If you don’t already have rabbits hopping around your garden, you might want to buy an antique garden rabbit to fool your friends.
The wealthy English and French of the 17th century liked formal gardens with paths, fences and planned flower beds. They put urns, statues, fountains, sundials, gates, furniture and odd pieces like finials and wall sculptures into their gardens.
In America, ornaments and furniture were being used in gardens by the 1600s. A brass sundial from 1630 is the earliest American garden piece that still exists. A wooden bench from the 1700s is the earliest known wooden piece.
Gardens first had wrought-iron furniture and gates in the 18th and early 19th centuries. By the mid-19th century, most garden pieces were made of cast iron, not wrought iron, because cast iron was stronger. Gardens were filled with iron ornaments and fences. Full-size deer, dogs and other animals, tiered fountains, iron benches made to look like twining vines or tree branches, obelisks and sundials were all made of cast iron. So were armillary spheres that help map the “movement” of the stars around the Earth.
In the 1930s, there was even more interest in cast-iron objects. Inside houses you could find cast-iron doorstops, bookends, planters, hardware and toys. And in today’s gardens, life-size rabbits, squirrels, frogs and even alligators and tall birds are among the many iron guests.
Many of these figures were made years ago and have survived with just a little loss of paint. A vintage rabbit or squirrel can cost from $50 to $200 today. A full-size deer or dog sells for $500 to $2,000, and a three-tier iron fountain with a bird pedestal and leafy edges costs $3,000. Look in backyards when you go to a house sale. You might find a garden figure no one noticed.
Q: I have four cafe-style chairs, each marked with a paper label that says “Jacob Josef Kohn & Mundus.” The chair-backs have a bentwood frame with three horizontal splats. Can you tell me age and value?
A: Your chairs were made after 1914, the year Mundus, a German chair-manufacturing conglomerate, merged with Jacob & Josef Kohn, a competitor based in Vienna. And they probably were made before 1923. Thonet, the company whose founder invented the bentwood chair in the 1830s, merged with Mundus in 1923. Many different styles of bentwood chair-backs have been made.
If yours are in excellent condition, each one would sell for about $100.
Q: I own a square, porcelain platter with flowers painted around the border and a central scene of two young girls playing in a grassy field. It’s marked “PM” on the bottom. I was able to do enough research to learn that it was made between 1895 and 1910 by the Moschendorf Porcelain Factory of Hof-Moschendorf, Bavaria, Germany. But I can’t find another platter like it online, and I’m hoping it’s rare and worth a lot. Is it?
A: No. Your platter is in a traditional Victorian-style popular at the turn of the 20th century. Assuming it was made by the factory you identified, the dish is not by a famous manufacturer and it’s probably not part of a set that can be matched with other dishes. It would sell today for $25 to $50.
But do take another look at the mark. Other German companies used marks that ended in “PM.” One of those was the Royal Porcelain Manufacturing Co., which marked its wares “KPM.”
Q: I have a small collection of vintage molded glass religious figurines. There’s one that’s a mystery to me. It’s a 7½-inch light-blue, glass sculpture of a standing Madonna and Child. It’s signed “P. d’Avesn.” I have learned that Pierre d’Avesn once worked at Lalique, but I also found his name connected with Daum art glass. So I’m confused. Can you help?
A: Pierre d’Avesn designed for Lalique in the early 1920s, then later that decade became a designer and manager at Daum. He managed Daum’s factory at Croismare, near Luneville, France, from 1927 until 1932. The factory specialized in making decorative but affordable glass pieces that were marked in various ways. One of the marks is the “P. d’Avesn” signature on your figurine.
Pieces made at the Croismare factory do not sell for as much as other prewar Daum designs. Your Madonna and Child figurine, if perfect, could be worth $100 to $150.
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.