Figurines and prints were the "photographs" and "news" of past centuries before the invention of the camera. Famous people, especially royalty, religious leaders, actors and actresses, criminals, heroes and unusual people and scenes of everyday life were modeled in ceramics.
Sometimes the figurines show a forgotten activity like "grappling" (wrestling to the death while tied together) or a boy standing on one leg while holding the other off the ground (a common punishment for the "dunce" who is failing in school).
Thousands of different figurines were made and collectors like to concentrate on a special area like sports, dogs, wild animals, cottages or religious themes.
A rare figure of a young Jewish boy was made by the Capo di Monte porcelain works. He has a beard and is wearing a frock coat, yarmulke (skull cap), spats and has a dagger. The 3 ¾-inch figure of a boy has the underglaze blue crown and N mark used by the Italian firm. It was estimated at $4,000 to $6,000 at a 2014 Kestenbaum & Co. auction in New York City.
Q: My mother had two bedroom chests of drawers that date back more than 100 years. The remnants of paper labels read "American Walnut, Atlas Furniture Co., Made in Jamestown, New York." One is 31 inches high by 48 inches wide and the other is 40 inches by 37 inches. Both are in great condition. Do they have any value?
A: Atlas Furniture Co. was formed in 1883 as the Swedish Furniture Co. by Swedish immigrants Lawrence Erickson and Gustave Holmberg in Jamestown, N.Y. The name was changed to Atlas in 1871. Atlas advertised itself as "Manufacturers of Bedroom Furniture," making "better" grades of bedroom furniture, including dressers, chiffoniers and toilet tables from walnut, mahogany and other woods.
By 1920, Atlas was the second largest maker of bedroom furniture in the U.S. Atlas closed in 1941, when the once-booming furniture industry of Jamestown was in decline. Your chests would sell for $50 to $100 each.
Sleepy Eye Cream
Q: I have a round label picturing the profile of an Indian chief with a feathered headdress. It reads "The Sleepy Eye Mills, Sleepy Eye, Minn.," "Highest Patent Flour," and "Sleepy Eye Cream." What is Sleepy Eye Cream?
A: Cream is a brand of flour made by the Sleepy Eye Flour Milling Co. The company started out in Sleepy Eye, Minn., in 1883. It went into receivership in 1909, reopened in Minneapolis in 1914 and closed permanently in 1921. Sleepy Eye flour was packed in barrels.
Original round barrel labels are stone lithographs. Reproductions have been made using printing presses or computer printers that show dots. Most round 16-inch in diameter labels found today are reproductions and sell online for $3 to $20.
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 kovels.com.
Prices from shows nationwide.
Judaica, Torah pointer, olivewood, brass hand portion, Yehuda Heshkowitz & Co., box, about 1960, 9 inches, $90.
Jade figurine, phoenix birds, green and white mottled, carved standing on rock outcropping, wood stand, Chinese, 8 5/8 inches, pair, $310.
Rack, fly swatter display, countertop, Jackson Fly Killer, wood, stenciled, holds six swatters, 2 by 12 1/4 inches, $315.
Fountain, mermaid and dolphin, sitting on lily pad, stone, England, 31 1/2 inches, $800.
Popeye on rooftop, dancing jig, Olive Oyl playing accordion, tin lithograph toy, Marx, 9 1/2 inches, $430.
Baccarat champagne flute glass,, Jasmine, animals, birds, vines, etched mark, 1947-61, 8 1/4 inches, 12 pieces, $1,415.
Chaise, modern, woven cane, matte chromed steel, foil label, Poul Kjaerholm, about 1965, 34 by 60 by 26 inches, $5,000.
Silver plated cocktail shaker, lighthouse shape, stamped "Meriden S.P. Co.," about 1930, 20 by 7 1/4 inches, $5,940.(c)