‘Psychic Readers’ Have a Future
By the early 1900s, it was possible to get a “psychic reading” from mechanical fortunetellers at penny arcades.
The machines featured lifelike figures displayed in glass boxes. After you dropped a coin in the slot, the exotic figure would appear to breathe, blink, nod and then turn and hand you a card with a few sentences of advice. Sometimes the machine just answered your yes-or-no question.
The arcade automatons were designed to look like gypsies, old ladies, bearded men and animals with human features.
Fortunetelling machines were at the height of their popularity in the 1930s. Some are still being made. A boardwalk fortunetelling automaton played a pivotal role in the 1988 movie “Big.”
The penny arcade has changed quite a bit in the last 90 years. For the most part, coin-operated machines no longer test your strength, give you an electric shock or measure your affection for your sweetheart. Today an arcade’s flashing lights and bells usually are part of games featuring car races or interspace battles.
Question Is there any way to tell if my table has the original marble top from the 1880s?
Answer An original marble top was made with corners and edges that matched the wooden base. The marble was set on top of the wooden base or into a frame on the piece’s top.
If it was on top, it usually was made to overhang the edges by half an inch. Beware, if there is too much or too little overhang.
Carefully examine the wooden base for any signs that it had a wooden top, such as screw holes or glue marks showing where a wooden top might have been secured.
When moving a large marble top, always hold it vertically, not horizontally, so that there is less stress on the piece and less likelihood that it will crack.
Q More than 30 years ago I bought a Flintstones Play Set made by Louis Marx & Co. The set came with 3-inch plastic figures of the adult characters and their pet dinosaur, Dino. It also has two cars, seven houses, trees, more people and a sign that reads “Bedrock, Pop. 2500.” I have the original box.
A Louis Marx & Co., the well-known toy maker, has produced hundreds of plastic play sets since the late 1940s. The sets were especially popular from the mid-'50s through the late ‘60s.
Hanna-Barbera introduced the Flintstones prime-time TV series in 1960. Marx introduced Flintstones Play Sets and other Flintstones toys by 1962.
In excellent condition, with the box, your set is worth more than $500.
Q I love my ceramic pitcher. It is 8 1/4 inches tall, with an unusual wiggly handle and spout. It is decorated with hand-painted pictures of Robin Hood. The mark on the bottom says “Buffalo Pottery 1906.”
A The Buffalo Pottery of Buffalo, N.Y., opened in 1903. It was established by the Larkin Co., a soap manufacturer.
The pottery made premiums for Larkin customers and sold pottery to hotels and the public.
Your pitcher was one of a series of hand-painted semi-vitreous china pitchers made between 1905 and 1909. It is worth about $500.
Q My parents bought a 9-inch-high Carnival-glass pitcher at an auction in Tennessee. It is gold with three frosted ovals. Two of the ovals are decorated with a windmill and fences. The third shows a fisherman in a boat. The bottom is marked “LIG.” Is it a piece of Imperial glass?
A The “LIG” mark refers to Lenox Imperial Glass.
The Imperial Glass Corp. opened in Bellaire, Ohio, in 1901. It was sold in 1973 to Lenox Inc. Lenox sold Imperial in 1981, and the mark was changed.
Your pitcher, made between 1973 and 1981, is a reissue made from an old mold of the Windmill pattern. The color designation is Windmill.
For a copy of the Kovels’ 1998 leaflet listing 153 books and pamphlets that are price guides for all kinds of collectibles and antiques, send $2 and a self-addressed, stamped (55 cents) No. 10 envelope to Price Guides for Antiques and Collectibles, Kovels, P.O. Box 22900, Beachwood, Ohio 44122.
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Current prices are recorded from antiques shows, flea markets, sales and auctions throughout the United States. Prices will vary because of local economic conditions.
* 1893 Columbian Exposition handkerchief, silk, white on white, view of Administration Building, “World’s Fair Chicago 1893,” 12 inches square: $40.
* Willie Wirehand night light, Sylvania, plastic, round, 1950s, 3 inches: $50.
* Gene Autry “Western Classics, Vol. 2,” set of four 78 rpm records, 1949, cover photo of Autry with his guitar, sitting on Champion: $65.
* Pressed glass butter dish, sugar and creamer, covered, the States pattern: $110.
* Royal Bayreuth Nappy, Little Bo-Peep, rolled edge, handle, triangular shape, signed, 6 inches: $150.
* Sandwich glass lamp, Blackberry pattern, brilliant blue, circa 1895, 10 inches: $475.
* 19th century three-drawer chest, miniature, bun feet, made by Ollie Finley, dated Nov. 26, 1860: $595.
* New England child’s school set, pine framed and pegged slate board, pine chalk box, original slabs of chalk, dated and initialed, AH 1757: $750.
* Fraktur birth certificate by Martin Brechall for Solomon Schneider, Bethlehem Township, Pa., 1803, 13 by 8 inches: $1,100.