Help in Seeing Through a Glass Brightly

Times Staff Writer

Question: I am getting more and more into collecting antique glass and bottles and related items. Can you recommend a reference work that will help guide me through a learning period in what can be a very complicated field?--M.C.

Answer: One of the finest reference works we have found in recent years is "Glass Bottles, Lamps & Other Objects," produced five years ago by the New York-based Alfred A. Knopf publishing house ($13.95, 480 pp., indexed, with glossary, price guide and bibliography).

The work is part of a series--The Knopf Collectors' Guides to American Antiques--and, from time to time, it has been a valuable reference work in answering reader questions.

In fact, we relied on the Knopf "Folk Art" book for background for this narrative on American folk art history:

Whatever has an Americana label or flavor is making big bucks for collectors. Witness such staggering prices as that for a 200-year-old Philadelphia wing chair selling last year for a record $2.7 million.

Folk art and similar collectibles, while not bringing such astronomical prices, are selling well, dealers say.

So if prices are any barometer, Americana's time has definitely arrived. For example, we know of cases in which more than $100,000 was paid for individual quilts and needlework.

In fact, according to veteran collectors and dealers, practically anything of style, class and craftsmanship produced in the 18th and 19th centuries in this country is being eagerly sought after--which, in turn, is having a rocketing impact on prices.

For the collector whose tastes are whetted by this news, it's difficult to define with precision the term "folk art."

American folk art generally is work produced between the end of the American Revolution and the year 1900.

But nothing is absolute, and 20th-Century American craftsmen have received high marks for their work, which also is increasingly changing hands for megabucks.

You never know when a fine example of American folk art will pop up--such as at auctions, flea markets, in out-of-the-way shops--so keep your eyes open. But also be cautious because from time to time counterfeits surface. Buying from a reputable dealer is usually a protection. Obtaining a bill of sale describing what you've bought, including estimated age and repairs, also is a good idea.

Date Book

A "Strictly Disney" show and sale is scheduled for Sunday at the Grand Hotel in Anaheim, one block east of Disneyland's main entrance. Sponsored by the National Fantasy Fan Club for Disneyana Collectors, the show is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission: $3. Last July's show, according to the club's letter, drew more than 100 dealer tables and more than 2,000 Disney buffs. For more information, call the club at (714) 241-8104.

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