Versatile drop-leaf tables weathers the times

No matter how large a house is, there always seems to be a need for more space. During the 19th century, especially in the South, homes often had long, wide front halls that went from the front door to the back door. That allowed the air to circulate and helped cool the house.

Clever furniture makers created a table that could be stored against the wall until it was needed. The table had deep drop leaves hinged to a narrow top. When opened, the leaves were supported by “swing” legs, and the extended table could open to 45 inches long and 32 inches wide.

Sometimes the table was made with an under-the-top storage drawer that opened from the side. This type of drop-leaf table was made in the 16th century and has been made in a variety of styles, including modern versions made in the 21st century.

Q: I have been trying to get more information about a porcelain nut bowl that belonged to my grandmother. It has slightly curved sides and two gilt handles. It is painted with squirrels and grass on the outside and pine cones on the inside. The mark on the bottom is a shield with the words, “HC, Royal Bavaria, Patent Application.” How old is it? Is there is any value other than as a family treasure?

A: Your nut dish was made in Bavaria (Germany) sometime between 1890 and 1914 but decorated in the United States. The decorating of porcelain “blanks” by independent artists rather than factory-employed artists was popular in the United States from the 1870s to the 1930s.

It began in Cincinnati in 1874, when Mary Louise McLaughlin saw a set of European china paints and urged her art instructor to organize a class in china painting. The class was so successful that the ladies in the class exhibited their work at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition. By 1900 there were an estimated 20,000 china painters in America. For the most part, they used china blanks imported from Germany and France.

Your nut dish is worth about $35 to $50. Rare forms, such as condensed milk containers and celery dishes, usually bring higher prices than ordinary plates, cups and bowls.

Q: I have a small metal toy chair that was a prize in a Cracker Jack box many years ago. From information we have, we think it’s from about 1915. Can you give us some information about Cracker Jack toys and what they are worth?

A: Cracker Jack has been a popular snack for more than 100 years. A combination of popcorn, peanuts and molasses was introduced at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, but the name “Cracker Jack” wasn’t used until 1896. Prizes were put in every box beginning in 1912. Miniature metal toys were included in early years, plastic toys later.

Collectors look for old Cracker Jack toys, boxes and advertising materials. The Cracker Jack Collectors Association is a club with a newsletter for collectors (www.crackerjackcollectors.com/cjcahistory.htm). Some early Cracker Jack toys sell at auctions or online for $10 or $15, but some that are rare or more desirable can sell for much more.

Q: I have two glass decanters with pewter overlay and pewter stoppers. The bottles have pinched sides, and the word “Haig’s” is molded on the bottom. The base of the pewter is marked “Ngan Winghing” and “Made in Hong Kong.” About when were they made?

A: Haig’s is a famous brand of whiskey. Haig’s pinch bottles were first made in 1893. Bottles with overlay probably were made at Christmas time.

Your pewter overlay bottle is relatively new. Several companies in Hong Kong use the name “Wing Hing.” Your pewter decanter may have been made by Wing Hing Metal Manufactory Ltd., a company that makes and exports metal products, including promotional items, metal boxes, badges, toys and other items. The company has been in business for more than 25 years.

Q: I recently rediscovered an album containing Beatles cards that I collected after the Beatles first arrived in the United States. They were the size of baseball trading cards, and had pictures of the Beatles engaged in activities. My Beatles cards are in perfect condition. Are they worth anything?

A: The Topps Co. released seven series of Beatles-themed bubble-gum trading cards in 1964, after the Fab Four made their first trip to the U.S. The first three sets in the series featured black-and-white photographs of John, Paul, George and Ringo, with blue facsimile signatures, totaling 165 cards. They were followed by a “Color Card” series of 64 cards, with questions, answers and facts on the back, a “Beatles Diary” series of 60 cards, with color photographs and “diary entries” by each Beatle on the back and a “Hard Day’s Night” series of sepia-tone cards with pictures from the movie.

There also is a series of 55 oversized “Beatles Plaks” cards, with photographs and slogans about the Beatles on shaped “plaks” that could be punched out and put together to form a chain-like display. Collectors also look for the wrappers and boxes they came in. Beatles Plaks cards are the hardest to find and therefore the most expensive. Other Beatles trading cards can sell for a few dollars to a few hundred dollars, depending on the set and condition of the cards. Beatles trading cards from the 1990s and 2000s are worth very little.

Tip: Avoid flies. They leave droppings on mirrors, pictures and chandeliers. Flyspecks on pictures can be carefully removed with a knife blade. Glass can be washed.

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.

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