Collectors of vintage advertisements look for bright colors and eye-catching graphics. And who would have more vibrant colors than a dye company? Few people buy fabric dyes outside of craft projects today, but most families wore homemade clothes in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Clothing was made to last, and items were often repaired or remade several times before being retired. People bought dyes for home use to make their own clothes or to give old clothes a new look.
Diamond Dyes, a prominent dye company circa 1900, is known for its advertising. Their business cards, advertising brochures and showcases are particularly popular with collectors today. This cabinet with a colorful pewter lithographed scene of children playing outdoors sold for $750 through Antique Advertising of Morford. Beware of reproductions.
Q: My sister visited England about 20 years ago and brought home a 4 inch jug representing Toby from the head of Henry VIII. I really like it, but I understand that they are very common and not very valuable. Is it true?
A: Decanters depicting literary, legendary and real-life figures were introduced by Royal Doulton in 1934 at the Burslem Pottery in Stoke-on-Trent. New ones were added to the line until 2011. They were made in several sizes: large, small, miniature and tiny. They are different from the Toby jugs, which date back to the 1770s. Legend says they are inspired by a poem about “Toby Fillpot”, the nickname of a real man from Yorkshire who was a legendary drinker. The most common Toby is 9 or 10 inches tall. The jug is shaped like a man wearing a tricorn (three-cornered) hat, waistcoat, long coat and knee breeches seated on a chair and holding a jug of beer. Royal Doulton began manufacturing Toby jugs in 1939. Character jugs are fashioned with only the character’s head and shoulders. They are popular collectibles, but, with a few exceptions, neither rare nor expensive. Each sells for $50 or less.
Q: I found this strange object at my in-laws. It looks like a wooden rolling pin but is covered in rows of carved teeth. It also has a flat side. One end of the cylinder has a handle and the other end has a carved circle about 2 inches deep. Some people think it’s a meat cleaver, but that doesn’t seem right. Can you tell me what it is and solve this mystery?
A: It is a specialty rolling pin designed for flatbreads or crackers. The teeth are designed to make tiny holes or score the dough to allow air circulation and prevent the dough from rising. Bakers will use forks, dough dockers (a small spiked roller), or rolling pins like yours to poke holes in pastry crusts, pizza dough, and flatbreads. The carved opening is where a missing handle would have gone. Through our research, we couldn’t find a rolling pin with a flat side. It could have been modified to prevent it from rolling on the work surface.
Q: I bought several chairs from a resale store. The store owner said they came from the Lockheed Martin conference room. The seat and back of the chair are made of a single piece of bentwood. The feet are in silver metal. They are stackable. The sticker at the bottom reads “Westnofa furniture made in Norway”. I only paid $15 each for them but was recently told they were valuable. Is it true?
A: Westnofa made furniture that exemplifies mid-century Scandinavian design. The style became popular due to its simplicity and functional design, such as the ability to stack the chairs. Your chair was designed by Oivind Iversen and is called the “City Chair”. Mid-century furniture is sought after by decorators and collectors. Chairs like yours have recently sold for between $50 and $100 each. However, your friend is right: if you have a set of six to eight, they can sell for up to $200 each.
Q: Several years ago I purchased a metal letter opener that has “International Harvester Company, New Office” on one side of the handle and “February 22, 1929” on the other side. Does it have a value?
A: International Harvester Co. was formed in 1902 when McCormick Harvesting Machine Co. merged with Deering Harvester Co. and three smaller companies. The company manufactured agricultural equipment and commercial trucks. It was the fourth largest industrial company in the United States in the early 1900s. The company later ran into financial difficulties and sold its agricultural division and the “International Harvester” name to Tenneco, owner of JI Case, in 1984. The brand name became Case IH. International Harvester’s truck division became part of Navistar International Corp. in 1986. A letter opener like yours sold for $45 at an International Harvester memorabilia auction a few years ago.
POINT: If the photo album you buy smells like plastic, don’t use it. The fumes will eventually destroy the images.
Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel are unionized columnists.