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Antiques: Dual-purpose furniture

| Saturday, April 14, 2012, 4:02 p.m.

Dual-purpose furniture has been made for centuries.

By the 1700s, there were chairs with large, round backs that flipped down on the top of the arms to make a table. There also were chairs that could be flipped over to be used as library steps.

In the 1800s, new types of springs and hinges made it possible to manufacture a flip-down bed that could be stored in a closet, or card tables with hidden pull-out leaves that transformed into a dining table.

A famous French architect and designer, Armand-Albert Rateau, designed a clever dual-purpose chair in about 1925. The chair had an oak frame with ebony veneer. The back of the chair was upholstered with silk and straw. The seat back was hinged so that it folded down on the rest of the frame to form a low table. The Art Deco chair design was unique and could be useful today in a small apartment.


Q: I bought an old barbershop and all the antiques in it, including 1920s barber chairs, tons of razors, razor sharpeners, strops, combs and about 25 ceramic shaving mugs decorated with words and designs and signed on the bottom with makers' marks. My favorite mug, titled "10th Infantry," has a painting of soldiers and a bugler. I don't want most of these things. How do I sell all of this?

A: There are collectors who would be interested in nearly everything in your shop. The most-expensive chairs are those with elaborate iron trim. They sell for hundreds of dollars. And a rare occupational shaving mug - the kind with the name of an occupation and an image of a person working - can be worth even more than a chair. An "Aeronaut" mug picturing a parachutist auctioned for the record price of $45,000 in 2008. You could sell the things yourself, but if you're not familiar with the collecting world, you could ask an expert, dealer, appraiser or auction house to help you. If the collection is in excellent shape, it probably would be best to contact a large auction house that sells shaving mugs, barbershop signs and barber equipment. The smaller items can be sold in groups ("lots"). It is easy to find auctions of barbershop items by searching online.


Q: We own 12 plates that have a wide gold embossed border and multicolored flowers in the middle. They're 11 inches in diameter, and I think they're called charger plates. The back of each plate is marked with a crown above the letters "H & C." Underneath that are the words "Selb Bavaria" and "Heinrich Co." Do you know what these plates are worth and how I can sell them?

A: Franz Heinrich founded his porcelain company in Selb, Bavaria, Germany, in 1896. The company became part of Villeroy & Boch in 1976. The mark on your plates was used in the 1930s.


Q: We have an original typed letter handed down in the family from a relative who was a union leader in the 1950s. The letter, dated Aug. 30, 1958, is from Sen. John F. Kennedy and refers to "two enclosed speeches" he made on the Senate floor, one about national defense and the other about labor reform. The letter is signed "John Kennedy." The stationery has a verifiable watermark and we have had the letter authenticated by a local historical society. What is it worth?

A: We're not sure if you had the stationery or the autograph or both authenticated. And we also don't know if your local historical society employs or has a relationship with an autograph authenticator. It's a tricky business, especially with public officials. Kennedy is known to have used autopens as early as the 1950s before he was elected president in 1960. It also is generally known that Kennedy often asked his secretary to sign his letters. If the letter is original but the autograph an autopen signature, the letter would sell for under $100. If the signature is real, the letter is worth $2,000 or more.


Q: My parents received a china candy dish as a wedding gift in 1944. It has a vertical brass handle in the center. The mark on the bottom is a pair of straight-sided M's within a diamond, all within a fancy green-and-yellow cartouche. Under the cartouche is the stamped phrase, "Made in Japan." Can you tell me who made the dish and what it's worth?

A: The mark on your dish has been identified as one used by Moriyama Pottery, a company founded around 1911 in Mori-machi, a town in Shizuoka Prefecture. The china dish either was made before World War II, or the family story about when your parents received the gift is incorrect. The "Made in Japan" mark was used again starting in late 1949.

Tip: Paperweights that are displayed on a wooden table in front of a sunny window may magnify the sun's rays enough to scorch the tabletop.

Current prices

  • Libbey wine glasses, Silver Leaf pattern, stemmed, 6 1/4 in., set of 8, $40.
  • Royal Copley Pirate Head wall pocket planter, dark hair, gray headscarf, green shirt with yellow collar, 1950s, 8 inches, $55.
  • Donald Duck pencil sharpener, red Bakelite, Donald dressed as cowboy firing cap gun, 1950, 1 1/2 x 1 1/2 inches, $65.
  • Wristwatch, lady's, bracelet style, diamond accents, square face, 10K gold filled, Gruen, Swiss, late 1940s, $75.
  • Vogue doll, Betty Jane, composition, open-close green eyes, smoky eyeshadow, red open mouth, four teeth, auburn wig, pink ruffled dress, matching hat, 16 inches, $155.
  • Indian Motorcycle advertising blotter, image of Indian Scout cycle, Bath Cycle Co., Bath, Me., 1920s, 3 1/2 x 5 inches, $225.
  • Quilt and pillow cover, buttonhole applique, green-and-red floral wreath, white ground, 1932, quilt 82 x 84 inches, covers 24 x 84 inches, $350.
  • Student's merit plaque, ink on paper, student's name Emanuel Metzker, dated 1845, peacock, fish and quill pen design, framed, 6 x 9 3/4 inches, $820.
  • Pocket tin, Gold Dust Tobacco, "Worth Its Weight in Gold," image of three gold miners, Canada, 4 x 3 inches, $1,485.
  • Queen Anne corner chair, maple and pine, solid splats, turned arm supports, cabriole legs, pad feet, mid-18th century, 29 inches, $1,995.

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