Buses were used for transportation as early as the 1820s, long before the modern motor was invented. They had horsepower — live horses pulled the bus. By the 1830s, buses were powered by steam, and in 1882, the first electric bus was introduced.

But the toy bus made after 1895 often resembled tourist buses used in a few large cities. It had a motor. The tourist bus had seats inside and out; if the weather was nice, riders could climb stairs to the top seats, where tall buildings could be admired. There was no cover for the top.

The Kenton Hardware Co. in Kenton, Ohio, made many small cast iron household items such as bookends, doorstops, small figures, ashtrays, cooking utensils and toys. A double-decker tourist bus was made in about 1900, followed by a second version in 1910. An orange one sold for $1,020 at a Bertoia auction in spite of seven replacement figures with old paint.

Many old iron toys have been copied; original toys should have a smooth, not bumpy, bottom. The seams between the molded parts must be tight and jointed with slotted screws. And most old toys have the maker's name impressed in the mold.

'Big Red' book

Q: I have a hardback copy of the book "Big Red" by Jim Kjelgaard, illustrated by Bob Kuhn and published by Grosset & Dunlap. The copyright date is 1945. It was one of the first books given to me when I was a kid. I think it's at least 61 years old. The book is in fair to good condition. Is it worth preserving or should I let my four grandchildren read it?

A: The book "Big Red" was first published by Holiday House in 1945 and originally sold for $2. Grosset & Dunlap was one of several companies that published reprints. The book is still in print and more than a million copies have been sold. It was made into a movie produced by Walt Disney Studios in 1962. Value depends on rarity, condition and the dust jacket. First edition copies sell for high prices, but you don't have the first edition, which was published by Holiday House. Hardcover copies of "Big Red" sell from $5 to about $47. If your book is only in fair condition, the value is at the low end. You should let your grandchildren enjoy reading it.

Tip: Don't store fabrics in plastic bags. Use a well-washed white pillowcase. Plastic holds moisture and the fabrics should breathe.

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.

current prices

Prices are from shows nationwide.

Fiesta sugar and creamer, shaped tray with tab handles, periwinkle blue, concentric rings at neck, sugar has lid with tapered finial, post-1986, tray 10 inches, $40.

Doorstop, dog, spaniel, seated, column and star decoration around base, pottery, Rockingham glaze, East Liverpool, Ohio, 1800s, 11 3/4 by 7 1/2 inches, $375.

Toy chest, wooden, Federal, walnut, pine, four drawers with pulls, fluted stiles, Tennessee, salesman's sample, 1820s, 9 1/2 by 9 3/4 by 5 inches, $565.

Bookcase, Limbert, Arts and Crafts, oak, overhanging top with backsplash, two doors, glass panels, shelves, splayed legs, marked, 57 by 48 inches, $1,230.

Poster, Beatles concert, Candlestick Park, August 29, 1966, Here Come the Beatles, psychedelic design, yin yang circle with U.S. and British flags, Wes Wilson, paper, 24 by 17 inches, $7,190.