Children's toys reflect the world of adults, so it's not surprising that sometimes a toy represents the political ideas of the parents and the children just think of it as a toy.
George Brown, the famous toymaker from Connecticut, patented a suffragette toy in 1874, a few years after the first national organization seeking the vote for women was established in 1869. Women organized, protested and attempted to vote in the 1870s. They were arrested, but they gained publicity for their movement. When the Supreme Court ruled against them, they started a campaign for an amendment to the Constitution to give them the right to vote. It was not until Aug. 26, 1920, that women in the United States were given the right to vote.
The George Brown toy has a bell, a large wheel and a woman dressed in clothes worn by suffragettes. It is a clever toy. As the wheel turns the bell rings and the woman's legs move, so it looks as if she is pushing the wheel. The rare toy sold at a Bertoia auction in Vineland, N.J., for $6,000 in November 2014.
Q: I have a midcentury piece of furniture. I'm not sure what to call it. It's made in two sections. The top is 42 inches high and has three shelves over two small drawers. The shelves have grooves that hold dishes upright. The bottom is 31 inches high by 52 inches wide, has three drawers over three doors and legs. One of the drawers is stamped "Morganton." I was told I "really have something" because it is teak. Is my furniture valuable?
A: Midcentury modern furniture was heavily influenced by Scandinavian designers and their pieces are selling for high prices. Scandinavian furniture, also called "Danish Modern," features lightweight woods like teak or rosewood. You have a dining room buffet-china cabinet, made by Morganton Furniture Co. It has been in Morganton, N.C., since the 1940s, designing and manufacturing dining and bedroom furniture, and later, upholstered pieces.
Your furniture is Danish Modern style. The spare, sleek look of midcentury furniture is enjoying a renaissance, and while your buffet-china cabinet wasn't made in Denmark, it could sell for about $500 to someone furnishing a home.
Kennedy kid figurines
Q: I recently found ceramic figurines of Caroline and "John-John" Kennedy as children. John-John is modeled in his famous salute pose. They are 5¾ inches high and on the back of each is a green stamp that reads "Inarco Cleveland." Do these have any value?
A: Inarco stands for International Artware Corp., started in Cleveland by Irwin Garber in 1960. In the 1940s, Garber worked at NAPCO (National Potteries Corp.), a company near Cleveland that imported and distributed decorative accessories. Garber helped promote head vase planters, popular in the 1950s and '60s. He left NAPCO in 1960 to start his own giftware import firm.
Your figurines are from 1963. A set sold in 2013, the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy's assassination, for $185. They can be found in online shops listed for about $40 to $100 for the pair, but are selling for $25 to $50.
Sweetheart Soap dolls
Q: I bought a large mechanical baby doll at a local auction. The doll lies in a 33-inch-long wooden basket. Her arms and legs move in the air, and her head moves up, down and to one side. There is a paper sign on the front of the basket that reads "My First Sweetheart." Can you tell me anything about the doll? I paid just under $300 — did I pay too much?
A: Your doll was used as an advertising display for Sweetheart soap. The brand was made by the Manhattan Soap Co. and advertised as "the soap that agrees with your skin." The doll has a head, arms and legs that are made of composition, and an electric motor that keeps them moving. It was made by Mechanical Man Inc. of New York. It was sold to retailers who sold the soap, probably during the 1930s, when Sweetheart soap sponsored several popular radio shows. Sweetheart Soap dolls have sold for prices ranging from $450 to $1,400 at auctions during the past few years.
Q: I have a color photograph made by Michael Miley, a pioneer in color photography. The photograph is of a painting of a woman in a red scarf. It's in an ornate gilt frame. What's it worth?
A: The first color prints in the United States were made by Michael Miley (1841-1918). He and his son, Henry, filed an application for a patent on their process of producing color photographs on March 28, 1902. The patent was assigned to the Miley Colour Photograph Co. of New York. The process involved using plates and screens in red, green and violet to produce color. Only about 500 color prints were made by Miley. The value of your photograph depends on rarity, condition and subject matter. A rare color photograph of Peale's 1772 painting of George Washington sold for $1,888 at auction a few years ago. The portrait of a woman in a red scarf has been reproduced many times. Your photograph should be seen by an expert in photography to see if it's an original photograph or a print and to determine the value.
Q: I was given a set of dinnerware that belonged to my great-grandmother. She emigrated from Italy in the early 1900s, lived briefly in New York, and then moved to Providence. Pieces are white with green flowers and gold trim. Printed on the bottom of each piece: "Underglaze, J&E Mayer, JUNO." I have 12 place settings and many serving pieces. I am anxious to learn about this dinnerware for my family history.
A: Joseph (?-1930) and Ernest (1857-1920) Mayer bought a water-powered pottery in Beaver Falls, Pa., and founded J&E Mayer in 1881. Their father had operated the Dale Hall Works in Burslem, England. The firm changed its name to Mayer Pottery Co. in 1888. The factory burned down in 1896, but was rebuilt on an even larger scale. After 1912, the company's primary product became china for many different restaurants, railroads, ships, airlines and the military. Joseph's sons continued the business, which was renamed Mayer China Co. in 1923. It became a subsidiary of Shenango China in 1964, was bought by Interpace in 1968, by Richard Rifenburgh in 1979, then by Syracuse China in 1984. The Beaver Falls factory closed in 1990, but Mayer China is still considered a Syracuse China Co. brand name. Given the mark, your great-grandmother's Juno pattern dinnerware was made in the J&E Mayer era, between 1881 and 1888.
Q: I have a rattle or a doll on a stick that was given to my father when he was born in 1894. The doll's head is porcelain, her hat is felt, and her clothes are a gauzy fabric that's falling apart. When the stick is twirled, the music box plays. Should her raggedy outfit be removed and a new one made? Several years ago someone at the Smithsonian referred me to a woman in Virginia who said it was not worth fixing up but she would "take it off my hands" for $50. I declined.
A: Your doll is a type of stick puppet called a marotte or a marotte folie, French words that translate as "hobgoblin madness." They were made in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, usually by doll manufacturers in Germany or France. Marottes were made with and without music. Some had a whistle at the end of the stick. Musical marottes are worth more than those without music. Collectors like dolls with their original clothes, even if they are quite worn. The woman in Virginia would have had a steal if you sold her the doll for $50. It could sell for $200 to $900 depending on age, condition, maker, clothing or the music.
Tip: To remove a sticky price tag or instruction label from a glass or metal object, use a hair dryer. The heat should soften the glue and the paper will be easy to peel off.
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 are from shows nationwide.
Niloak pottery vase, Mission Ware, marbleized multicolor gray, blue, tan, beige, impressed mark, about 1920, 10 by 3 1/2 inches, $90.
Penny toy, gnomes sawing wood, tin lithograph, articulated hand saw, Meier, Germany, 4 inches, $175.
Butcher block, French Provincial, oak, carved, iron banding, round, splayed square tripod legs, 19th century, 31 by 14 inches, $180.
Wood carving, man riding fish, pine, initials A.D.S., 13 1/2 inches, $185.
Victorian pin, 15K gold, diamonds, applied rope and bead work, bar shape, England, 1 5/8 inches, $195.
Radio, Crosley, dashboard, D-25, light green, clock, 1950s, 13 inches, $210.
Artist's easel, beech, carved, adjustable, trestle supports, early 20th century, 77 by 21 1/4 by 19 1/2 inches, $365.
Wine tasting table, French Provincial, pine, carved, folding round top, trestle base, stretcher, 19th century, 27 1/2 by 38 1/2 inches, $670.
Hooked rug, dove, on branch with berries, repeating triangle border, multicolor, cotton, wool, burlap, Eredene Unger, York County, Pa., 33 by 46 inches, $765.
Silver bowl, center, sterling, chased, pierced, rim with scrolls, flowers, plated liner, metal grille, Black, Starr & Frost, 18 inches, $2,040.