x 28 inches, $750.
         Icon, Jesus Christ and the great feasts, bronze plaque in wood box frame, glass front, Russia, c. 1810, 12 x 9 inches, $1,000.
         Box, playing cards, tartan print with playing cards design, wood base, two compartments, hinged lid, Tartanware, c. 1880, 11 x 7 inches, $1,525.
         Letter opener, agate and mother-of-pearl carved handle, sterling collar, shell-shaped tip, c. 1905, 8 inches, $2,000.
         Kovels' "A Diary: How to Settle a Collector's Estate." Our new 
       week-by-week record of the settlement of an estate, from your first days gathering legal papers to the last days when you're dividing antiques among heirs and selling everything else - even the house. How to identify pottery, jewelry and other popular collectibles. Tips on where and how to sell furniture, jewelry, dishes, figurines, record albums, bikes and even clothes. We include lots of pictures and prices, and explain the advantages of a house sale auction, selling to a dealer or donating to a charity. Learn about how to handle the special problems of security and theft. Plus, you'll receive a free current supplement with useful websites, auction lists and other information.

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