Ask Antique Trader: Art Deco style supports bookends’ value

Q There is not any mark on this pair of bookends, the size is 4 1/2 inches by 7 1/2 inches; any idea of value?
— M.P., Sioux City, Iowa.

A The bookend whispered to the books, “Stand up Straight!” Most 20th century bookends were purely decorative with performance lacking. The ‘Curtseying Lady,’ with her position of movement, fits perfectly into the Art Deco era of 1925. Short in time, but long in influence, deco-style flowed through society allowing design freedom from clothing to bookends. A fanciful element on this figural pair is the use of the dress as the contact-plane, usually it was a straight, flat surface. Up to this time most books were smaller in size and table book-racks were the norm.

In Pennsylvania alone, there were over a dozen firms manufacturing iron-weighted bookends, with some more refined than others. Most were never patented, many not marked, and very few made after 1929. Bookends have achieved an unusual balance of being both utilitarian and decorative, but many examples have been relegated to a basement shelf or thrift shop. Collectors are even buying orphaned ones, but as this Lady shows, two are better than one.

Subject matter, composition, foundry-mark, rarity, and condition all lend toward value. In this case, yours are worth $160.

Q I was told this was made in North Carolina, my search has come up empty, can you help me with any other information?
— M.Y., Elroy, Wis.

A This 1930s buffet initially could have been purchased as part of a dining room ensemble, through catalogs like Sears & Roebuck. When ordering, the rail-freight would arrive from Chicago or North Carolina, whichever was closer to you. This was the modernized version of William & Mary style, with table, buffet, server and china ‘on stand.’ By 1930 people were tired of dark varnishes like walnut and mahogany, wood colors were getting lighter up through the ’50s blonds. Veneers replaced solid woods, customers would  have choice of different woods like maple, elm, tulip and satinwood for  veneer-patterned inserts. Thousands of manufactured sets were made affordable to Americans.

On your buffet there are minimal applied decorations on the back-rail and scalloped apron. Distinguishing hip-ends add interest to this piece. To give true value, one has to know condition, size, any veneer damage, refinished or not, and is it the original hardware?

With no damage, your buffet is worth $250.

FYI: Prices when purchased new
Buffet, Table and China: $39.50 each
Server: $20.85
Chair: $5.95
Host Chair: $9.25

My husband gave me this basket because I love flowers. The wire is wrapped with paper, what is it called?
— G.S., San Benito, Texas

A In 1844 ships arriving from China used rattan as dunnage-pads to secure cargo. Cyrus Wakefield, a 33-year-old grocer, created furniture from discarded rattan that he plucked from the Boston Harbor. Wow, going green! In 1897 Cyrus merged with a competitor and formed Heywood Brothers & Wakefield Company, producing large amounts of wicker furniture for porch, lawn and home. Their 1898 catalog listed 116 different rocking chairs.

By 1920 supplies were dwindling and a new paper fiber, or fiber-art reed, had replaced natural rattan for wickerwork. It became the common-used material, was less expensive and did not require soaking prior to weaving. Treated paper was machine-twisted and given a flexible-wire core that added strength to make it soft and pliable. Common and strikingly uncommon pieces were manufactured like buggies, porch swings, wheel-chairs, toys, music stands, tea-carts and photographers’ prop-chairs. Baskets of all description and size were sold by the thousands. The downside of this material is that it unravels and cannot be washed with water.

Your 16-inch by 26-inch floor basket was sold through florist shops and used mostly for bereavement sprays. With the handles forming a heart, it makes a beautiful receptacle for either one-sided or full-surround arrangements. Value: $145.

FYI: Try pressurized canned-air for cleaning.

Barbara J. Eash, a member of The Certified Appraisers Guild of America, likes to say, “Antiques are memories that you can touch with your hand.” While living in Tennessee Eash coordinated the annual NBC Channel 3 appraisal fair and was known as the Chattanooga Antiques Lady. She has managed two antique shops, and has appraised for TV shows, clinics and in court. Now living in Wisconsin, she chairs Milwaukee Public Television’s annual appraisal fair. Her two office locations are in antiques shops in Waukesha and New Berlin, Wis.

Ask Antique Trader
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Iola, WI 54990-0001

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