Antiques & Collecting: Seed packets have long, interesting history
It’s spring and time to plant the seeds that grow into vegetables and flowers that often are tasty salads for deer, rabbits, squirrels and other local wildlife.
In 1790, a Shaker religious community started to sell packets filled with seeds saved from the previous year. It was a new idea. Seeds for farmers had only sold in bulk quantities. At first the packets held only vegetable seeds, but by the mid-1800s, flower seeds were also sold.
Sometime before 1918, Shaker seed tape was invented and sold. Today, gardeners can buy seed tape for hundreds of plants or make their own. Just unroll some toilet paper and press one or two seeds into the paper at spaced intervals. Then roll up the paper till it’s time to plant. The seed tape (toilet paper) can be stretched into a shallow line in the dirt, then covered with more dirt, watered, and kept free of weeds. Rows of plants will come up in a few days.
The American Seed Tape Company of Newark, New Jersey, had a seed tape brand called Pakro that advertised in farm publications from 1918 to at least the 1920s. Recently, a Wm Morford advertising auction offered an early cardboard Pakro seed tape display box that held 60 different types of seed tapes in original small boxes with color pictures like those on the packets. The 15- by 18-inch display sold for $1,033.
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Q. I bought a porcelain Cabbage Patch doll in an antique store. It’s in excellent condition with original clothes, birth certificate, registration certificate and box. The back of the head is marked “Mfr by Shaders China Doll Inc. For Applause” with the doll’s number and a black signature. What is its value?
A. Cabbage Patch dolls were created by Xavier Roberts in 1979 and first made at his Babyland General Hospital in Cleveland, Georgia. Sold “up for adoption,” they came complete with names and “birth certificates” and “adoption papers.” The chubby cloth dolls were huggable and very popular. Coleco bought the rights to sell the dolls in 1982, then Hasbro and later Mattel, and they were made in foreign factories. By the late 1980s, they had lost their popularity and prices fell. The dolls were re-introduced in 2004 by Play Along Toys and 4Kids Entertainment. In the mid-1980s, Cabbage Patch Limited Edition Collector Dolls were sold. They too came with names and papers like yours by Applause. The heads and arms are porcelain, legs are fabric, and the hair is yarn. Asking prices for these dolls start at $50 and go into the few hundreds. Actual selling prices range from $8 to $30.
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Q. I found an interesting bottle in an old dump in the early 1960s. It’s embossed with an eagle above the letters “TWD” on one side and a ship with the word “Franklin” on the other side. I’d like to know more about the bottle and its value.
A. The initials stand for Thomas W. Dyott, a patent medicine salesman who bought the Kensington Glass Works in 1833. This is one of five patriotic designs made by Kensington Glass Works. Flasks with patriotic designs like this were popular in the early 1800s, but reproductions have been made. Antique flasks have a plain, straight-up lip and a pontil mark on the bottom. Reproduction bottles have a rolled collar and smooth bottom. Some historical flasks sell for thousands of dollars, but reproductions are common and sell for only a few dollars. Your bottle is probably a reproduction used to hold Lestoil, a cleaning product, in a 1960s promotion and is worth about $10.
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Q. My pewter plate is marked with the impressed letters “T B & Co” in a rectangle. What does it mean?
A. The letters stand for Timothy Boardman & Company. He was a famous metalsmith who lived from 1798 to 1825. His company used the mark from 1822 to 1825. A plate with this mark in good condition brings a high price from pewter collectors today.
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Q. I have an old chair with a U-shaped seat that extends up to support straight arms. The legs are an upside-down U shape. It is heavily carved, with animal heads on the ends of the arms and a crest with flowers and symbols. Can you tell me about it?
A. Your chair is a “curule” chair. It’s a style that descends from an ancient Roman folding seat for high-ranking dignitaries. It is called a sella curulis from the Latin “currus” meaning chariot. It was used at public events such as the circus or theater. The style continued through medieval and Renaissance eras as a symbol of wealth, power and authority for church officials in Italy and other parts of Europe. The Italians, Greeks, French and Spanish all had their versions. Your chair was probably made during the Renaissance Revival, 1860s to 1880s. There was a renewed interest in classical design. Chairs like yours have sold from $160 to about $300. Curule chairs by known makers or with exceptional detail would sell for more.
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TIP: Display groups of at least three of your collectibles to get decorating impact.
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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.
Sconce, 12-light, patinated brass, flowers, upright arms, unmarked, attributed to C. Jere, 1970, 35 x 20 in. $65.
Fireplace fender, rectangular panel, cherubs, scrolls, ball finials, c. 1880, 10 1/2 x 41 in. $390.
Bronze Sculpture, “Young girl jumping over a boy,” flying pigtails, leapfrog, patinated, 49 x 39 in. $470.
Doorstop, organ grinder and monkey, red jackets, double sided cast iron, 1920, 10 in. $480.
Plate, yellow hand, figure, holding urn, green, blue, Viola Frey, c. 1986, France, 6 1/2 in. $550.
Music box, Swiss, rosewood, inlay, cross banding, flowers, tune list, cylinder, zither, 7 x 23 in. $660.
Quilt, patchwork, baskets, trees, diamonds, red border, blue, white, 1900s, 25 x 14 in. $1,060.
Baby Grand Piano, Steinway & Sons, high gloss black, E grade, bench, c. 1999, 60 x 57 in. $2,400.
Sedan chair, parcel gilt, coat of arms, Spanish marquis’ coronet, black, Rococo style, 67 1/2 x 31 in. $4,420.
Microscope, C-shaped single pillar, plano-covex mirror, claw foot base, fitted mahogany case, Seibert Large No. 2, c.1890, 13 in. $5,400.
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