Ask Antique Trader: Old time dental tools can be valuable

Q Can you identify these medical equipment containers? Approximately how old are they? I cannot see any identification on them as to the company they were made by. Any information about them would be appreciated. M.R. Plymouth, Mich.

A  As much as people dislike visits to the dentist, you have to give thanks for the improvements in technology and care. You have quite a valuable find – if not a very unusual conversation starter. This is a collection of antique dentist tools, probably dating from the 1870s to the 1920s. Dentists would use a kit such as this when making home visits or on the battle field. The kit is composed of exploring tools with hilts modified for specially made handles. The containers probably once contained various chemical compounds and repair materials. If you know who owned the kit before you, it might be worth the effort to investigate the engraving located on inside of the cover. There may be more history to your kit than you realize. Kits like these are popular and this one could be worth $350.

Q What are the values of the following items: Metal or tin box, Nail care items – not marked, bookcases, two different sets are stamped with logos. If you could let me know value (if any) I would appreciate it. K.H. Wagoner, Okla.

A  Your bookcase is a beautiful example of barrister oak bookcases. The tiger-grained wood offers a stunning contrast from the geometric lines of the leaded class windows. Sets like these are a timeless antique and would accentuate just about any decor from Arts & Crafts to Victorian. The Widman Bookcase Co. was one of dozens of Michigan furniture manufacturers. Although Grand Rapids is more well known as a source for Michigan furniture, the Widman company was based in Detroit. Although most makers offered a optional shelf units and Widman once offered a design set off the floor on Queen Anne legs. The value of your unit should be about $650-$700.

Your decorative tin box once held candy. It features images following the coronation of England’s King George VI, father of the current monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. The box was made to commemorate the event that change in leadership after George’s older brother Edward abdicated the throne in favor of marrying American socialite Wallis Simpson. The value of the box should be about $50 to $75.

Lastly, your vintage celluloid vanity set is a very common item in most homes from the 1920s to the 1950s. Since so many of these sets were mass produced, sets like these sell to collectors for around $35 to $50 depending on condition.

Eric Bradley is the promoter of the Atlantique City Antiques & Collectibles Show. He has been buying, selling and trading antiques and collectibles for 13 years.

Send your questions and photos via e-mail (preferred) to, or mail to Antique Trader Q&A, 700 East State St., Iola, WI 54945.

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You can send your questions to “Ask Antique Trader” either by e-mail with attached digital images (preferred) or by regular mail with color prints (photos cannot be returned). In either case, be as detailed as possible regarding condition, dimensions and markings. As always, we’ll select the best examples to feature in our pages.

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