Vibrant old-world ad adds splash of color to collection

Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel
Cowles Syndicate
Diamond Dyes is a favorite company of collectors of antique advertising. Its advertisements featured vibrant images, like this cabinet with a scene of children playing.

Collectors of antique advertising look for vivid colors and eye-catching graphics. And who would have brighter colors than a dye company? Today, few people buy fabric dyes outside of craft projects, but most families wore homemade clothes in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. 

Clothing was made to last, and items were often repaired or remade multiple times before they were retired. People would buy dyes for home use to make their clothing or give a new look to old clothes. 

Diamond Dyes, a leading dye company around 1900, is known for its advertising. Their trade cards, advertising booklets and store cabinets are especially popular with collectors today. This cabinet with a colorful tin lithographed scene of children playing outdoors sold for $750 by Morford's Antique Advertising. Watch out for reproductions!

Question: My sister visited England about 20 years ago and brought me home a 4-inch Toby character jug of the head of Henry VIII. I really like it but understand these are very common and not very valuable. Is that true? 

Answer: Character jugs representing literary, legendary and real-life characters were introduced by Royal Doulton in 1934 at the Burslem Pottery in Stoke-on-Trent. New ones were added to the line until 2011. They were made in several sizes: large, small, miniature and tiny. They are different from Toby jugs, which date back to the 1770s. Legend says they are inspired by a poem about "Toby Fillpot," the nickname of a real Yorkshire man who was a legendary drinker. The most common Toby is 9 or 10 inches high. The jug is shaped like a man wearing a tricorn (three-corner) hat, waistcoat, long coat and knee breeches seated in a chair and holding a jug of ale. Royal Doulton began making Toby jugs in 1939. Character jugs are shaped with only the head and shoulders of the character. They are popular collectibles, but, with a few exceptions, not rare or expensive. Each sells for $50 or less.

Q: I found this odd item at my in-law's house. It looks like a wooden rolling pin but is covered with rows of carved teeth. It also has one flat side. One end of the cylinder has a handle, and the other end has a circle carved about 2-inches deep. Some people think it's a meat cleaver, but that doesn't seem right. Can you tell me what it is and solve this mystery? 

A: It is a specialty rolling pin designed for flatbreads or crackers. The teeth are designed to make tiny holes or score the dough to allow air flow to prevent the dough from rising. Bakers will use forks, dough dockers (a small, spiked roller) or rolling pins like yours to poke holes in pastry crusts, pizza dough and flatbreads. The carved opening is where a missing handle would have gone. Through our research, we have not found a rolling pin with a flat side. It could have been modified to prevent it from rolling off the work surface. 

Q: I bought several chairs from a resale shop. The shop owner said they came from the boardroom of Lockheed Martin. The chair seat and back are one piece of curved wood. The legs are silver metal. They are stackable. The sticker on the bottom says, "Westnofa Furniture made in Norway." I only paid $15 each for them but was recently told they are valuable. Is this true? 

A: Westnofa manufactured furniture that exemplifies mid-century Scandinavian design. The style became popular because of its simplicity and functional design, like the ability to stack the chairs. Your chair was designed by Oivind Iversen and is called the "City Chair." Mid-century furniture is in demand by decorators and collectors. Chairs like yours have recently sold for $50 to $100 each. However, your friend is correct: If you have a set of six to eight, they can sell for upwards of $200 each.  

Q: Several years ago, I bought a metal letter opener that has "International Harvester Company, New Office" on one side of the handle and "February 22, 1929" on the other side. Does it have any value? 

A: International Harvester Co. was formed in 1902 when McCormick Harvesting Machine Co. merged with Deering Harvester Co. and three smaller companies. The company made agricultural equipment and commercial trucks. It was the fourth largest industrial company in the United States in the early 1900s. The company ran into financial difficulties later and sold its agricultural division and the name "International Harvester" to Tenneco, owner of J.I. Case, in 1984. The brand name became Case IH. International Harvester's truck division became part of Navistar International Corp. in 1986. A letter opener like yours sold for $45 at an auction of International Harvester memorabilia a couple of years ago.

TIP: If the photograph album you buy smells like plastic, don't use it. The fumes will eventually destroy the pictures.

Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel answer readers' 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, (Farm Forum), King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803 or email us at