Majolica seat brings sense of zen to bucolic settings

Terry and Kim Kovel
Cowles Syndicate

May means warmer weather, flowers blooming and more time spent outdoors, especially in the garden. Even if you're as avid a gardener as Terry Kovel, the garden is never just a place for work. It's a place to sit, relax and enjoy the view of your beautiful plants and the birds and butterflies they attract.

Garden seats have been used for centuries. Early garden seats in China, called zuodun, literally "a block to sit on," were shaped like barrels with a stretched skin top held in place with nails. Later garden seats were made of porcelain but had the same barrel shape and featured decorative rows of bumps to resemble the old nail heads.

In 19th-century Europe and America, majolica, an earthenware pottery with thick, colorful tin glaze, was a popular material for garden seats, planters and other garden furnishings. They often had three-dimensional nature-themed decorations, like flowers, leaves and insects. However, majolica is fragile, prone to chipping and cracking, so it should be brought inside during inclement weather or kept indoors. Victorians often kept majolica pieces in conservatories, or greenhouses, so they could be part of a nature setting without being exposed to the elements.

This majolica stool was made in the 20th century. It is square instead of the antique barrel shape, but still shows the influence of 19th-century style.

Majolica stools are still sought as decorative items. This one that sold for $160 at Bunch Auctions was made in the 20th century, but shares the vivid colors and three-dimensional decorations of its Victorian predecessors.

Question: We have a dining room set that belonged to my in-laws. I think it's from around the 1940s. One of the escutcheons on the buffet is missing. I had the piece refinished and was told to try to find a match or replace all the escutcheons! I haven't been able to find an antiques dealer or other source that has this type of thing. It's circular with scalloped edges, a simple design and a hole in the center for the drawer pull. I was told these were stamped on a machine. Do you have any suggestions?

Answer: Unfortunately, the chance of finding an escutcheon with the exact design is slim. Several companies make reproduction or replacement hardware. Some are listed in the Business Directory on Try searching the internet to see if you can find something similar. Look for something that is large enough to cover the same space. Figure the cost and then decide if you want to replace all the escutcheons.

Q: I have a Little Miss Kay doll from my childhood over 60 years ago. She is wearing a white and pink dress. The doll was purchased by mailing in a number of box tops from cereal. I've never seen this doll at stores or flea markets. Does the doll have any value other than sentimental value?

A: Little Miss Kay is a 13-inch-tall vinyl doll offered as a premium by Kellogg's in 1960. It sold for $2 plus two box tops from Kellogg's cereals. The doll came with four different outfits, a pastel striped dress, a red body suit with red and white striped skirt, flannel pajamas and a "play set" consisting of a top and pants. Three extra outfits could be bought for $1 plus two box tops. Some of the outfits came with a hat and panties. It's been offered for sale online, with the original outfits, for about $50. The doll by itself, dressed, has sold for under $10.

Q: I have several copperware casseroles that have worn spots and probably need to be re-tinned. How can I find a place to get this done without needing to ship them? Is it dangerous to use these pieces as they are?

A: Don't use the casseroles if the tin lining is worn off. Direct contact with tomatoes or other acidic food can cause small amounts of copper to leach into the food. If you live near a big city, you might find a local metal repair shop that does re-tinning. If there is no one near you, you can find other places online. The company that made the copperware, or a store near you that sells similar pieces, might be able to recommend someone who does re-tinning. If you can't get the pieces re-tinned, just use them as display items.

Q: I'd like some information about the short-lived Grossbaum & Sohne company of Dresden, Germany. Any pricing info would be greatly appreciated.

A: Porzellanmalerei R. Grossbaum & Sohne (Porcelain Painting Grossbaum & Sons) was a porcelain decorating company started by R. Grossbaum and his sons in 1890. It was in business until 1914. The company decorated white porcelain blanks made by other companies. Most were hand painted with flowers and gilt trim. Not many pieces have been sold recently. Four demitasse cups and saucers sold for $54. A 10-inch plate was offered for sale for $170 and a 9-inch leaf-shaped plate for $150. Other asking prices are even higher, but that does not mean they will sell for that much.

TIP: Set heavy garden urns or statues on a foundation, usually a cement block set in the ground.

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