Andirons shaped like people or animals have been made since the 18th century. Owls have been particularly popular subjects.
Several cast-iron owl andiron models were made in the 1880s in the United States. Some were made of iron. Others had glass eyes that would glow when the fire was lit.
New owl andirons sell in stores today for $60. Antique owl andirons usually sell for more than $2,000.
Question What’s the difference between a celery vase and a celery dish?
Answer Both are used to serve celery, but their shapes are different.
Celery vases were popular during the Victorian era. They look like tall glass goblets. Celery was served in them with the leafy ends extending over the top.
A celery dish is simply a flat dish, sometimes with a handle, on which celery lies flat.
Q I saved my Junior Tinkertoy building set from the 1950s, and I’ve bought more sets at toy shows. When were they first made?
A The Tinkertoy construction set was introduced in 1914 by a company called Toy Tinkers of Evanston, Ill. The toy was called the Thousand Wonder Builder. It was a national hit.
Toy Tinkers soon made other toys, including games, pull toys and knock-about dolls made from large colored beads. By the end of the 1930s, the company stopped introducing new toys and concentrated on construction sets.
In 1952, Toy Tinkers was sold to A.G. Spalding Bros., and its line expanded into other types of toys, such as the TinkerZoo and the Tinkertoy Toy Maker.
Tinkertoys are now being made by Hasbro. Parts are plastic instead of wood.
Q At an auction in Wisconsin, I bought a small brass tray inscribed on the back with a simple crown design and the words “Captains Office, S.S. Titanic.” Was this a commemorative item made at the time of the Titanic disaster? Could it have come from the ship?
A Your tray was made within the past 25 years. It was meant to fool collectors who want to believe they’re buying something from the ocean liner that sank in 1912. Nothing marked “Captains Office, S.S. Titanic” was ever part of the ship’s official inventory.
Other common fakes include key chains, round brass paper-clip holders and hooked belt buckles.
Q My grandmother’s handmade quilts recently were given to her grandchildren. I was told the “double wedding ring” quilt I received was made from grain feed sacks. Could this be true?
A Yes. From the turn of the century through World War II, the expense and scarcity of fabric led homemakers to use every spare piece for clothing, bedding and household furnishings.
The empty white or off-white cotton bags used by storekeepers for flour, sugar, salt, livestock feed and other grains were slit open, washed, dyed and reused to make dish towels, underwear and patchwork quilts.
By the 1930s, cotton sacks were being printed in colorful calico patterns to attract female buyers. Some sacks were printed with quilt patterns and fake patchwork to make quilting easier for a seamstress.
Q I thought I had a 19th century hatpin, but a friend told me it’s a scarf pin. It has a painted enamel miniature at the top end. What’s the difference between a hatpin and a scarf pin?
A It often is difficult to tell the difference. Both types of pins have long shafts.
In the early 19th century, men’s outdoor wear included woolen comforters held in place with long, silver pins that had decorative tops carved to look like animals.
By the 1850s, men had replaced their comforters--and the cravats under them--with large silk or linen neck scarves tied in a bow in front and set off by scarf pins with enamel-painted gold tops. The paintings were usually of dogs, horses or men.
Sometimes women borrowed those pins and used them as hatpins.
If a pin has a painting of a flower or a woman, it was originally a hatpin.
If you’d like a listing of helpful books and publications on antiques, send a self-addressed, stamped (55 cents) envelope to the Kovels, Los Angeles Times, King Features Syndicate, 235 E. 45th St., New York, NY 10017.
Current prices are recorded from antiques shows, flea markets, sales and auctions throughout the United States. Prices vary because of local economic conditions.
* Woodsman brand bee smoker, hand-held, patent date 1876: $30.
* Franciscan vegetable bowl, Desert Rose pattern, two sections: $50.
* O.L. Gregory Vinegar Co. crock jug, Elko County Pure Apple Juice Vinegar, Paducah, Ky., miniature: $85.
* Shirley Temple plaster soapstone figure, in flocked red dress, 1930s, 10 inches: $90.
* Oilzum grease can, 1930s, 5 pounds: $125.
* Lady tennis player trophy, City of Westmount, 1948, Wm. A. Rogers, 8 3/4 inches: $150.
* Peachblow pitcher, ribbed, acid finish, shading rose to white, applied white handle, 1893 Columbian Exposition, 3 1/2 inches: $345.
* Pairpoint silver-plate tilt coffee urn, front cup, embossed with butterflies, flowers, about 1888: $800.