Large, Victorian furniture is out of style and hard to sell

Terry And Kim Kovel
Kovel’s Antiques And Collecting

The furniture you select for your first house is usually furniture that is as old as the house. A new modern house probably has lots of windows, high ceilings, kitchens and bathrooms made with marble. Most rooms are painted with either a mixture of very bright colors or a monotone shade of white or beige. Furniture looks like the first modern designs — simple shapes, little carving or decoration, chairs made of bent wood and metal rods, and plain rectangular storage pieces and tables. Victorian furniture with dark wood, carved and gilt trims, and metal plaques, just doesn’t fit in. When this 1870 American Renaissance-era cabinet was offered at auction (est. $8,000 to $12,000), there were few bidders. Moore, York, & Howell of Philadelphia, who exhibited at the 1876 Centennial Exposition, made it. A great example of American Renaissance furniture, over 5 feet high and just short of 5 feet wide, it is a good size for a Victorian room with an 8-foot-high ceiling and lots of wall space. So, while prices for early modern furniture have gone up, this cabinet, bought at a 2007 auction for $18,000, was featured in a well-advertised, well-run auction this year and didn’t sell.

Q I have a Rookwood vase and I would love some more information about it. It’s marked with the reverse letter “R” back to back with the letter “P” with 14 flames around it. I’ve found that most Rookwood pieces have a Roman numeral date below the mark, but this one does not. It also has the impressed number 605.

A Rookwood pottery was made in Cincinnati, Ohio, beginning in 1880. The “RP” mark was first used in 1886. One flame was added each year after that through 1900, making 14 flames. Roman numerals were added under the flame mark beginning in 1901. If there’s no Roman numeral under the mark on your vase, it was made in 1900. The number 605 is the shape number. Each shape was made in several sizes and decorated by different artists. A letter after the shape number indicates the size, with “A” being the largest and “F” the smallest. You may also find the artist’s initials or marks that indicate the glaze on the bottom of your vase. Rookwood was bought and sold several times. It was out of business for a while but now makes architectural tile, art pottery and special commissions. An early vase like yours is popular with collectors and large examples can sell for hundreds of dollars (if in perfect condition).

Q I have a barometer/altimeter that my dad may have gotten when he worked for Charles Dawes, Calvin Coolidge’s vice president. It is round and about 2 3/4 inches in diameter. It has a glass front and the case is heavy metal, maybe brass. It’s marked “Queen & Co., Phila” on the back. Can you tell me anything about it and value?

A James W. Queen & Company was founded in Philadelphia in 1853. It became Queen & Company in 1893. The company made and imported optical and scientific equipment. The name was changed to Queen-Gray Co. in 1912. The company became the Gray Instrument Company in 1925. It closed in 1952. Aneroid barometers don’t contain mercury and measure atmospheric pressure by the expansion of metal. An altimeter (altitude meter) is a type of aneroid barometer that measures changes in air pressure to measure changes in altitude. Without seeing what you have, we can’t give you a value.

Q I have several issues of 1902 and 1903 Popular Mechanics magazines. I’m having a hard time finding out their value. I know they were a weekly magazine at the time. One of the issues has an article written by Marconi. Can you help?

A The first issue of Popular Mechanics magazine was published on January 11, 1902. The publisher and editor was Henry Haven Windsor, and he wrote most of the articles. The magazine was published weekly and sold for 5 cents an issue, or $1 a year. It became a monthly magazine in September 1903. Hearst Corporation bought the magazine in 1958. It’s still being published. Old magazines don’t usually sell for much. Some people want the first issue of a magazine, some buy old magazines for their cover art and some buy them for the vintage ads in the magazine. The magazine with the article by Marconi may attract some buyers.

Q I inherited two unusual 14-karat gold and pearl tuxedo studs from my father’s estate. They are square with what looks like a lace-edge handkerchief folded over in a triangle shape. A long pin with a pearl head is stuck through the “handkerchief.” I don’t want to scrap them. How can I find their value for resale?

A Even though you don’t want to “scrap them,” it helps to know the meltdown value in order to determine the resale value of gold or silver items. You can take the studs to a jeweler to see how much the gold weighs and to find out the current meltdown value. The pearl also adds value. Jewelers often measure gold in troy ounces, which are heavier than standard ounces. The meltdown value of 14-karat gold fluctuates, but the value of a troy ounce is about $875. The jeweler may offer to buy them for a lower price because the jeweler must be able to make a profit. Most tuxedo stud sets include at least four studs and a pair of cufflinks. Since you only have two studs, they can’t be worn with a tuxedo shirt.

TIP: Never stop a music box in the middle of a tune. If the box is later moved, there is more likely to be damage to the spikes on the cylinder if it is not at the end of a song.

Trends in clothing change quickly. Skirts are long and then short, business attire for men now includes sports shirts and no neckties. Large, Victorian furniture is out of style and hard to sell. This top-quality cabinet didn’t sell even though it was estimated at less than half the price it cost 12 years ago.