Ask Antique Trader: $5 folk art game worth ‘hundreds’

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I found this two-sided game board in a small town thrift shop years ago for $5. As a collector of folk art I found it quite interesting and unlike any other game board I had seen. One side has incised and inked drawings of winning poker cards, such as an ace and a queen of hearts. In the center is the “pot.” The other side has an applied star, incised and inked with holes for marbles. The corners have Art Nouveau style applied butterflies. It is a Chinese checker board. Any idea of history and value? — D.C., Boca Raton, Fla.

You have a wonderful example of a folk art game board. During the past several years game boards from the 19th and early 20th century have been popular and the most unusual are pricey. Yours dates to around the 1930s when Chinese checkers was the most popular game board. Chinese checkers is not from China and isn’t anything like the game of checkers. 19th century game boards were usually made of maple and pine by untrained amateurs as well as skilled artisans. They were rarely signed or dated. While most game boards were painted, yours is unusual, involving several decorative techniques. The fact that it is double-sided and primitive adds to the value. It could sell at auction for several hundred dollars.

I believe this mirror came from Germany and was brought over by a relative in 1941. It is a fan shape with enamel trim. The handle is in the form of figural female dancers, also in enamel. The fan is 9 3/4-inches high by 12 1/4-inches wide. What can you tell me about it and its value? — J.R.,  Keystone Heights, Fla.

From your photo you have a German cabaret dancers decorative mirror made in the early 1900s. Since it has a signature of some sort that I can’t decipher, it is a one-of-a-kind designer piece. As such it could bring $1,000 at auction.

My mother was given this bowl many years ago. Please note the markings “Swiss Scenery” with J.S. in script. It has been mended with pewter staples. The pattern is black. Who made the piece? What is the value? — K.P., Ellijag, Ga.

Your black transfer print bowl was made in England by one of the many Staffordshire potteries, 1840-1850. Staffordshire potters are identified by their border designs. While most are known, some, such as yours, remain unknown. Staffordshire transfer print potteries opened in the last half of the 18th century. Early decorations were adaptations of Chinese designs (chinoiserie). By 1800 European subjects were used. After 1815 British and European scenes became popular. In good condition your bowl could sell in a shop for $400 or more. Unfortunately, your “mended” piece, as is, has only historical value. Restoration could cost as much as sale price.

Anne Gilbert is a nationally syndicated columnist, author of eight antiques and collectibles books, and is well known for her lectures to business and professional groups. She is a member of the Newspaper Features Council and Society of Illustrators. She can be reached via e-mail at


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