In the 1870s, fashionable chairs were made with padded upholstery, elaborate mahogany carved frames and springs to make the seats more comfortable. But George Jacob Hunzinger (1835-1898), a German immigrant craftsman, had other ideas. He used flat, metal, fabric-wrapped wire instead of springs and upholstery to make comfortable chairs.
The frames were just as original, often with "rod and ball" turnings that led to the modern name of "lollipop chairs." He made many rockers with clever mechanical bases, and chairs that looked as if they were made of bolts and pipes. Some chairs could be folded, others just looked like folding chairs.
A recently sold rarity is the adjustable daybed. It was made in about 1876. It has the fabric-wrapped wire webbing, spindles with ball finials and an adjustable back, and sold for $7,768. Hunzinger furniture is not as scarce as was thought before there were Internet listings, so prices have dropped a bit since 2005. Most of the pieces are stamped with his name and a patent date.
Q: When I came to the U.S. from the U.K. some 25 years ago, I brought my collection of Moorcroft pottery. Some of the pieces date back to the 1930s. As I have passed my "sell-by" date, I would like to sell some or all of them. Unfortunately, there seems to be little or no interest now in Moorcroft. Any ideas how I can get a little cash for some of the pieces?
A: This is a good time to sell old Moorcroft. Prices are going up. William Moorcroft worked as a designer at James Macintyre & Co. in England before forming his own company in 1913. Financing was provided by Liberty, the famous London department store. The Moorcroft family bought out Liberty in 1962 and controlled the company until 1984, after which there were several changes in ownership. The company is still in business in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, England. According to the company's website, www.moorcroft.com, Moorcroft is selling more of its pottery today "than it did even in its previous heyday during the mid-1920s." Vintage Moorcroft vases sold this year for a few hundred to several thousand dollars. Contact some auctions in the U.S. that have been selling Moorcroft. There are also some auctions in Canada, England and Australia that sell vintage Moorcroft. There is an advantage to having international online buyers.
Q: I inherited a 1902 Sears hand-cranked washer from my parents. It's made of wood with iron parts and weighs 93 pounds. The crank turns two cylinders in opposite directions, agitating the clothes. The washer was listed in the 1902 Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalog for $5.66. What would it be worth at auction? It seems to be in good working condition.
A: Although the first washing machine was patented in England during the late 17th century, most housewives continued to wash clothes on a washboard until the mid-1800s. Wooden washing machines, operated by hand or foot, were made in the late 1800s and early 1900s by several companies. Washers powered by electric motors were first made about 1912. Vintage washing machines are very hard to sell. Most sell at auction for under $75. Contact a local dealer at a shop, flea market or auction house to see what you can expect to get for a washer in your area. You may have trouble finding someone who is willing to buy it or sell it for you.
Q: What is a lusterweibchen chandelier?
A: Lusterweibchen chandeliers have a carved wood figure of the upper half of a woman's body mounted on deer or elk antlers. They were first made about 1425 and were popular in southern Germany during the 15th and 16th centuries. The words "luster" and "weibchen" are German for "chandelier" and "female." The woman often holds a candle or candle-shaped light in each of her outstretched hands. Some figures depict mermaids or other mythical figures with the tail of a dragon. Chandeliers with male figures, called luestermaennchen, also were made but are not as common. A bare-breasted mermaid lusterweibchen chandelier, made in the Black Forest about 1900, sold at auction in 2014 for more than $9,000.
Smelling salts bottle
Q: Many years ago, my grandmother gave me a small bottle that belonged to her grandmother. My grandmother was born in 1901, so the bottle must be from the mid-19th century. The bottle is about 3¼ inches long. It's deep red glass and has engraved sterling-silver stoppers at both ends. My grandmother said one end held cotton soaked with smelling salts for when a lady felt faint and the other held perfume. Can you tell me how old it is and if it has any value?
A: The story your grandmother told you is accurate. Smelling salts were popular during the 18th and 19th centuries, especially with fashionable ladies who wore tightly laced corsets and were prone to fainting spells. People didn't bathe as often in Victorian times, so women carried perfume, too. Smelling salts are made of a mixture containing ammonium carbonate, which when sniffed can revive someone by irritating the mucus lining of the nose and causing the person to breathe faster. Collectors call the little bottles that held smelling salts "scent bottles." Necklaces, rings and other jewelry also were made to carry smelling salts. Smelling salts are used today by some athletes. A 4-inch bottle like yours, but made of blue glass, sold recently for $275.
Q: How can a person find out ahead of time what auction houses are selling so they can get their item included? For instance, when I got your newsletter I was surprised and dismayed to see that an auction of toy stoves had been held. I have a salesman's sample Engman-Matthews stove that my great-grandfather used to have. I have a snapshot of him standing next to a real stove. Had I known this auction was going to happen, I would have contacted the auction house. So how does a person get this information?
A: If you have something you want to sell, you should contact an auction house that sells similar items. They will let you know when they are having a sale that can include it. The auction house starts working on the catalog months before the sale. Be sure you are aware of the terms of the sale, including seller's costs, and what happens if your item doesn't sell.
Carved wooden chest
Q: My wooden chest was given to my stepfather by his son when he served in World War II. It has a label that reads "Golden Dragon Co., Wood Carved Factory, Chest Factory Goods and Furniture, etc. Broadway, Shanghai." It's about 32 inches long, 16 inches wide and 16 inches high. The top and sides are covered with allover carvings of people and scenery. It has an Asian-looking lock. Does this have any value?
A: Several companies in Shanghai, China, made carved wooden furniture in the 20th century. Many pieces were exported to the West. Carved wooden chests were often bought by tourists and brought back to the United States. Most 20th-century Chinese carved chests sell for about $300 to $400 because of their decorative value.
Tip: Taking part in the arts by going to shows, gallery auctions, museums, craft, carpentry and painting classes and lectures, maybe even garage sales to search for collectibles has a positive impact on your health and well-being, according to a recent British study.
Terry and Kim Kovel will answer as many letters from readers as possible through the column only. For return of a photograph, include a self-addressed, stamped (55 cents) envelope. Write to: The Kovels, c/o King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019. The website is www.kovels.com.
Prices are from shows nationwide.
Weller pottery, Woodcraft flower holder, five stepped openings, green, brown, 6 inches, $45.
Vasa Murrhina, water pitcher, clear glass, mottled pink, white, silver mica, 8 inches, $120.
Pickle castor jar, blue glass, enameled flowers, Aurora silver plate frame, footed, 8 inches, $205.
Razor, pearl pique handle, silver inlaid pins, Morocco leather case, Joseph Rodgers & Sons, $420.
Silver, salt and pepper, twisted, baluster shape, Antonia Pineda, Mexico, about 1962, 3 inches, $530.
Arcade game, Fortune Teller, Gaze Into the Crystal For Your Fortune, Swami, lights up, coin-operated, 1930s, $540.
Inkstand, Louis XV style, gilt bronze, two urn wells, lids, scrolls, dolphin heads, shell style decoration, doors, 7 by 18 inches, $625.
Art Nouveau desk, fruit and nut woods, veneer, roll-top, fitted interior, open shelf, 51 by 44 inches, $1,230.
Bible box, flowers, painted, turned feet, 11 by 19 inches, $1,320.
American Encaustic Tile, hillside tableau, shepherdess, dog, sheep, 12 by 24 inches, $1,725.