Antiques & Collecting: Bronze artist reversed name to hide identity
Bronze figures usually are signed by artists, who sometimes use initials or strange names that are hard to find in the important art listings. Nam Greb was an artist who made detailed, colorful cold painted bronze figures in Austria during the early 19th century. Some of his work was easy to identify. He favored tabletop scenes of Oriental life with colorful tents, figures in Arab garb, market stalls and animals. Some were even small lamps. But some figures of men had cloaks that opened to show erotic scenes or women who, when the doors opened, were naked. The strange name “Nam Greb” was the reverse spelling of Bergman, the name of a well-known Austrian artist who also made conservative figures for his regular customers. Franz Bergman (or Bergmann, 1861-1936) lived in Vienna, Austria. In about 1900, he inherited a bronze factory from his father. Bergman developed cold bronze decorations. They were made of several layers of paint that were not fired. Unfortunately, his technique has been lost.
Q: Years ago, my father brought home an autographed color photo of Emmett Kelly. It was made out to me personally. I still have it. Is this something that is considered a collectible? Is it worth anything?
A: Emmett Kelly (1898-1979), who is considered the world’s most famous clown, was born in Kansas. At an early age, his mother enrolled him in a correspondence school for cartooning. He later gave “chalk talks” and entertained in schools. He created his signature character, Weary Willie, in the early 1920s while working for a film company. In 1937, he performed that character for the first time. Kelly worked for Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey from 1942 until it closed in 1956. He also worked in movies, television and night clubs. There are collectors of Emmett Kelly memorabilia as well as collectors of clown items. Autographed photos of Kelly have sold from $50 to about $200. Your name in the autograph will lower the value. Collectors pay less for personalized autographs.
Q: I have been researching a cabinet that looks like it was made for cocktails. It’s wood with carved panels of Asian scenes. The top opens and the front drops down to reveal a mirrored bar. The sides open for storage and the corners have fitted stemware racks. I was told it might be by George Zee. I like it and won’t sell it, but what is it worth?
A: Your liquor/bar cabinet sounds like it was made by George Zee & Co. George Zee studied at the Princeton Seminary, then went into the furniture business in Shanghai in the 1930s. He was good at attracting Western clients, and his company became one of the leading Chinese furniture makers in Shanghai. Just before the communists took over in 1949, Zee left Shanghai for Hong Kong, where he re-established his business. The company made carved teak and camphor wood boxes, trunks, tables and cabinets. He labeled them with metal tags. Each piece had a serial number and came with a guarantee that it would never split or warp thanks to his special kiln-dried technique. His pieces became popular with American troops stationed in Asia. Later, furniture made by other manufacturers was sold under the George Zee name. Zee died in 1967 and the business was left to his widow. It closed in 2010. George Zee cocktail cabinets have sold at auction for about $500 to $700. Others have only brought $100. The style, quality of carving, and whether it has an original metal tag all affect the price.
Q: I recently bought a lot of postcards but it seems there’s really no market for them. I tried a couple of places but they refuse to even see the items. Where is a good place to try to sell them?
A: Did you buy them as an investment, hoping to sell them at a profit? It’s never a good idea to invest in something unless you know what to look for before you buy, and what is desirable and valuable. Only a small number or postcards sell for high prices. Most sell for 25 cents or less. Inexpensive postcards sell online in groups of 25 or 30 postcards for about $7. Old postcards sell at flea markets, antiques shops, and house sales. They also sell online on sites like eBay. You can go to a postcard show in your area and see what postcards like yours are selling for and whether there is any interest in them.
Q: I was given a set of Poppytrail by Metlox dinner service for four. It includes plates, cups and saucers, bowls and a small creamer and sugar bowl, and they are in perfect condition. What is the set worth?
A: Metlox Potteries was founded by Theodore C. Prouty and his son, Willis, in Manhattan Beach, California, in 1927. The company was sold to Evan K. Shaw in 1946. Poppytrail was a division of Metlox from 1946 to 1989, when the pottery closed. Several hundred Poppytrail patterns were made. Prices depend on the desirability of the pattern. A five-piece place setting of Sculptured Grape, including two plates, bowl, and cup and saucer, was offered for sale for $36. A sugar in that pattern sold for $16, and a creamer sold for $20.
Q: I’d like information about an old electric National Cash Register I have. The serial number is 4473484. How old is it and what is it worth?
A: National Cash Register was founded in Dayton, Ohio, in 1884. Brass cash registers were made from the 1890s to about 1918. Metal cases stamped and painted to look like wood were made beginning about 1918. The serial number indicates your cash register was made in 1948. Old ornate brass and marble cash registers sell for high prices, from hundreds to over $1,000. Newer models like yours that are not brass sell for much less.
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Current prices are recorded from antiques shows, flea markets, sales and auctions throughout the United States. Prices vary in different locations because of local economic conditions.
Toy, monkey, climbing, pull string, green jacket, yellow vest, box, Lehmann, 8 inches, $90
Bookends, Little Journeys, copper, hammered, rectangualar, rounded corners, Roycroft, 1900s, 8 5/8 x 5 7/8 inches, pair, $125.
Stone, brush washer, amethyst, squirrels, vines, oval, 6 1/4 inches, $180.
Furniture, chair, Windsor, sack back, turned legs and stretcher, saddle seat, 1780s, 37 x 22 3/4 inches, $210.
Rug, wool, pile, abstract flower shapes, bright colors, after Henri Matise, round, 48 inches, $250.
Document box, wooden, mother-of-pearl inlay, cranes, landscape, flowers, vines, 15 1/2 x 11 3/4 inches, $365.
Pedestal, carved twist shaft, stylized green key collar, round stepped base, marble, 39 x 12 inches, pair, $495.
Buster Brown, toy, seesaw, Tige rides down a ramp, with a ball, clockwork, Germany, 10 inches, $660.
Birdcage, business office, H R lettering across the front, butterfly, scalloped arcades, 16 1/2 x 32 inches, $1,210.
Sailor’s Valentine, hexagonal, flower, sun rays, seeds, shells, 6 1/2 x 16 inches, $3,025.
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