Q: Can you tell me anything about the history of this piece? It used to be in my mother-in-law's house, but she gave it to my husband and me for safekeeping. How valuable and unique is it?
A: This is a spinning wheel that is often called a Saxony wheel by collectors and by enthusiasts who still use such a device to spin fiber into thread and yarn. Once upon a time, most homes in the United States had one, because homeowners did not just run down to a nearby store to purchase their everyday clothing, bedding and floor coverings.
Commercially produced thread and yarn was available in the United States after the middle of the 18th century. But if a person happened to live in the country, the tendency was to be self-reliant and make household textiles essentially from scratch.
A wide variety of antique spinning wheels is available to the collector. One familiar type is called the "great wheel" or "walking wheel," and it typically stands about 5 feet tall and was used to spin cotton or wool fibers. It was called a walking wheel because the operator stood and moved about as necessary and operated the wheel with a hand or even a stick.
The "castle wheel" looks a lot different from the Saxony spinning wheel because it is arranged vertically with a small table on top of the legs, and above that, the wheel and the flyer assembly. There is also a "Norwegian wheel," which is similar to the Saxony, except the table is horizontal, not slanted.
There are other types of spinning wheels, and the ones mentioned above are just a quick look at varieties often found in the American marketplace. As for the history of your example, the sausage turnings on the legs and spokes suggest that it was probably made in the late 18th or early 19th century.
In the past few years, spinning wheels like this one have been selling in the $60 to $100 range at auctions with a few fancier models selling for as much as three times more. Your Saxony spinning wheel should be valued in the $100 to $150 range for insurance replacement purposes.
Q: My mother purchased this purse many years ago. A label is stitched on the interior pocket, which reads "Designed by Lily-Bet" and "sold at beach resorts, Filbert Imports of the Palm Beaches." Does the purse have sufficient value to sell, or should I gift it to my niece?
A: In the not too distant past, collectors eagerly sought out handbags made from such materials as Lucite, and hand-painted beach bags were popular. And right now, when some vintage handbags made by Prada, Louis Vuitton, Ferragamo, Burberry, Givenchy, Judith Leiber or Valentino come up for sale, they can bring prices in the hundreds if not thousands of dollars.
Lily-Bet handbags are really a Florida phenomenon. The enterprise was part of Filbert Imports of Palm Beach, and they are thought to have purchased plain, undecorated purses from Stylecraft Miami, JR Florida and other foreign and domestic sources.
Lily-Bet took the plain bags and embellished them in a variety of methods that included hand-painting and appliqués. Some of the bags decorated by the Lily-Bet workforce — who have been likened to the china painters of the late 19th and early 20th centuries — were Lucite, some were made from vinyl and some were a combination of both materials, such as a vinyl body with a Lucite handle.
The Lily-Bet example in today's question appears to have a vinyl-covered body with a brown tortoise-shell Lucite handle. The vinyl purses tended to be white, frosted white or black. Other than box bags like this one, Lily-Bet produced clutch bags, totes and some that looked like briefcases with handles.
Your box purse appears to be lined with a madras or perhaps paisley-esque material that is reminiscent of the late 1950s/early '60s. The cream/yellow roses with green leaves are boldly painted. It's the sort of bag a fashionable lady might have carried while visiting a Florida resort on that state's Atlantic coast (the bags were also sold in the resort areas of Clearwater and Sarasota on Florida's Gulf Coast).
The inset mirror affixed to the top of the bag has a wire twist surround that is both a tad exotic to match the lining, and rather attractive. The pocket might once have held a comb or a face powder compact. Beach bags, as they are sometimes called, have fallen in value rather dramatically in the past decade or so.
At one time the piece would have retailed in the $225 to $275 range, but there are now so many available for sale that prices have fallen considerably. Right now the range in value on a bag such as this is in the neighborhood of $25 to $75. Negative factors that impact the value are stains, signs of wear and odors.
Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson have written a number of books on antiques.