Parents buy toys for their children that will educate or entertain them.
In the 18th century, there were special “Sunday toys.” Children were not permitted to play on the Sabbath unless the toys taught lessons from the Bible. A wooden Noah’s ark filled with carved wooden animals was a favored toy. So was “Jacob’s Ladder,” a toy made of linked blocks that flip-flopped down. It was meant to remind children of the Bible story of Jacob’s dream about angels climbing between heaven and earth on a ladder.
By the 19th century, dolls and dollhouses helped a girl imagine what her role would be when she was an adult. Boys played with toy trains, boats and lead soldiers while learning about their future. Twentieth-century toys often were made with batteries or wind-up motors so children could watch the toys in action.
But some toys seem odd today. Among the model cars of the era is a mortuary truck, complete with a miniature coffin that could be taken out the back doors. A less frightening car has removable surfboards on the roof rack. Some cars were even made to fall apart if in a “wreck.” All toys are collectible.
Q: I have a 1940s fur coat that was my mother’s. But I can’t tell what kind of fur it is. It’s black and white, almost like a Dalmatian. The fur is about the length and texture of horsehair. Do you have any ideas?
A: The coat might very well be skunk fur. Skunk coats were popular in the 1940s, although they were often marketed as “Martin coats” because retailers were afraid skunk fur wouldn’t sell.
The Western spotted skunk has a pattern of white spots and stripes, which might match your coat. Have a fur dealer look at your coat. It could be dyed beaver, too. Beaver was also popular in the ’40s.
Coats the vintage of yours in excellent condition can sell for good prices.
Q: I have a silver-color metal tray that has hammer marks and raised leaves and irises. It looks handmade. The back is stamped “Rodney Kent Silver Co.” Who is Rodney Kent?
A: Rodney Kent Silver Co. of Brooklyn, N.Y., was famous not for silver, but for hammered aluminum ware. The tulip pattern was one of its most popular. Tulip leaves, flowers and buds were included in the designs on flat surfaces or as feet and handles.
Q: What kind of drink is Moxie? How old is it? I have a Moxie thermometer that shows the bottle and a man pointing out of the picture.
A: Moxie was first made in 1876, when it was called Moxie Nerve Food. By the 1880s, it was carbonated and sold as a beverage.
It had been heavily promoted in past years, but Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola and other drinks became more popular and Moxie is well-known today only in New England. It has a very distinctive taste that can’t be described.
Your thermometer has one of the popular ad features, the pointing man. Another, popular in the 1920s, is the strange Moxie Horsemobile, a dummy horse mounted on a real convertible. The steering wheel is in front of the saddle so the driver can steer the car while riding the horse. An actual Horsemobile traveled the country promoting the drink.
Q: What is the difference between weighted sterling and sterling silver? I have a pair of silver candlesticks from my aunt marked “weighted.”
A: To keep a candlestick from falling over, some modern makers “weight” it. The candlestick is made of silver-sterling or plated — and the base is filled with a heavy plasterlike material. The bottom is then covered with a thin layer of silver. The finished candlestick is heavy and might be marked “sterling silver,” “silver plate” or “weighted.”
Part of the price of a silver candlestick is based on the “meltdown” value, the dollar value of the silver content. An antique candlestick will be judged primarily on its look and the fame of the maker. Damaged or insignificant candlesticks are priced primarily by meltdown value.
Q: We have my husband’s grandmother’s four-piece oak bedroom set, made by the White Furniture Co. of Mebane, N.C. My husband’s grandmother was married about 1883 and died in 1944. The bedroom set is in an Early American style. Can you estimate when the set was made?
A: White Furniture Co. was founded in 1881 by David and William White. At first the company made just wagon wheels and oak dining tables, but it expanded production in 1886 and started making bedroom sets, many in reproduction styles like yours.
A set that included an oak bed, dresser and washstand sold for just $9 in the 1880s. By the early 1900s, White was one of the South’s leading furniture manufacturers. The company was sold to Hickory Manufacturing Co. in 1985 and closed its doors in 1993. It is likely that your set was made sometime between 1886 and World War I.
Tip: Antique furniture can have old mold spores hidden in the wood or upholstery. If the piece smells musty, take it outside and wipe unfinished surfaces with a cloth dipped in denatured alcohol. Finished surfaces can be cleaned with your usual furniture cleaner.
Ralph and Terry Kovel’s column is syndicated by King Features. Write to: Kovels, (Las Vegas Review-Journal), King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019. For more information visit www.Kovels.com.