Vintage and antique banks of all kinds are selling well in shops and auctions

Farm Forum

Saalheimer & Strauss, a German company, started in 1911. It made toys, writing goods and eventually toy banks, cars, motorcycles, airplanes, Disney characters, penny toys and other tin toys. They sold the products internationally and in 1936, the company’s ownership went to Philipp Nidermeier, who continued making tin banks. The Strauss family immigrated to New York. Collectors can recognize their toys from the trademark, a circle or oval with the overlapping letters “SS” in the center. The colorful lithographed toys are popular with collectors. A British Clown bank sold at Bertoia Auctions in Vineland, N.J., for $1,920 in March 2015. It is 5 1/2 inches high.

Q My elaborately carved wooden chair with a high back, no arms, and a circular hole carved out in the center of the seat puzzles me. Can you tell me how this type of chair was used?

A This is a potty chair or commode. Before indoor toilets became available in the late 19th century, people used a chamber pot or “thunder mug” in their bedroom. A chamber pot was put in the hole and held by the rim of the pot. After use, it was removed and the contents emptied into a slop jar. After indoor plumbing became common, some potty chairs eventually were altered for use as traditional chairs and the hole in the seat was covered with a board or cushion. Sometimes the back was altered and the frame tipped back to make the chair more comfortable to sit in. Only a well-to-do family would have had an ornately carved potty chair. Fancy potty chairs can sell for several hundred dollars or more, but the hole lowers the value by as much as 50 percent.

Q I am collecting old rectangular glass paperweights that look as if a photograph was inserted into the glass. Most of my collection has pictures of buildings or ads for products. How long ago did they start making these? My Brownie Scout daughter made something similar with a photograph inserted into a new glass holder made to look like the old paperweights.

A Advertising photo paperweights come in two basic forms, domes about 3 inches in diameter, and rectangular weights about 2 1/2 inches by 4 inches. The earliest domes were patented in 1882 by William Maxwell, who had a glass factory in Pennsylvania. The picture or ad was printed on a piece of white glass, then put in a mold and molten glass encased the picture image. The name Brown & Maxwell Ltd. has been found stamped on a few weights but the company had a fire in 1883 and soon closed. The patent was used by others and some have been found dated as late as 1888. Other very early weights were made by Albert Graeser using a different method that he patented in 1892. Most rectangular Graeser weights seem to be mass produced ads for businessmen, celebrities, companies and buildings. The company was closed by the 1920s. You may be able to find marked examples of weights by some makers from the first half of the 1900s or earlier, including Barnes & Abrams, John & Joseph Lobmiller, Mid-Atlantic Glass Co. and Pittsburgh Glass Novelty Co. There are also many modern glass factories that make similar paperweights given away as ads or sold as souvenirs. Prices for old examples can be from $50 to $350 or higher if very unusual.

Q My Heatmaster electric curling iron is marked “Pat. No. 1,562,349.” I know it’s over 100 hundred years old. I’d like some information about it and its value.

A Curling irons were first used to curl hair over 100 hundred years ago, but your curling iron isn’t as old as you think. Early curling irons were heated by holding them over the flame on a stove or fireplace. The patent for a curling iron was granted to Hiram Maxim in 1866 for his invention of a steam-heated curling iron fueled by gas, alcohol or other inflammable liquid. Electric curling irons were first made in the 1920s. The patent on your curling iron was issued to Theodore S. Lorenze and Warren S. Schmidt in 1925 for a “new and useful electric curling-iron heater” and was assigned to the Master Electric Co. of Chicago. Old curling irons aren’t easy to sell. Value: $10-$20.

Q I was given a group of seven brass bells in sizes from one inch to almost six inches high. It reads “Chiantel Fondeur” on one side and “Saignelegier” and “1878” on the other. What country are they from and what are they worth?

A Bells like this were originally made by Chiantel Fondeur, a foundry in Saignelegier, Switzerland. They were reproduced in the United States until the 1960s by Bevin Bros. Manufacturing Company. The original bells are heavier than reproductions and the bas relief is deeper. Bevin Bros. brass bells have a steel clapper hung on a wire attached to a loop inside the top of the bell. Thousands of these bells have been made and sources say they still are being made, so the date on your bells is not an indication of age. Sears, Roebuck and Co. sold thousands of the bells between 1900 and about 1940. Most bells like yours sell today for $10 to $25.

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