Not every Arts and Crafts was plain and boxlike

Terry Kovel
This stick and ball umbrella stand shows that not all Arts and Crafts furniture is plain and dark. It sold for $300 at a recent Selkirk auction.

Arts and Crafts furniture was in style from the late 19th to the early 20th century. It was very different from the ornate styles of the earlier Victorian era. It had the advantage of new tools and mass production. The Arts and Crafts movement promoted skilled craftsmanship, quality work and simple, sturdy shapes. 

Iconic Arts and Crafts and Mission workshops, like Stickley and Roycroft, are known for their simple furniture made in dark oak with little ornamentation. This doesn't mean that every Arts and Crafts piece is a plain, heavy box! 

This umbrella stand, which sold for $300 at a Selkirk auction in St. Louis has a light, intricate look. However, its design uses straight lines and simple geometric shapes. Its ball feet create a sturdy look; and, as an umbrella stand, it was made with use in mind.  

Question: I found an old electric toaster from the 1920s at a flea market. I am using it as a decoration in my kitchen. What is the history of toasters?  

Answer: Toasting bread with electricity and not over a fire was made possible in 1905, when American metallurgist Albert L. Marsh developed a nickel-chromium alloy he called "Chromel."

It was low in electrical conductivity, infusible and resistant to oxidation, which made it the perfect metal to shape into filament wires and coils for heating elements.

In 1908, General Electric patented its own nickel-chromium alloy that contained iron. It was called "calorite." In 1909, GE introduced its D-12 bread toaster, invented by Frank Shailor, which was a commercial success, 19 years before the invention of bread-slicing machines in 1928. Over the next 100 years, toasters were made of metal, wood, porcelain and Bakelite.

The value of a vintage toaster depends on its rarity, aesthetics and the design of its electrical and mechanical works. We are amused by a toaster twice as long as others that toasts the bread by sending it through the long toaster instead of popping up.  

Q: My favorite doll growing up was Tearie Dearie. I remember playing with her for hours and being amazed that she could "drink" water from a bottle, and then actually cry and wet a diaper. Are dolls like this collectible? 

A: Many dolls from the 1960s and 1970s are collectible purely for sentimental reasons. Tearie Dearie is one. She was made by Ideal Toy Co. (in business 1907-1997) starting in 1964.

She was 9-inches tall and was made of vinyl. She came in a pink plastic crib that also served as her bath. The doll and case sold for $2.88. A set of three outfits was $4.97, and the doll, case and outfits were sold together for $7.77. Depending on condition and accessories, she now sells for about $25. There's nothing wrong with collecting for sentimental reasons.

Q: I have a Regulator wall clock with Roman numerals that uses "IIII" instead of "IV" for the number 4. Is that unusual? Does it make the clock more valuable?  

A: The Roman numeral "IIII" is common in clocks made before 1850. Later, manufacturers sometimes use the numeral to imitate older styles. Age is just one feature of a desirable antique clock; whether or not the clock works and its rarity are important factors, too.

There are many types of antique clocks, and prices can vary greatly, depending on the quality of the clock and what buyers are looking for. Prices can be anywhere from under $100 to tens of thousands of dollars. Unusual materials like gilt, marble or porcelain; details like three-dimensional figures, advertisements or colorful graphics; a famous maker; and chimes can all increase the value of an antique clock.  

Q: I found a vintage bracelet with multiple amber stones. Some of the stones are darker brown than the others. Are they discolored? Can they be cleaned or restored?  

A: Amber is not a stone; it is the sap of a tree. It comes in different shades. Yellow is common, and clear red-brown is the most desirable. The different colors in your bracelet are not discoloration; they show amber's variety of colors, which can be part of its appeal.

Watch out for imitation amber; glass and plastic can resemble the real thing. In fact, collectors often call yellow glass "amber" for its color, and true amber, being fossilized tree resin, is technically a natural plastic.

One way to test a piece of amber is to dissolve 4 teaspoons of salt into 8 ounces of water and see if the stone floats. Real amber floats, but glass will sink. Another test is to rub the amber with a piece of wool fabric and collect static electricity. Small paper scraps will stick to amber.  

TIP: Save your broken dishes, vases and other decorative china to make mosaic stepping stones or tabletops for your garden. Chipped vases can still be used for flowers or turned upside down to make toad homes.

Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel answer readers' questions sent to the column. Send a letter with one question describing the size, material (glass, pottery) and what you know about the item. Include only two pictures, the object and a closeup of any marks or damage. Be sure your name and return address are included. We do not guarantee the return of photographs, but if a stamped envelope is included, we will try. Questions that are answered will appear in Kovels Publications. Write to Kovels, (Name of this newspaper), King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803 or email us at


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. 

Wedgwood pottery compote, Black Jasper, white neoclassical scenes, acanthus foot, marked, 7 inches, $90. 

Jewelry, pin, Shooting Star, five-point star shape with an elongated point, sterling silver, Paloma Picasso, Tiffany & Co., 4 ½ inches, $170. 

Sterling silver compote, flower form bowl, wide openwork border, flared and scalloped rim, spread foot, marked, S. Blackensee & Son, Birmingham, England, 1920, 4 x 8 inches, $220. 

Doll, cloth, Amish woman, cotton linen, faceless, stuffed, stitched joints, cloth dress, apron and bonnet, primitive, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, c. 1900, 20 inches, $385. 

Toy, Fred Flintstone's Bedrock Band, Fred Flintstone drummer, Dino the Dinosaur pictured on drum, metal, plastic, cloth, battery-operated, box, Alps, Japan, 8 inches, $480. 

Barometer, Federal style, double banjo form, mahogany, satinwood string inlay, thermometer, humidity gauge, key-wind clock, Chelsea, 31 x 8 inches, $550. 

Fireplace, log holder, oak, arched back, flat slats all around, square legs, marked Liberty, London, early 20th century, 19 x 19 x 14 inches, $935. 

Garden bench, wood, weathered white yacht paint, flared-out crest, 17 flat spindles, slatted seat, squared legs, 36 x 68 inches, $1,220. 

Box, leather, tan, round, embossed thistle on flattened lid, Roycroft, c. 1915, 2 x 5 inches, $2,200. 

Art pottery plate, Sunburst, Peter Voulkos, stoneware, glazed and stenciled slip rays, incised signature and paper label, c. 1956, 1 ½ x 10 inches, $3,250.