Antiques: Calder's Guatemala rugs rare, expensive pieces

and Kim Kovel

Alexander Calder (1898-1976) is best known for his sculpture mobiles, although he also did paintings, jewelry and large outdoor statues. He was the first artist to make a new type of statue of wire and metal that was assembled so it moved with each gust of wind. His creations sell for thousands of dollars, but at one time, you could have bought a small rug designed by Calder for much less.

In 1972, there was an earthquake in Nicaragua and Guatemala that killed hundreds of people. A group of artists formed a relief fund, and each artist contributed art made in a limited edition of 100. The art was sold, and the money used for the earthquake victims.

Calder drew 14 designs for a rug or tapestry and a limited edition of each was made by weavers in Guatemala from local fibers. He adjusted the pattern to use the beige maguey fiber and local weaving styles. Many of the rugs are in museums today. In 2014, “Moon,” one of the Guatemala Calder rugs, sold for $16,250. In 2017, a faded limited edition rug brought $4,688.

Question: A friend gave me a Norman Rockwell colored print titled “The Famous Model T Was ‘Boss of the Road.’” It pictures a family in an early Ford Model T visiting a farm family to show off their new car. There’s a circle and the letters “FMC” next to Rockwell’s name. The print is 18 by 18 1/2 inches. My friend said it had belonged to his great-grandmother. It must be over 100 years old. Can you give me the value?

Answer: His great-grandmother might be over 100 years old, but the print is not. Although the picture is of a 1910 Model T Ford, the print is from a watercolor painting Rockwell did in 1951 or 1952. It was part of a series of paintings Ford commissioned for use in the company’s 1953 calendar, which celebrated the company’s 50th anniversary. The circle and letters “FMC” probably mean the copyright is held by the Ford Motor Company. The original painting is in the Henry Ford Museum. Many prints have been made, some selling for as little as $15.

Q: I have five Madame Alexander Little Women dolls — Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy and Marme — in perfect condition, that our daughter was given for birthdays in the 1960s. The dolls are 8 inches high and have movable heads, arms and legs. They are complete with original boxes. Each doll’s name and the number “781” are on the boxes. What is their value?

A: Madame Alexander made several different series of Little Women dolls in different sizes and different materials. Hard plastic dolls with straight, movable legs are called Straight Leg Walkers and were first made in 1955. Dolls with bent knees and movable legs are called Bent Knee Walkers and were made from 1956 to 1959. Dolls that aren’t “walkers” were made with bent knees from 1960 to 1963 and with straight legs after that.

Little Women dolls with the number 781 are Alexander-kins, also known as Wendy, Wendy Ann or Wendy-kins dolls. They have the “Wendy” face that was modeled after Madame Alexander’s granddaughter, Wendy Ann Birnbaum. Alexander-kins dolls were often dressed in costumes associated with movie and book characters or celebrities. The dolls sell today for about $50 each. A doll with the original box might sell for $100.

Q: I have a mug that says “Remembrance of the 34 Reunion of the GAR (Grand Army of the Republic), Chicago, Aug. 26-30, 1900.” It has an American flag and eagle on the front and a five-star badge with “Veteran of the Grand Army of the Republic” written on it. Does this have any value?

A: The Grand Army of the Republic was an organization for Union Army veterans who fought in the Civil War. It was founded in 1866 and dissolved in 1956 after the last member died. The GAR established soldiers’ homes and orphanages, lobbied Congress to pass pension legislation for veterans, advocated voting rights for Black veterans and promoted a national memorial day honoring those who died in the war.

Thousands of posts were established in cities and small towns. National encampments were held annually. The last, the 83rd, was held in 1949. Mugs sell for $50 to $200 depending on condition and age.

Q: I have a narrow, oval tray with a wide border of 12 courting scenes and gold trim. The couple is in 18th-century clothing, and the man is playing the guitar and serenading the woman in some scenes. The bottom is marked with a beehive mark and “Royal Vienna, 1102.” Can you tell me anything about this tray?

A: The Royal Porcelain Manufactory of Vienna used a shield mark beginning in 1744. The mark looks like a beehive when viewed upside down. Collectors call the decorated porcelain made by this company “Royal Vienna.” The factory closed in 1864. The mark and name Royal Vienna have been used by many factories in Austria, Germany and Japan since then. The courting couple design has been used on several pieces and most date from the late 1900s. You didn’t give us the size of your tray, so we can’t tell you the value. We’ve seen this pattern in celery or relish trays that are about 10 inches long. They sell for about $25.

Tip: Be sure to take off and save any labels on your pieces of glass. Wash away any glue. The acid in the labels will permanently etch the glass.

Condition has become the most important feature when determining price. Fame, rarity and history are also considered when setting a price. Sometimes a price is high because there are two determined bidders. This maguey fiber tapestry, “Moon,” after Alexander Calder, sold at a Rago auction in 2017 for $4,688.