Victorian furniture selling for low prices at auctions

A set of furniture that would fill the bedroom sold for $5,400 at an auction in the Midwest. It was made from solid walnut with burl and carved trim. Cowles Syndicate photo

Kovels’ Antiques and Collecting

Large, ornate Victorian furniture is selling for low prices at auctions for many reasons. Houses are smaller and bedrooms have more windows and closets, so there are fewer plain walls for large double beds or dressers. Plus, the elaborate carvings are out of style. The furniture also is very heavy and hard to move. Sometimes the headboard is too high for a modern room with an 8-foot ceiling, and the bedroom sets have too many pieces. A few makers are so important that their work is treated as art. John Henry Belter, Alexander Roux, Joseph Meeks and John Jelliff are a few designers who still are getting very high prices; however, bargains also exist in well-made, stylish Victorian pieces manufactured away from the East Coast. The H.B. Mudge Furniture Co. of Cincinnati designed and made a Victorian suite consisting of a washstand with mirror, commode, dresser and a bed with a high, carved headboard and footboard. It descended in the Mudge family and was auctioned by Cowan Auctions of Cincinnati for $5,400 (includes buyer’s premium). The company was founded in 1837 and made many kinds of household furniture.

Q I inherited a large collection of HB Quimper dishes. They are hand painted with pictures of Breton peasants in outdoor settings and are marked “HB, Quimper, France,” “F.303.D.201” and “B.Y.” What are they worth?

A Tin-glazed hand-painted pottery was made by three different factories in Quimper, France, starting in the 1700s. Pierre Bousquet founded a pottery in Quimper in 1708. Antoine de la Hubaudiere became the factory manager in 1782, and the factory became the HB Factory (Hubaudiere-Bousquet). Two of the factories merged in 1913. HB Quimper merged with the others in 1968. After more changes in ownership, it became Henriot-Quimper, which still is in business. This mark was used from 1968 to 1984. The number after “F” is the form number and the number after “D” is the decor number. The initials “B.Y.” are the initials of the painter. Your dishes are not very old and are worth about half what new Quimper sells for.

Q I have about 100 old baseball coins from the early 1960s. Most of them are plastic and some are metal. They came in Junket Brand products like Salada Tea. I have coins with Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Don Drysdale, Roberto Clemente, Early Wynn, etc. I also have about 20 football coins. Can you provide any information on these?

A Salada Tea and Junket were both part of Salada Foods, Inc. (now part of Redco Foods Inc.). Individual coins picturing baseball and football stars were packed in Salada Tea and Junket products in 1962. The 1962 baseball set included 1 1/2-inch diameter plastic “coins” with a piece of paper picturing a player on one side. The complete set included 221 players, plus 40 variations. The 1963 baseball set called “All Star Baseball Coins” included 63 metal coins with paper inserts. The top 10 stars of each team were pictured. Coins for American League players had blue rims, and coins for National League players had red rims. Information about the player is on the reverse side. Holders and a box were issued to hold the coins. You have coins from both the 1962 and 1963 baseball sets. Many coins sell for less than $5, but superstars’ coins sell for much more. Recent prices include $45 for a 1962 Yogi Berra coin and $90 for a 1962 Roger Clemente coin. A complete set of 1962 coins, plus 1963 coins for Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, sold at auction for over $1,800.

Q I recently bought a Watt bowl as a potential investment. It’s very different from most Watt pieces I’ve found, and I can’t find any information on it. It’s a light blue bowl with a black drip edge. It measures 10 3/4 inches across the top and is 3 1/2 inches high. The bottom is stamped with three rings and reads “Watt Orchard Ware, U.S.A. 106.” Can you tell me what its value is and when it was made?

A Orchard Ware is both a Watt shape name and a pattern name. Eva Ziesel designed most of the shapes. It was decorated with two colors, dripped or spattered, in at least 18 different color combinations. Some pieces were decorated with hand-painted designs. Brown with white drip is the most common color combination. Orchard Ware was first shown in Watt’s 1959 catalog. The number “106” is the mold number. Its value is $30.

Q I just bought a handcrafted silver ring with a multicolored flat “stone” with a tag that reads “sterling silver with an authentic piece of Fordite.” But no one here knows what Fordite is. Can you help?

A We first learned about Fordite over 20 years ago. Many car manufacturers were closing their plants. Someone noticed that the floor where they had been painting the cars was covered with a thick layers of hard automobile paint. Since cars were made in many different colors, the floor had swirling patterns in the hardened material. Rock hounds and other collectors “mined” the material, sometimes with permission and sometimes after the plants were about to be torn down. Small pieces of this mined material are still available, and they usually are made into jewelry. We have seen pendants and rings made with Fordite set in gold that sell for more than $1,000.

Tip: It is best to wash marble with distilled water. Any trace of acid or iron in the water will cause deterioration or stains. Use soft soap, a bit of ammonia and a plastic container.

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