Toys with colorful, detailed decorations popular with collectors
Bliss doll houses, wooden houses covered with a colored paper lithograph that includes doors, windows, bricks and even hedges, are among the best of the Victorian toys. The company started in 1831 in Pawtucket, R.I. making wooden screws. Toys were made from about 1871 to 1914 but the name Bliss was kept in use until 1935. Bliss made many wooden toys with lithographed exteriors like trains, ships, houses, blocks, games and even an ark with animals. Other companies were also making similar toys. Theriault’s Auctions sold a pair of 13-inch-high wooden chairs for dolls with a lithograph that pictured a man reading a book on one, a woman in a shawl on the other. Made about 1885, they are by an unknown maker. The pair sold in a Theriault’s doll auction in Newport Beach, California for $952.
Q How long has Royal Doulton been making Bunnykin figurines? I have about 43 of the small figures but need more information to find the best ones. Aren’t some being reissued by the company?
A Bunnykins were first made in 1939 by Royal Doulton. The British firm started making dishes and figurines in 1853 using the name Doulton. They changed their name to Royal Doulton in 1902, and although the company is now part of WWRD Holdings, the Royal Doulton backstamp is still in use. In 1939, they made six earthenware Bunnykin figures. Production stopped during World War II, then started again in 1972. They have made over 500. In 2004, the production of Bunnykins was moved overseas to Thailand and then to China. Once a Bunnykin figure was discontinued, Royal Doulton never reissued it. Each figure has a name and number on the bottom that can be identified online or in special books. Kovels Antiques and Collectibles Price Guide includes some Bunnykins prices each year. Older prices also are on Kovels.com. The average small figures, about 2 to 5 inches high, sell for about $15 to $30; rare ones have sold for hundreds of dollars; limited editions for thousands.
Q I have an old Apple IIe computer that was used for only six months. I also have the monitor and the original boxes. Is this unit worth anything?
A The original Apple I computer is considered one of the most valuable and collectible computers in the world. Only 575 units were ever sold and fewer than 100 are known to still exist, making it the rarest of Apple computers. A few sold at auctions in 2013 and 2014 for hundreds of thousands of dollars. But not every vintage Apple computer is a jackpot. The Apple II, sold from 1977 to 1993, was one of the first successful personal computer systems. Millions were sold for use in homes, schools and businesses. It was made in a number of models, with improvements to each model. The Apple II Plus was introduced in 1979 and the Apple IIe in 1983. A complete Apple IIe system sells today from $100 to $400 depending on the condition.
Q Is there a market for Jim Beam Ducks Unlimited decanters? I have several that are unopened.
A Jacob Beam began selling bourbon in bottles labeled “Beam” in Kentucky in 1795. Several generations of the family continued the business. The James B. Beam Distilling Co. was incorporated in 1934. The company is now part of Beam Suntory. The first decanters were made to sell in time for Christmas in 1953. Ducks Unlimited, a wetlands conservation organization, commissioned a series of decanters that was made from 1974 to 1995. Twenty-one Ducks Unlimited decanters were made, with part of the proceeds going to the conservation organization. Interest in liquor decanters has waned and prices have dropped. Full bottles are not worth more to a collector than unfilled. You can find many Ducks Unlimited decanters selling online for as low as $5 to $10. Some states or cities have laws that restrict the sale of filled liquor bottles to registered liquor stores.
Q I have a fireman’s home alarm that belonged to my uncle, who was a lieutenant in the Lewiston, Maine, fire department in the late 1930s to ‘50s. When the alarm rang in the station, it also rang in his home so he knew he had to go to the station. It has a metal tag on the front that says “The Gamewell Fire Alarm & Telegraph Co.” and patent dates of Jan. 6, 1880, and June 7, 1881. What can you tell me about it?
A The Fire Alarm Telegraph was first used in the U.S. in 1852. Telegraph wires connected fire alarms or signal boxes in various part of the city to the fire station, setting off an alarm or gong at the station. Indicators showed where the alarm site was. Your uncle’s home alarm used a similar connection to summon him to the fire station. John Nelson Gamewell (1822-1896) began producing fire alarms in 1859, after buying the patents and rights to install them in several states. His company also made house gongs. The company name became Gamewell Fire Alarm & Telegraph Co. in 1879. A complete house alarm with a gong sold for about $1,500 recently.
Tip: Don’t put china with gold designs in the dishwasher. The gold will wash off.
By sending a letter with a question, you give full permission for use in any Kovel forum. For return of a photograph, include a stamped envelope. Write to Kovel, Farm Forum, King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.