Antique furniture can add unique style when decorating a house

Tim Kovel and Kerry Kovel
Cowles Syndicate
These Campeche chairs are made of mahogany with a small, circular inlay of a lighter wood. They were estimated to be worth $5,000 each.

When decorating a room, it's fun to include something out of the ordinary.

Perhaps you can find an unusual lamp or a modern painting, or a piece of furniture in a unique style. Try something new and go to an auction to see what is selling. 

Neal Auction Company's recent auction was selling different styles of antique furniture, including a Campeche chair. It looked a lot like some modern chairs, but it had a single piece of leather curved to make the back and seat on a simple wooden frame. The back was tipped just enough to make it a perfect place to nap. The legs were upside-down capital C's, one on each side with a center stretcher. It was a perfect conversation piece. 

The name "Campeche" comes from its use in the city of Campeche, Mexico, where it was popular in the late 18th century. Historians thought the name came from campeche wood, but most were made of mahogany. Looking up the chair's history takes talent because it is also called a "Spanish chair" or a "butac" (a shortened form of other words, "butaca" or "boutaque," used for the chair). Some call it the "planter's chair." Thomas Jefferson had one of these chairs he called a "Campeachy." 

The chairs, similar to earlier X-frame chairs, were popular in Louisiana and shipped to New Orleans. They were used in Philadelphia by the 1830s and in London by about 1845. Some modern artists, including silversmith William Spratling, were creating similar pieces in the 1950s. The chairs are still being made and sold in the U.S. today. 

May 23:Current prices

Question: I have quite a few "Lucy" Barbies, never taken out of the package. I know they are collectible. Are they worth anything? 

Answer: "I Love Lucy" was a popular TV show starring Lucille Ball and her husband, Desi Arnaz, who also played Lucy's TV husband, Ricky Ricardo. It ran on CBS from 1951 to 1957. Mattel made "I Love Lucy dolls," dressed in costumes representing episodes of the show, from 1997 to 2011. Lucy, Ricky and Ethel dolls were made. "I Love Lucy" Kelly dolls, representing Lucy and her friend Ethel, that were smaller were made in 2008 and 2009. The dolls in their original boxes sell for $10 to $50. A few in the box in mint condition go for over $100. 

Q: I have a Carter's fountain pen that belonged to my father. It's marbled black with gold-colored bands on the cap, a 14K gold nib and is 5 1/2 inches long. Does it have any value besides the sentimental value? 

A: William Carter, a stationer, founded William Carter Company in Boston, in 1858 and began making ink. It became Carter's Ink Company in 1888. Carter's began making fountain pens in 1924. 

The Carter Pen, the first fountain pen with the Carter name on it, was introduced in 1926. It was made of hard rubber and was promoted with the slogan "You know the ink." Celluloid pens were made beginning in 1927. The Pearltex Pen, made of a new iridescent material that combined mother-of-pearl and plastic, was introduced in 1929. Cheaper pens in celluloid and hard rubber continued to be made. Pens in streamlined styles were made beginning in 1930. 

Carter's stopped making pens in 1932 but continued to make ink. The company was sold to Dennison Manufacturing Company in 1975. Carter pens were made for only a few years and are collectibles. Condition, material, style and rarity determine price. They sell for $15 to $450. 

Q: I recently found an old copy of Motor Travel Magazine dated June 1921, price 35 cents. I also found a copy of The People's Home Journal dated August 1921, price 15 cents. Both are in very good condition. Do they have any value? Where can I sell them? 

A: The People's Home Journal was published from 1885 to 1929. It included household hints, recipes, stories and other articles that appealed to homemakers. It might sell in an antiques bookstore for $2. Motor Travel was one of many magazines about cars and car travel published in the 1920s after owning a car became common. Old magazines don't sell for much, but some old advertisements have decorative appeal. They can be cut from the magazine and framed. If you want to sell the magazines, contact a seller who handles used books. 

Q: My grandmother had a complete set of Blue Willow china. Can you tell me the approximate value? It's marked "Flair, Japan" in a rectangle. Beneath that it says "Blue Willow, 603." 

A: Blue Willow dishes were first made in England in 1780. The pattern, picturing a Chinese landscape with willow trees, a bridge and birds has been copied by many companies. Flair, a company in Japan, probably made Blue Willow dishes in the 1950s or '60s. Plates sell online for $6 to $10 each. You didn't say how many pieces you have, but large sets of dinnerware are hard to sell.

TIP: Old vs. new iron garden furniture: Old iron furniture usually weighs more, and the iron is smoother than new iron. Look for rust and faded paint, also. But remember, that too can be faked.

Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel answer reader's questions sent to the column. Send a letter with one question describing the size, material (glass, pottery) and what you know about the item. Include only two pictures, the object and a closeup of any marks or damage. Be sure your name and return address are included. By sending a question, you give full permission for use in any Kovel product. Names, addresses or email addresses will not be published. We do not guarantee the return of photographs, but if a stamped envelope is included, we will try. Questions that are answered will appear in Kovels Publications. Write to Kovels, (Name of this newspaper), King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803 or email us at collectorsgallery@kovels.com.