The first cane probably was just a strong stick, but, by the 19th century, a cane was a fashion accessory and sometimes hid a tool. The heads of canes were made of wood, ivory, gold or silver, leather, pewter or porcelain, sometimes with inlay and precious gems. Canes with a carving of a political candidate’s head were used until Franklin Roosevelt objected — because he was disabled.
At recent antiques sales, there have been some very unusual canes. Some hid weapons. Sword canes are familiar because of movies.
But few know there are canes that held parts of a gun, including ammunition — a hidden arsenal. Another was a blow gun that could “shoot” bullets. A woman’s cane had a short knife blade to use for protection. A “flicker” cane was made so a short blade could pop out of the handle. Most deadly was the “Diabolique,” a cane outlawed in France. If someone tried to pull the cane, a set of spikes popped out of the shaft wounding the attacker’s hand. Tap the cane on the ground and the spikes disappeared.
Most canes are less threatening. There is a cane handle covered in carved grapes that unscrews to reveal a corkscrew. Another, a bamboo cane, has a horse-measuring ruler inside. One held supplies for a writer — pens, paper, inkwell, penknife, eraser, pencil, sealing wax, a candle and matches. Another held a woman’s accessories, including tweezers, nail picks, buttonhook, crochet needle, bottles and fan.
But that is not all. Imagine a cane that held a long, thin working violin and bow. An artist could get a cane that held an easel, palette and paints. Some canes are amusing. A peephole let the owner look at a picture of a bathing beauty, while another held a whiskey bottle. Strangest is a Chinese “spitter” cane with a silver handle shaped like a man’s head. Press his pigtail, point and the head spits water at a victim. Any of these canes sell for thousands of dollars today.
Q: I’m looking for information about a W. Goebel figurine of a little boy and girl. It’s titled “Rosi &Rolf” and the number on the bottom is 17 603 11.
A: Your figurine was made in 1981 by the W. Goebel Porcelain Factory of Rodental, Germany. Its full name is “Rosi &Rolf, The Hikers.” It is sometimes advertised online as a “Hummel figurine” because Goebel also made Hummels, but it’s not a Hummel.
We have seen Rosi &Rolf offered online for $20 and up.
Q: Going through piles of my stuff, I found my teen collection of 24 silly arcade cards called “Licenses to Do Anything.” I remember buying them from coin-operated machines in the late 1930s or early ’40s. Each one is postcard size, 3¼ by 5½ inches, and is printed on heavy stock with green lettering and a fancy green border. Mine include a Back Seat Driver’s License, a Bachelor’s Permit and a Spendthrift Permit. What are they worth?
A: Your cards were issued by the Exhibit Supply Co. of Chicago. The copyright date on the ones we have seen is 1941. A set of 30 mint examples is being offered online for $30. So your smaller set would sell for less than that.
Q: I understand that antique typewriters are popular again. I have a 1935 Remington typewriter that’s in good condition. It’s 10 by 11 inches and is in a black case. What is my typewriter worth?
A: Arms manufacturer E. Remington &Sons of Ilion, N.Y., made the first successful typewriter for Sholes &Glidden in 1874. It typed capital letters only. Remington made the typewriter in its sewing machine division. It sold its typewriter business and the rights to the Remington name to the Standard Typewriter Manufacturing Co. in 1886.
Standard changed its name to Remington Typewriter Co. in 1902 and became Remington Rand in 1927. Remington portable typewriters were introduced in 1920. Typewriter sales fell in the 1990s as more people started using computers.
Vintage typewriters have recently become popular with people who like the touch and enjoy seeing words appear on paper as they are typed. Value of your typewriter: about $145.
Terry Kovel’s column is syndicated by King Features. Write to: Kovels, (Las Vegas Review-Journal), King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019.