Antiques & Collecting: Yesterday’s ‘science’ is today’s collectible

Medicine has come a long way since the early 1800s, when phrenology was an accepted theory of diagnosis. It was said that each bump on your head covered a part of the brain that controlled a personality trait, like self-esteem, a destructive tendency or religious interest. The bumps might show a criminal tendency, but rewards and punishments could change tendencies.

Now considered a pseudoscience, phrenology was important in Britain, Ireland and the United States because of the lecturers who preached about it. Queen Victoria had the heads of her children read. By the 1840s, it had lost credibility in the United States. Brothers Lorenzo and Orson Fowler became famous for making china phrenology heads that had “maps” of the zones marked on them. They are still the symbols of phrenology, and old heads sell for over $500; modern copies are inexpensive. A baby’s head called “The Character Baby,” rarely seen, was offered at a Canadian shop, Peter Frampton Antiques & Interiors, for about $250. It pictures the 5-month-old son of the artist, George Ricci, who made phrenology heads from 1915 to 1921.

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Q. I’ve spent hours trying to find out something about my two Spode lamps. How do I know their age and worth before I sell them? They are marked “The Spode Blue Room Collection.” One also has “Floral / First introduced c. 1830 / Reproduced from a hand engraved copper plate.” One is the Willow pattern, and the other one has vertical panels with flowers. I would appreciate any direction you can give.

A. Spode’s “Blue Room” was established in 1958. It was a large room with windows, beams and a vaulted ceiling that housed a huge collection of Spode underglaze blue-printed wares. Almost every pattern Spode made from 1784 into the 1880s was displayed on period dressers, tables, even on windowsills, not locked away in glass cabinets. When the Spode factory closed in 2009, the whole collection was packed up and put into storage. In 2016, it was put back on display in the refreshed Spode Works Visitor Center. In the early 1990s, Spode’s director, Paul Wood, decided to re-introduce some of the original patterns and called them the “Blue Room Collection.” Among them were Willow and Floral, the patterns on your lamps. Blue Room Collection pieces were popular, sold well and became “new collectibles.” In auctions and online shops, lamps like yours are listed for $100 to $200, but sell for less.

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Q. I’d like information about a child’s rocker. It has a cane seat, spindle back and no arms. It’s marked “Manuf’d by L.G. Fullam & Sons, Ludlow, Vt.” Can you tell me how old it is?

A. Your rocker was made over a hundred years ago. Leighton G. Fullam and his son began making chairs in 1889. At first, they worked in a local blacksmith shop, but eventually business grew, and they moved into a larger building. At the peak of production, the company was making 200 chairs a day in over 90 styles. Fullam held several patents for parts and construction. L.G. Fullam & Sons was listed in a 1910 Vermont business directory as manufacturers of “chairs and mission furniture” and also of “lumber.” The company went out of business shortly after that, and the building was foreclosed in 1915.

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Q. What are old manual typewriters worth? Two old typewriters were left in my husband’s law office, probably used by a former lawyer who had that office. One is an old Underwood and the other is a Royal typewriter. They both are in good condition.

A. Old typewriters don’t sell for high prices, but many people like the feel of typing on a manual typewriter. Children often are fascinated by an instrument that can “write” but isn’t electronic. There is even a club for typewriter collectors, the Early Typewriter Collectors’ Association, with a website, etconline.org. There are online sites that list the serial numbers and dates of manufacture for major typewriter brands. Look for the serial numbers on your typewriters and then check auctions and sales to see if any like yours have sold. Old Underwood Standard typewriters in working order sell for $30 to $100, but each model has its own price.

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Q. I have a print titled “The Art of Making Money Plenty” by Doctor Franklin. It’s on wood and is not a paper copy. There is a picture of Ben Franklin at his desk at the top and pictures in place of words on some of the text. The name at the bottom is “Currier & Ives.” Is this worth anything?

A. This is a rebus, with pictures replacing some words or syllables, published by Nathaniel Currier and based on proverbs from Benjamin Franklin’s “Poor Richard’s Almanack.” It was pictured in “Gleason’s Pictorial Drawing-Room Companion” in 1854. Copies have been made and pasted on paper or wood. Decorative value, about $25. The original print, 13 1/2 inches by 9 1/2 inches, sells for about $100.

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Tip: Recycle your unused ashtrays as drip-catching candleholders, trays for change on your bedroom dresser or as a dish for imitation sweeteners.

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Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel answer questions sent to the column. By sending a letter with a question and a picture, you give full permission for use in the column or any other Kovel forum. Names, addresses or email addresses will not be published. We cannot guarantee the return of photographs, but if a stamped envelope is included, we will try. The amount of mail makes personal answers or appraisals impossible. Write to Kovels, The Journal, New Ulm, King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803.

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CURRENT PRICES

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.

Haviland water set, pitcher, mugs, berry, cherries, branches, leaves, gilt rims, handles, 9 x 5 3/4 inches, 7 piece, $105.

Vallerysthal dish, boy, seated, on turtle, milk glass, multicolor, c. 1900, 6 x 4 1/4 inches, $380.

Durant Kilns vase, turquoise crackleware, wide shoulders, brown unglazed foot, c. 1917, 8 1/4 x 6 1/2 inches, $540.

DeVez vase, owl, rocky perch, moon, tree branches, leaves, pink, purple, cameo glass, 5 3/4 x 14 inches, $845.

Shearwater figurine, lion, crouching, curly mane, coiled tail, blue, 13 1/2 inches, $1,025.

Rock-Ola jukebox, Model 1458, 120 Hi-Fi, stars, green, blue, orange, 1958, 55 x 30 inches, $1,375.

Four-poster bed, mahogany, blocked and turned posts, paneled headboard, molded canopy, 110 x 58 inches, $1408.

Plated amberina creamer, opal cased, red shaded to cream, ribbed, amber handle, c. 1886, 2 x 3 1/4 inches, $2,615.

Plique-a-jour salt cellar, chair shape, birds, leaves, hinged seat, Gavril Grachev, 2 3/4 x 2 3/4 inches, $3,330.

Scrimshaw, whale’s tooth, sailing ships, island, eagle, flag, inscribed, Shore Flensing Near Samoa, 5 1/2 inches, $3,565.

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