Ask Antique Trader: Mobley whirligig valued at $100

Q I found this object in rural North Carolina many years ago. I was told it was a whirligig and that it would move when the wind blew. It is signed “Mobley.” What can you tell me about whirligigs and the value of this one?

A Whirligigs have a long history in America and folk-art collectors often pay big money for them. Historically they were made by amateurs in a primitive style. However, in the 19th century, in Pennsylvania German communities, religious beliefs forbade children to play with toys on Sunday. The whirligig was one way to keep children amused.

They are a combination of dolls and the movements of windmills. Originally brightly colored their mechanisms were often complicated. Your whirligig was made by Paul Mobley of Williamston, N.C., in the late 1950s or the 1960s. Even with faded paint it could sell to a collector for $100 or more.

Q We bought this rocker at a sale. A portion of the paper label is under the seat. Would the back be hand carved? What could it be worth? — E.K., East Berlin, PA

A Your pressed back old rocker was one of hundred of styles made in the 1890s to around 1904. There were many designs that were pressed into the wood by a metal die or mold. Yours is an especially fine example with the circular seat inset. It could sell in a shop for $250 or more.

Q Could you give me information about this wind-up clock with a glass globe? On the front it says “Elgin, made on Germany.” On the back it says “one jewel. S. Haller, unadjusted.” What can you tell me about it? — Harrisberg, PA

Your clock is known as an “anniversary clock.” The maker, S. Haller, has been specializing in anniversary clocks for decades. Yours was made to celebrate Elgin’s 50th anniversary as a watch maker. While Elgin primarily made watches, for a brief time in the 1950s it made novelty clocks. Yours could sell in a shop for $100 or more.

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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