Years ago sailors had time to carve many small ivory objects

Terry And Kim Kovel
Kovel’s Antiques And Collecting

Old tools can be hard to identify because many are no longer used. A carved ivory leg with a little wheel at the top looks like it might be a toy or a drawing aid, but it would be odd to make a tool of ivory. This auction item, recently sold by Eldred’s Auctions, is a pie crimper, probably made by a sailor to give to a girlfriend or mother. It sold for $3,600 as an interesting, decorated piece of folk art. Those who bake pies know that the wheel is used to cut or seal decorative edges of a pie crust. But there is another bit of history that makes this antique interesting. In the 1950s when we started writing about antiques, the identification of unfamiliar objects was based on old letters, ads, family stories and guesses. Today, most of the conclusions are considered myths. Sailors had time to carve many small ivory objects, often as gifts. Parts of the human body were considered erotic, and at various times the ankle, leg, neck, bust, buttocks, long hair or even total nudity were featured in paintings and pictures to set a risque mood. But today the story of the ankle or the leg is considered a myth. Women usually wore boots, long stockings and long skirts for comfort and the leg was rarely visible. So, the pie crimper was a gift of love, but probably nothing more serious.

Q Were any Warwick portrait pottery vases made to look crackled? I have one that is crackled but can’t find any others.

A Warwick china was made in Wheeling, West Virginia, from 1887 to 1951. The most familiar Warwick has a shaded brown background with pictures of flowers, pinecones, acorns, dogs, birds, Charles Dickens’ characters, and portraits of young women, fishermen, monks and Native Americans. The glazes usually have a matte or high gloss finish, but not crackle. Crackle is the name given to glaze that is intentionally decorated with fine cracks that form during the piece’s cooling down process. It’s a deliberate effect. Crazing is a network of fine lines or cracks in the glazed surface that is accidental. It happens when the glaze is under tension — often the result of too much heat or cold, or the glaze recipe. A craze pattern can develop immediately after removal from the kiln or years later. Your Warwick vase is probably crazed.

Q I have a five-panel lithophane shade with lovely “romantic” panels in good condition. The metal frame is solid but has inevitable signs of wear and usage. I’m interested in the value.

A Lithophanes are made by casting clay in layers of different thicknesses. When the lamp is turned on, the pictures appear three-dimensional. Most lithophanes were made between 1825 and 1875. Lamps with lithophane shades sell for a few hundred dollars. Value of the shade alone is about half as much.

Q I have a bedroom set marked with the emblem of the White Furniture Co. of Mebane, North Carolina. It consists of a double headboard, bureau, dresser with mirror and dressing table with a three-panel mirror, all in excellent condition. It was purchased by a family member in the 1920s. What is its value?

A The White Furniture Co. was started by brothers William and David White in 1881. It was incorporated as the White-Rickel Furniture Co. in 1896 with the addition of investor A.J. Rickel. By 1899, Rickel had sold his interest and the firm was known as White Furniture Co. It made window and other building materials, which led to the production of furniture in 1896. The company was one of the first in the South to use electrically powered machinery. It became well-known and won awards for elegant, well-crafted dining room and bedroom furniture. In 1905, White was awarded a government contract to supply furniture to military personnel working on the Panama Canal, and eventually, throughout the U.S. and Far East. The company was bought by the Hickory Furniture Co. in 1985. The plant in Mebane closed in 1993. White bedroom sets at auction have been estimated at $400 to $700 but have sold from $250 to $350.

Q We’re in the midst of decluttering and trying to decide what to throw out and what might be worth keeping or selling. Does a Little Caesar’s plush finger puppet have any value? He looks like the character on the Little Caesar’s logo and is wearing an orange toga and sandals. He’s holding a slice of pizza in one hand. It was copyrighted in 1990 and has a tag that says “Manufactured by Trinkets-N-Things Ltd.”

A The Little Caesar’s finger puppet sells for about $10 online. You can try contacting an online seller to see if they’ll buy it, but it will cost you time and money to pack and ship it. It’s easier to donate it with other things you no longer want and take the tax deduction.

Q My mother has an antique table that is in good condition, but the top is warped. Can it be fixed? Is that expensive? Is it smart money to replace it?

A It depends on what the value of the table would be if it were perfect. A repaired top will lower the retail price by about 20%. The cost of the repair is based on the job, not the value of the piece, so the better the table, the more important it is to put it in the best possible shape. But it must be a very good repair, and that requires a restorer who is used to working on antiques.

TIP: Store drinking glasses and vases right side up to protect the rims.

This ivory pie crimper was made in the 1800s by a sailor and sold at an Eldred’s auction recently for $3,600. It is a piece of folk art with several suggested explanations of the design.