Antiques & Collecting: Some reproductions can be as valuable as real antiques
Sometimes a reproduction of an antique is worth almost as much as the original antique. Wallace Nutting (1861-1941) was a collector, expert, photographer, furniture maker, author and an important part of the Colonial Revival in the U.S. He went to Harvard, married and started taking photographs of the New England scenery.
Soon he furnished his home with authentic antique American furniture, using the furnishings as props in pictures he staged with men and women dressed in Colonial clothes. The pictures were black and white, but he hired colorists to turn the pictures into color photos. He sold millions of copies that soon hung in the average home. The furniture was admired, and he soon made accurate copies to sell to the public. This, too, was a success. He also wrote books about New England, furniture and history.
A 20th-century reproduction Nutting tavern table was sold by Garths Auctioneers and Appraisers a few years ago for $469. It is short, has an apron, turned legs and a box stretcher. This type of table was used as a serving table in the tap room of Colonial taverns.
* * *
Q: Are old milk bottles worth much? I have a half-pint glass milk bottle from Kinnett’s Dairies in Columbus, Georgia. It’s embossed “sealed 01-11-14,” which is Jan. 11, 1914, and means it’s 107 years old. I’ve had it about 20 years, and it’s in very good condition. What do you think it’s worth?
A: The numbers on your milk bottle aren’t the date it was made. Kinnett’s Dairies was not founded until the 1920s. However, the numbers identify the manufacturer of the bottle, Thatcher Glass Manufacturing Co. of Elmira, New York. States required milk bottles to be labeled with the manufacturer’s name, trademark or an identifying number. Numbers were assigned by the states, but not all states used the same numbers. Thatcher Glass Manufacturing Co. was given the number “1” in Wisconsin, “11” in Maine, and “14” in Michigan. The company used “1-11-14” on its milk bottles so it would meet the requirements of all three states. The word “sealed” guarantees the bottle holds the volume of liquid listed on it. Most embossed bottles were made before the 1930s, when pyro glazed (applied color) labels became common. Kinnett’s was sold to Parmalat in 1998. Embossed half-pint milk bottles sell for $10 to $15. Some pyro glazed bottles sell for higher prices. Clever logos or sayings add value.
* * *
Q: I have a Holly Hobbie tea set with teapot, sugar, creamer and six cups and saucers. The bottom is marked “Limited edition, made in Japan, especially for American Greetings.” My father was a salesman for American Greetings. It’s my understanding that American Greetings made 1,000 of these sets for their salesmen. Does my tea set have any value other than my sentimental attachment?
A: Holly Hobbie, a character created by Denise Holly Ulinskas, first appeared on greeting cards made by American Greetings in 1967. She became one of American Greeting’s most popular characters and Holly Hobbie tea sets, dishes, dolls and many other items were made by the 1970s. The original character was a little girl wearing a big blue bonnet that hid her face, but soon she was pictured so her face showed. Many Holly Hobbie tea sets have been made by different makers with different images and different shaped teapots. Your limited set sells for about $25. We don’t know anything about a set made for salesmen. Perhaps they were given some of the first sets made.
* * *
Q: I inherited a large original painting of Mickey and Minnie Mouse with “(c) Walt Disney Productions” pasted at the bottom of the drawing. It looks like it was an original painting used for reproductions. Is it valuable?
A: Original production cels are one-of-a-kind pieces of art used to create animated films or television shows. Each was hand painted by studio artists on a piece of celluloid acetate and photographed on a background painting to create a frame of a finished cartoon. Cels were either given away or sold at Disneyland. An expert appraiser or dealer should see if it is authentic, but here are some things to look for: See if your animation cel has peg holes at the bottom or sometimes at the top for color registration. This indicates that it is an original. Early Disney artworks have two pegs; later, Disney changed to a five-peg registration. Your family history of knowing the artist and the paper label is a good indication you have an original cel. The iconic Mickey and Minnie also add to its potential value. A cel from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (1937) sold for $3,750.
* * *
TIP: If your heavy cast-iron toy has rubber tires, display it on a partial stand so there is no pressure on the tires.