Folk art paintings on dollhouse

The folk art paintings on the dollhouse are the signed work of Peter Hunt. The 39-inch-high plywood toy was decorated in 1941.

Artists sometimes only make one kind of art, perhaps keeping to painting, sculpture or jewelry. But many try all kinds of art before they find the one that is best. Self-taught Peter Hunt (1896-1967) started painting thrift-shop furniture with peasant designs in 1929. His colorful pieces sold quickly in Cape Cod and became so fashionable that they were sold in the furniture departments of Macys, Gimbels and other well-known department stores. Old boxes, school desks, strollers, toys, buckets, trays, fabrics and more were decorated. Hunt was handsome, charming and clever, and he sold his folk art to important socialites, including Helena Rubenstein, who promoted his work. He also wrote cookbooks and how-to guides so amateurs could copy his style. His painting is compared to early Pennsylvania German or Norwegian Rosemaling. His painted designs were signed with “Anno Domini,” the last two numbers of the year, and his cursive signature. Sometimes he added French phrases to the decorations. But the fad only lasted till the 1960s, and he died penniless. Peter Hunt’s art is being collected again. This Hunt dollhouse, painted inside and out, sold at a recent Eldred auction for $240. A large piece of furniture could bring over $1,000.

Q: I haven’t been able to identify the maker of my silver water pitcher. The mark includes the initials “L.B.S. CO.” and “E.P.N.S.” and a cross, a crown and a shield. I presume the interior is aluminum because it’s very lightweight. It looks very modern. Do you have any idea who the maker is and the time period? What can I expect as to its value?

Answer: This mark was used by Lawrence B. Smith Co. of Boston, Massachusetts. The company was founded in 1887 and made silver and silver plate serving pieces. It went out of business in the late 1950s. The letters “E.P.N.S” stand for “electroplated nickel silver.” Sterling silver is solid silver. Nickel silver doesn’t contain any silver but is an alloy made of about 20% nickel, 60% copper and 20% zinc. In electroplating, an electric current is used to deposit a thin layer of silver onto the base metal. The process came into commercial use about 1840. Modern silver plate trays are almost impossible to sell and have no melt down value since they aren’t solid silver. Your silver plate pitcher might sell for about $50 to $75.

Q: I have a set of dinnerware with a circular mark on the bottom. There is a bird in the middle and the words “Dishwasher & Microwave Safe” and “Made in Japan.” Can you tell me anything about the maker or age?

Answer: Japanese marks are hard to identify if they use a picture without words or initials that would give clues to the maker’s name. The words “dishwasher” and “microwave” help tell the age, however. Dinnerware marked “dishwasher proof” was made beginning in 1955. Dinnerware marked “microwave safe” was made about 1970 or later.

Q: I have a painting by Woodi Ishmael dated 1969 and titled “Trail-Blazers in the Sky.” It was presented to my husband, who was a Major General in the U.S. Air Force, with a plaque honoring his “loyal support to the Air National Guard, the United States Air Force and the United States of America.” Can you tell me anything about this painting or the painter?

Answer: Woodi Ishmael (1914-1995) was born in Kentucky, studied at the Cleveland Institute of Arts and the Art Students League of New York, and taught at Troy State University in Troy, Alabama. The painting pictures the 1st Aero Company, part of the New York National Guard, preparing for flight. The company was the first aviation unit mobilized into federal duty and made the first mass “cross-country” flight of military planes in 1916. Twelve planes flew from Mineola, New York, to Princeton, New Jersey, on Nov. 18 and flew back to Princeton on Nov. 19. The painting was made 50 years later. Original paintings must be seen by an expert to determine price. Reproduction prints of this painting have been made. Some collectors would want the plaque since it adds to the history. Some would take it off the frame.

Q: I have a clock made by the New Haven Clock Co. The case is metal, 15 inches high, with a dark finish and traces of blue paint. On the bottom is an Art Deco woman, positioned so she appears to be holding up the dial as an orb. I’ve just had the movement repaired and cleaned and it is in good working order. Can you help with a value?

Answer: The New Haven Clock Co. was founded in Connecticut in 1853. The company mass produced brass clock movements for the Chauncey Jerome Manufacturing Co., one of the largest clockmakers in the world at that time. Jerome went bankrupt and was bought by New Haven Clock Co. in 1857. The curvy lines and the figural image of a semi-draped maiden with flowing hair on the base of your clock suggest it is Art Nouveau, not Art Deco, in design and made in the late 19th to early 20th century. The case is made of “white metal,” an alloy used as a base for a plated or painted finish. Working versions of your clock with gilt finish have sold from $200 to $240.

Q: When I was 11, I found a Pinocchio doll. The doll was about 14 inches tall and was made of that mixture of sawdust and glue called composition. It had a white shirt and khaki colored pants with shoulder straps. I remember his hair. It was made of the same material as the head, with a wave that stuck out over his forehead. I searched to identify it but unsuccessfully. Can you help? I’d like to know I didn’t dream this doll!

Answer: The Walt Disney movie “Pinocchio” was released in 1940. A few companies made dolls that looked like the legendary puppet brought to life by a fairy who told him he could become a “real boy” if he was brave, truthful and unselfish. Your doll was probably made in 1939 by the Knickerbocker Doll and Toy Co., which operated in New York City from 1925 to 1983. The doll is composition with jointed legs and arms. Its molded and painted black hair swoops out in front and is frequently found scratched or nicked. The doll came dressed in khaki shorts with shoulder straps and big yellow buttons over a lighter shirt with a satin bow and a felt hat. Old composition dolls usually have light to severe crazing or cracks that affect their value. In good condition, this Pinocchio doll has sold at auction from $260 to $650. Pinocchio dolls were also made by Ideal Toy Co. and Crown Toy Co. They sell for about $250.

Q: I’ve been collecting “People’s Book Club” books for over 20 years and have over 100 of them. Some have jackets, others do not, but all are in really good shape. I’m downsizing and would like to sell the lot of them. Where can I take them to sell?

Answer: The People’s Book Club (PBC) was a mail-order book club started by Sears, Roebuck and Co. in July 1943. Special PBC editions of popular books were designed and printed in the Sears publishing house in Chicago and offered monthly at low prices to club members. Books were chosen based on the recommendations of “experts” and the interests of members, which was based on information supplied by George Gallup, the inventor of the Gallup Poll. The words “Selected by Your People’s Jury” are included on some book covers. The stories were “family friendly” — some have called them “middlebrow.” The first ad for the book club offered the bestseller “The Robe” for $1.66 along with a free gift, a copy of “The Valley of Decision.” At one time there were 350,000 PBC members. Most were women who lived in rural areas. The club continued until 1959. An antiquarian or used bookstore might buy your books. The books sell online for $3 to $35.

Q: Can help me with the year and value of a Shirley Temple doll? She has been in the family for a while. Marked on the back of her head is “IDEAL DOLL, ST — 12”. Is there interest in Shirley Temple dolls anymore? I seldom see information on them.

Answer: Shirley Temple dolls were a hit when Shirley was in movies. They were first licensed and made by the Ideal Novelty and Toy Co. of New York in 1934, and they are still popular. Artist Bernard Lipfert created the earliest Shirley Temple sculptures. Early dolls were made of “composition,” a mixture of glue, sawdust and other materials. Vinyl dolls were made after 1957, until Ideal went out of business in the early 1970s. Collectors love all Shirley Temple dolls, but the 1950s vinyl dolls sell for more than early 1970s vinyl examples. Price is also determined by the doll’s size, costume, condition and whether it has its original tags, box and script Shirley Temple pin. Your 12-inch doll’s price would start at about $40. It will be higher if the outfit and accessories are original or if you have the original tag or box.

Current prices

Current prices are recorded from antiques shows, flea markets, sales and auctions throughout the United States. Prices vary in different locations because of local economic conditions.

  • Fan, folding, hand painted, gilt rococo decoration, children outside the city walls flying a kite, J. Ramon, 9 x 10 inches, $130.
  • Face jug, salamander on forehead, spaced teeth, hooked nose, handled, greenish black, 9½ inches, $130.
  • Kutani bowl, men sitting near the river, staff, incense, book, mountains, black, red, 5½ x 15 inches, $280.
  • Samovar, silver-plate, flower finial, lobed body, scrolling leaves, acanthus, eagle about spout, 18 x 16 inches, $390.
  • Imari bowl, scalloped edge, gilt, flower crests, phoenix, cobalt blue, iron red, 4 x 8½ inches, $410.
  • Quilt, tulips, flower buds, scalloped border, green and yellow striped borders, 63 x 73 inches, $660.
  • Music box, Mermod Freres, inlay, musical instruments and flowers, wooden box, tune card, crank, 10 x 21 inches, $900.
  • Jade cup, four lobes, plum blossom branches handle, bamboo leave in relief, raised base, 2½ x 4½ inches, $1,080.
  • Porcelain vase, fortune teller, 3 women, gilt flowers, marbled blue, green, beehive mark, 12¾ x 8½ inches, $2,030.
  • Buffet, Louis XV, walnut, fruit, berries, acanthus, 4 doors, mesh opening, c. 1780, 101 x 50 inches, $2,820.
  • Ed Eberle vase, nude men and women, walking, standing, laying down, black, white, geometric border, 12½ inches, $2,750.
  • Silver tea and coffee set, “Circa ‘70,” coffee pot, teapot, sugar and creamer, ebony handle, tray, Donald Coleflesh for Gorham, $9,840.
  • Orange Crush door push, “Come in Drink,” bottle, straw, orange, black, 1920s, 12 x 3 inches, $660.
  • Capo-di-monte nativity scene, Greek columns, urns, arches, vines, flowers. 18 inches, $700.
  • Mills slot machine, 25 cent, castle front, shield, red, cobalt blue, wood case, $1,200.
  • Louis Vuitton Bellevue tote, purple patent leather, gold metal hardware, tan straps, 17 x 11 inches, $1,400.
  • Gorham bowl, copper, hammered, applied silver insects, heron & fruit, bulbous, ruffled rim, early 20th century, 3½ x 3½ inches, $1,415.
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Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel answer questions sent to the column. By sending a letter with a question and a picture, you give full permission for use in the column or any other Kovel forum. Names, addresses or email addresses will not be published. We cannot guarantee the return of photographs, but if a stamped envelope is included, we will try. The amount of mail makes personal answers or appraisals impossible. Write to Kovels, King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, Fla. 32803.

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