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Q: My family has owned an interesting tape measure for at least 75 years, since when I was a child. It’s a porcelain man’s head with a little porcelain fly on his forehead. The man’s face is bright white. One of his eyes is closed and the other one is open and blue. His cheeks are painted light pink, his lips are red and the fly is black with red eyes. Pulling on the fly extends the narrow cloth tape measure from the man’s head. The head is 2 1/2 inches tall. Can you tell me anything about it?

A: Spring-return tape measures were introduced in about 1875, and figural measures in all kinds of shapes and materials have been made ever since. The tape was fabric on early models and metal on later ones. Most figural measures like yours date from the late 1800s into the 1930s. They are popular collectibles, especially among people who hunt for antique and vintage sewing implements. Your measure could sell for more than $50.

 


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