Boyer seed chests are far from disreputable

Terry and Kim Kovel
Cowles Syndicate

Famous names add to the value of an antique, even if we know more about the maker's work than about the maker. Few names of antique folk artists and country crafters are known today, and even less is known about the people behind them. John Boyer, who made seed chests in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, in the mid- to late 19th century, is one of these crafters.

This seed chest was made about 1870 out of inexpensive wood for a practical purpose. Now it can command a higher price than some designer pieces.

This seed chest, attributed to Boyer, sold for an impressive $28,320 at a Conestoga auction. The chest features grain painting, a popular decoration at the time. Grain painting meant painting an inexpensive material, such as pine, to resemble an expensive wood, such as mahogany. Boyer chests have a distinctive style of grain painting with diagonal stripes on the sides and vertical lines on the front drawers, which are visible on the chest pictured. We may not know his life story, but John Boyer clearly left his mark on the antiques world.

Question: My mother-in-law bought a Stan Hywet Hall pewter plate at a garage sale over 25 years ago. It's embossed "Stan Hywet Hall" above a circle with an embossed picture of part of the house. Below that is "Non Nobis Solum." Can you tell us anything about it and its possible worth?

Answer: Stan Hywet Hall is a 65-room Tudor Revival manor house in Akron, Ohio. It was built for F.A. Seiberling, the cofounder of The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, and his family between 1912 and 1915 on land that included an abandoned stone quarry. "Stan Hywet" is old English for "Stone Hewn" or "Stone Quarry." The motto "Non Nobis Solum," Latin for "not for ourselves alone," is written on the crest above the front door. After the deaths of Mr. and Mrs. Seiberling, ownership of Stan Hywet Hall was transferred to a non-profit entity in 1957. Stan Hywet Hall is now a historic house museum, with the Manor House, Gate Lodge, Carriage House, Conservatory and gardens that are open for tours from April through December. Your pewter souvenir plate may have originally been sold in the gift shop on the estate. Pewter souvenir plates sell for $10 to $15 depending on the size.

Q: I was helping my mother sort through items to donate to charity and came across a belt with an impressive gold cougar on the buckle. Can you tell me about the belt and whether it is valuable? It is marked "Christopher Ross 1991."

A: Christopher Ross is an American sculptor and designer, well known for wearable art. Ross won numerous design awards for sculptural belts and buckles in his "Animal Instinct" series. Two of his belt buckles are in the permanent collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. A new generation of collectors was introduced to the belts by actress Sarah Jessica Parker when she wore one on the show "Sex & The City." The belt buckles are cast metal and have several types of finishes, including gold plate. Like many designer items, there are knock-offs. Authentic Christopher Ross buckles sell for $250 to $1,300.

Q: Is an old Rival No. 100 wooden wringer worth anything? It says "Rolls 10 x 1 3/4 inches" and "The rolls in this wringer are warranted one year for regular family use." The trademark is a horseshoe shape with the letters "LMC" inside. It's in good condition.

A: Before the invention of automatic washing machines with spin dry, a hand-cranked wringer was attached to the washing machine or tub and used to wring out the laundry. The mark on your wringer indicates it was made by Lovell Manufacturing Co., a company founded in Erie, Pennsylvania, in 1881. Automatic washing machines were invented in the 1920s and were common in most homes by the 1950s. Wooden wringers from the late 1800s and early 1900s sell for about $50 to $100 depending on condition.

Q: My Dad bought a glass cockatoo for me at an auction 30 years ago. It came in a box with "Cristalleries Royales De Champagne, 1666" printed on the top. The name is also etched into the bottom of the figure. What do you think it is worth?

A: Cristalleries Royales De Champagne was founded in Bayel, France, in 1666. King Louis XIV granted Jean-Baptiste Mazolay, a Venetian glassmaker, permission to establish a glassworks in Bayel. It supplied glassware to the Royal court until 1727. The company is still in business. Current production is centered on champagne glasses but also includes decanters and bottles. Several different bird figures as well as animals and other decorative objects were also made at the Cristalleries. Their bird figurines have sold for $30 to $60.

TIP: If there are traces of glue on the back of a label, soak the label and carefully scrape the glue off under water. Then dry flat.

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