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Bright idea for clock collectors

Any unusual clock, especially a design that used neon, is a collector's delight. The first neon sign was made in Paris in 1910, but neon did not arrive in the United States until 1923, when a Packard dealership in Los Angeles ordered a large, very expensive sign.

Not until 10 years later _ when Prohibition ended _ did the era of neon signs really begin. The most eye-catching were neon signs or clocks made for bars.

The Aztec neon wall clock, now called a "classic" design, was introduced in 1936, usually as an advertising piece to be hung in bars, offices or shops. The Electric Neon Clock Co. of Cleveland manufactured many of these clocks. The wall clock was made in a variety of color combinations and used green and red neon. The clock face was painted black. Light blue was a popular trim color. The clock is 26 inches in diameter _ big enough to be read from across the room.

The Aztec design, inspired by patterns found on Aztec pyramids, was used on many other decorative pieces, from the 1930s to the 1950s. An Aztec clock in working condition recently sold online for $843.

Bench has good pedigree

Question: I bought an unusual piece of furniture at an auction 35 years ago. It is a slightly curved bench with a cane seat, but I use it as a coffee table. There's a small metal disk on the bottom that reads "Kittinger-Buffalo."

Answer: The Kittinger Furniture Co. is still in business in Buffalo, N.Y. The firm dates to 1866, when it was founded as Thompson, Colie & Co. By 1885, it was manufacturing furniture and selling it to retailers outside the Buffalo area. Irvine Kittinger and his brother Ralph bought the company in the early 1900s and changed its name to Kittinger Furniture Co. in 1913. So your bench was made sometime after 1913. Kittinger manufactures high-quality furniture, much of it reproductions of traditional styles. In 1937, the company was given an exclusive license to manufacture wood-furniture reproductions for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

Coverlet is a treasure

Question: I found a large, heavy woven coverlet when I was cleaning out my grandfather's house. It's red, green and white, with an overall circular feather pattern covering it, and birds and rosebushes around the border. The woven inscription reads "Samuel Slaybaugh, Bucyrus, Crawford County, Ohio, 1848." I believe the coverlet originally belonged to my great-great-great-grandfather, who lived in the Bucyrus area from about 1830 to 1880. How should I take care of it?

Answer: Your coverlet is a wonderful family treasure. Samuel Slaybaugh was weaver born in Pennsylvania about 1819. He and his younger brother, Josiah, were living in Bucyrus by 1845 and worked together from about 1848 to 1855. The "corner blocks" on Samuel's coverlets are all dated 1848 or 1849. The birds-and-rosebush border was a common one during the era of jacquard looms, which used punch cards to automatically select and pull threads to create a repeating pattern. Prevent fading by keeping your coverlet out of sunlight and away from fluorescent light. It should be kept clean and free of dust.

It's probably an inkwell

Question: When we cleaned out my late husband's boxes of belongings, we came across an item whose date we know _ because an 1897 calendar is attached to it. We just don't know what it is. It's shaped like a chair with a back that's about 3 inches high. The "seat" is a small glass bottle with a tin lid. The legs are made of fine twisted silver wiring. Could it be an incense burner or a room deodorizer?

Answer: We suspect that what you have is an inkwell. Many shapes and styles of inkwells were made during the Victorian era.

A token for the bereaved

Question: I am a former funeral director and know a little more about the National Casket Co. casket key mentioned in your column. Many 20th-century casket manufacturers presented a boxed casket key to the family of the deceased. So, it is not so strange for a family to possess a casket key.

Answer: We talked to an expert at the National Museum of Funeral History in Houston to learn more about casket keys given to families as mementos. We were told that boxed keys were widely used in the funeral business from the 1940s through the 1960s. The lock was either in the middle or at the foot of the casket. Families weren't concerned about body snatchers by the mid-20th century and casket manufacturers believed that a key gave the family emotional comfort.

Grandma's tin match-holder

Question: My grandmother had a tin match-holder on her kitchen wall. Today it belongs to me. It's rectangular, with a lithographed winter scene on the front and a covered tray on the bottom for used matches. What is the history of these wall-hung match-holders, and what is mine worth?

Answer: Match-holders like yours were made to hang on a wall near the kitchen stove. They were common household items from the 1920s to the '40s. A wall-hung match-holder held a standard-sized box of wooden matches, needed to light gas stoves and ovens. Match-holders for the table and match-safes carried in a pocket were first made in the 1820s, after sulfur matches were introduced. Many early holders were ceramic or cast iron and had elaborate designs. A 20th-century tin holder, without advertising, sells for $10 to $30. If the lithographed picture were an ad, it could sell for hundreds of dollars.

McLoughlin Bros. puzzle

Question: I just purchased a box of old games and jigsaw puzzles. One of the puzzles is complete and in its original color-lithographed wooden box. The box cover pictures a woman sitting next to a large tree while she examines an atlas. Standing next to her is an American Indian woman. The title on the box reads "A New Dissected Map, United States." In small print are the words: "Copyrighted 1887 by McLoughlin Bros., N.Y." There are 40 pressboard puzzle pieces. The puzzle shows Oklahoma as "Indian Territory" and North and South Dakota as "The Dakotas." What is the puzzle worth?

Answer: McLoughlin Bros. was a famous publisher of books, games and jigsaw (dissected) puzzles throughout much of the 19th century. Puzzles were considered an entertaining pastime for children, but many of them _ including maps _ were also educational tools. The Dakotas became North and South Dakota on the same day _ Nov. 2, 1889 _ which helps date your puzzle. Because McLoughlin Bros. manufactured sturdy puzzles and produced some in relatively large numbers, quite a few survive. Yours would sell for about $60 today.

Reproduction Chippendale table

Question: My mother has had a mahogany Chippendale center table since the 1940s. She's in her 90s now. The green label on the pedestal base reads "Imperial, Grand Rapids, Mich." What can you tell us?

Answer: The Imperial Furniture Co. was founded in 1903 by F. Stuart Foote. Before that, Foote had worked at the Grand Rapids Chair Co., which was owned by his father. At first, Imperial made extension tables. Later, other tables and bookcases were produced. Much of the furniture was made in traditional styles, such as Chippendale. About 1927, the company started to use the green label you describe. Foote died in 1954, and the business was sold. While your mother's table is not an antique, it is a good piece of reproduction furniture.

Eda Soest Doench print

Question: A color print that has hung in my house for years is titled Tiger Rose. It pictures a woman sitting on a tiger-skin rug. It's 19 inches high by 14{ inches wide and is marked "Gutmann & Gutmann, N.Y." There's an artist's signature, but I can't make it out _ it looks like "Eta Soest Doench."

Answer: The artist's name is Eda Soest Doench. She worked as an artist at Gutmann & Gutmann for 10 years and is credited with creating more than 75 prints for the company. Gutmann & Gutmann was an art-print firm founded in 1902 by brothers Hellmuth and Bernhard Gutmann. The firm was sold in 1948. Old Doench prints are collectible.

Wartime safe-conduct pass

Question: I was a private in the U.S. Army during World War II and was stationed in the Ardennes Forest in Germany. One day when I left my position, leaflets were falling around me from the sky. I saved one of them. It's written in German and English. The part in English includes the message: "The German soldier who carries this safe-conduct is using it as a sign of his genuine wish to give himself up." Is this worth anything? I have had it encased in glass.

Answer: Your leaflet is a "safe conduct pass," intended to persuade a German soldier to surrender to the Allies during World War II. Safe-conduct passes have been used by many countries during wartime. A pass like yours was part of a large leaflet campaign. It is valued at about $50.

Current prices

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.

Japanese Yusen Shippo cloisonne plate, goldfish in reds to pink, lobsters, turtle, all swimming in seaweed, robin's-egg-blue ground, 12 inches, $200.

Marblehead pottery bowl, blue, rounded shoulder, tapering to base, matte glaze, impressed mark, 4\ inches, $265.

Felix the Cat toy, wood, jointed, decal on chest, 9-section tail, 1924, Pat Sullivan, 8 inches, $350.

Movie poster, The Champ, Wallace Beery, Jackie Cooper, 1931, 19 by 30 inches, $385.

Duncan and Miller berry set, Star in a Square pattern, ruby stained, gold trim, 7 pieces, $410.

Invitation to the dedication of the Statue of Liberty, printed by Tiffany & Co., lithograph of statue, flags, laurel wreath, sun rays, Oct. 28, 1886, 6 by 7 inches, $690.

Barbie doll, side part, ash blond, American girl, dressed in Debutante Ball dress, large aqua bow, fur collar, $1,320.

New York corner cupboard, green paint, butternut with pine and spruce, 2 blind paneled doors over 2 doors, mushroom knobs, c. 1830-1860, 48{ inches, $2,990.

Christian Dior perfume bottle, Poison, metal and glass, bracelet shape, black painted with green spots, signed, original box, 4 inches, $110.

Mickey Mouse ashtray, figural, ceramic, pie-eyed Mickey playing the saxophone, made in Japan, 1930, 2~ by 4~ by 3 inches, $130.

Blue and Scarlet Cut Plug Tobacco lunch box, tin, bail handle, Booker Tobacco Co., 4{ by 6{ by 5 inches, $605.

Mattel P.J. doll, twist 'n' turn, eyelashes, bendable legs, silver gift set, boxed, $770.

Parker No. 200 store coffee mill, red, wheel embossed "The Cha's Parker Co., Meriden, Conn., USA," patented March 9, 1897, $840.

Bohemian glass decanter, amber cut to clear, etched grapevines, stopper, 1890, 9 inches, $1,200.

Barney Google candy container, facing right, left foot on barrel, embossed, midnight-blue threaded closure, slotted for bank, King Features, copyright 1923, 4 by 3 inches, $1,325.

Coca-Cola Vendo V-56 vending machine, vends 56 bottles, red and white, 10-cent bottles, 1957, 25 by 52 by 22 inches, $2,590.

Send questions to Antiques, Ralph and Terry Kovel, c/o the St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 22900, Beachwood, OH 44122. Questions of general interest will be answered in the column.

2004 Cowles Syndicate Inc.