Some early U.S. furniture used inexpensive, local woods

Kovel’s Antiques and Collecting

Furniture made in America during its early days sometimes used expensive imported material like mahogany with hardware from Europe. But local woods, like pine, oak, walnut and cedar, iron and even paint were available and inexpensive. The use of a local wood helps identify furniture made in New Mexico, Louisiana and parts of Pennsylvania.

An early 19th-century ladderback chair from Louisiana was sold at a recent Neal auction. It was made of cypress wood, which is rot-resistant, hard and durable, has few knots, a light golden color, and, best of all, found near the furniture maker. The chair could also be dated from the shape of the stiles, rungs and its corn husk seat. Modern copies of this type of chair to be used outdoors are made of cypress because it lasts longer than other woods.

The ladderback chair sold in the auction is 32 inches high and a comfortable 17 inches deep. It sold for $427. Cypress furniture is still being used but mainly as outdoor and garden furniture.

Question: We’re interested in the value of an Erector set that was handed down to our sons about 35 years ago. It’s the 10 1/2 Erector set and has a metal case, an instruction manual and all the pieces and motors. The case is slightly rusty. What do you think it’s worth?

Answer: The Erector set, a metal construction set, was invented in 1913 by Alfred Carlton Gilbert, owner of Mysto Manufacturing Co., a company that made supplies for magicians. The first Erector sets were sold as the Mysto Erector. The company’s name was changed to A.C. Gilbert Co. in 1916. Your number 10 1/2 Erector set, the Amusement Park Set, was made from 1949 to 1957. Erector sets were popular through the 1950s. When plastic parts were introduced in the 1960s, interest declined. Production stopped in 1980. The company was bought by Meccano in 2000. Sets are now sold under the brand name Electro by Meccano. The value of your set depends on the condition. The rust on the case will lower the value somewhat, but if the parts are not rusty as well, and if it is complete, it could sell for up to $400.

Q: My mother was a small reseller of head vases. We recently discovered, to our surprise, that she had quite an extensive inventory. What we thought was about 20 to 30 head vases turned out to be more than 250. How can we find someone interested in buying the lot of new, in-the-box Cameo Girl head vases?

A: Cameo Girl head vases were made by United Design Corp., a company in business in Noble, Oklahoma, from 1973 to 2004. Head vases, showing a woman from the shoulders up, were used by florists in the 1950s and ‘60s and became a collecting fad in the 1960s and ‘70s. They aren’t as popular today and only a few sell for high prices. Some sell for less than $20. If they include imitation jewelry or other accessories, or represent a famous person, they can sell for much more. Check online sources like eBay to see what they are selling for but be sure to look for “Sold” prices. Most online shops that sell lady head vases will also buy them. You can also try local antiques shops or consignment shops to see if they can sell them for you. Cameo Girl head vases in their original boxes have sold online recently for sold for $16 to $60.

Q: Can you give me some information and a price on a Landers, Frary & Clark electric coffeepot? It was my mother’s wedding gift in 1924 and was used at all our family holidays well into the 1960s. It still works. The bottom of the pot is marked “Made by Landers, Frary & Clark, New Britain Conn. USA” and “UNIVERSAL.”

A: Landers, Frary & Clark was founded in 1862. The company made a variety of metal products for household use, including coffeepots, coffee grinders, food scales, bread makers, cutlery, tableware and other items. The name “Universal” was used as a trade name beginning in the 1890s. The company was one of the first to make electric appliances and began making electric coffee percolators in 1908. Landers, Frary & Clark closed in 1965, and General Electric Co. bought the Universal trademark and the remaining inventory, equipment and assets. A working electric coffeepot is worth about $75.

Q: My husband has his original child’s Mickey Mouse plate and cup, which was purchased from Sears Roebuck in 1936. It’s ceramic, not plastic. Does it have any value?

A: Mickey Mouse first appeared in films in 1928. Authentic items picturing Disney characters are made by companies that are licensed by Disney. Children’s dishes picturing Disney characters were made in Bavaria, Germany, and imported by Schumann Bros. of New York City from 1932 to 1935. Salem China Co. of Salem, Ohio, held the license beginning in 1935 and made the dishes in the U.S. They were part of the company’s Patriot Line, which was made until 1939. If they were made by Salem China Co., they will be marked “S.C. Co., Patriot China, Made in America.” Plates, bowls, mugs and other items decorated with Disney characters have been made. Plates sell online for about $20 to $25 and mugs for $8 and up.

TIP: To get a good shine on your antique furniture, use more rubbing, not more polish.

This chair is made of a local wood, cypress, and local material for the seat by a Louisiana craftsman who sold inexpensive handmade furniture in the early 1800s. It sold for $427 in a recent sale of Louisiana antiques by Neal Auctions.