Unusual dome trunk received as a wedding present could be worth more than $1,000.
Q: I’m trying to get information and value about this unusual trunk. It’s about 100 years old. The original owners (now deceased) got it as a wedding gift. They said it came from Spain and cost about $1,000. The red/green covering appears to be leather. The lining is velvet. The base is made from particle board – perhaps added at a later time. The trunk is 36 inches long; the width/depth is 17-1/2 inches and stands 20 inches tall plus the feet. I don’t see any brand names or marks.
A: Trunks were traditional wedding gifts up to the 20th century. They would be filled with household items the newlywed couple would need for their new home. After the wedding, they would store mementos and heirlooms. Hope chests, which young women would fill with textiles they made to supply their future households, were a similar idea. Spanish trunks made of wood or leather are especially desirable for their distinctive looks and skilled craftsmanship. There was a revival of Spanish Colonial-style furniture from about 1915 to the early 1930s, especially in the American Southwest. This fits with your estimate of the trunk’s age.
You are right, the particle board base would have been added later. It’s not uncommon to see antique and vintage trunks with later feet. Generally, trunks with flat bases were meant for traveling; trunks with feet or on a stand were used as furniture. Dome top trunks meant nothing could be stacked on top, protecting the trunk and its contents from damage during transit. Dome top leather trunks with exterior decoration like nail heads or tooled designs have sold at recent auctions for about $200 to over $1,000. Prices depend on the trunk’s age, size, material, and condition.
Q: My neighbor wants to know if this fan is an antique and what it would be worth.
A: Technically, an antique is at least 100 years old. Your neighbor’s fan was manufactured by Robbins & Myers and likely dates to the mid-20th century, making it vintage.
Robbins & Myers was founded in the late 1800s as an iron foundry. They started making electric fans in 1897 and continued making fans, motors, and industrial machinery throughout the 20th century. They were acquired by National Oilwell Varco in 2013.
Your neighbor’s fan, the Robbins & Myers Breeze-All, is a hassock fan; sometimes called a floor circulator or stool fan. They were popular in the mid-20th century. After home air conditioning was introduced in the 1930s, ceiling fans gradually fell out of fashion. Instead, people bought hassock fans to circulate the air. Some were marketed as “air circulators” rather than fans; they could heat as well as cool. Their size, shape, and structure meant they could double as furniture. A hassock fan could be used as a footstool, stand, or small table. Their popularity waned when ceiling fans came back into style in the 1970s. We have seen vintage hassock fans sell at auctions for about $100 to $500, depending on condition.
Q: I received as a gift from a friend 17 years ago, a beautiful Hobé Flower Photo Brooch dated 1966. I have not been able to find this brooch on the internet. I’m interested to know what the value of this lovely Hobe brooch might be. Can you help me?
A: Once you’ve started looking at the varied wares sold under the Hobé brand, a brand with French roots that thrived for more than 60 years, it’s easy to understand why collectors are enamored with this vintage jewelry. The Hobé tagline used in advertising during the 1930s and ’40s was “Jewels of Legendary Splendor.” That might seem rather haughty for costume jewelry if it weren’t for the fact that Hobé did design some remarkably intricate and finely crafted designs during the period.
We are fortunate to have an array of experts at our fingertips, including the talented Pamela Wiggins Siegel, an expert in costume jewelry who writes regularly in this magazine. We turned to Pam for her assistance to answer this question. Her response follows:
“These types of locket brooches aren’t very common, as you’ve noticed looking around online. Like you, I did not find exact examples in my appraisal resources. I did find several similar brooches with lockets marketed by Hobe’ dating to the mid-1960s. As an appraiser, looking at values for items that are close in comparison is the next best thing to finding an exact match. Normally I would look for items that had sold recently to get a more accurate value but I’m not seeing any at the moment. With that said, I am seeing a few similar ones with asking prices in the $150-200 range. My gut feeling (based on buying and selling costume jewelry for many years) is that the actual selling prices will be in the $100-150 range when they are purchased, if not a bit lower, and that’s where I would value your piece.”
Q: My father recently passed away. He was an enthusiastic Coca-Cola collector. This vending machine was part of his collection. Of all his pieces, this is my favorite. From the metal tag on the back of the machine, I can tell it was made by the Vendo Company in Kansas City. Can you tell me anything else about it?
A: We can see why this Coca-Cola vending machine is your favorite from your dad’s collection. It’s a beauty. In the early part of the 20th century, prior to the use of coin-operated vending machines, soda bottles were distributed from coolers packed with ice, and payment was on the honor system. As strange as it may seem now, it worked. But times change. Capitalizing on the lack of effective payment collection, brothers Elmer and John Pierson of Kansas City developed a coin-operated locking lid to be placed on common ice chests. This, in effect, created the first vending machine. From 1937 to 1956, the brothers’ Vendo Company of Kansas City, Missouri, built and maintained Coca-Cola machines throughout the Midwest. As you noted, Vendo made your machine. The company merged with Vendorlater, a former Pepsi-Cola bottling company, and moved to California.
On May 8, 1886, the world’s first Coca-Cola was served at Jacobs’ Pharmacy in Atlanta. It was the creation of Dr. John Pemberton as a tonic for common ailments. The Coca-Cola Company was founded in 1892 and discovered early on the importance of brand recognition. Emblazoned at the top of all Coca-Cola vending machines is the soft drink company’s name. Today, Coca-Cola remains the best example of this modern marketing tactic. The mass production of Coca-Cola items makes it a popular genre for collectors. Vending machines are a favorite with collectors. Depending on condition, your vending machine is worth between $1,000 and $3,000.
A Coca-Cola vending machine made by the Vendo Company of Kansas City
Q: I am hoping you can tell me the value of this roll-top desk a friend has given me. It comes apart in four places for easy moving with two long drawers attached to the middle unit and a glass door on the bottom that opens as well.
A: Your roll-top desk is actually a Mission-style ladies’ desk/bookcase made by Macey Furniture Co. sometime after the turn of the 20th century. The Macey Furniture Co. was founded by Fred Macey, who served as its first chairman along with his brother Frank, who also served as treasurer. Macey Furniture Co. was based in Grand Rapids, Mich., from 1896 to 1940 and combined with another famous bookcase manufacturer, Warnicke, in 1905. Warnicke-Globe lawyer bookcases are still widely sought out. In addition to roll-top desks, Macey’s early products included oak card indexes and file systems, and sectional bookcases and filing cases. Lines were expanded to include wooden library tables, swivel chairs, ladies’ desks, music cabinets, Morris chairs, Turkish and Colonial rockers, and couches. Mission style is related to Arts and Crafts of the same period and is characterized by simple straight lines and accentuated wood grains. Your desk has tiger stripes with a fall front desk, built in compartments and a small bookcase below. It stands on bracket feet in front. The piece does not appear to be in a sound state, with sagging to one side. There are also gouges to the finish in front. Based on the mark you shared, your desk probably dates from 1908-1926, and likely in the earlier part of this period before WWI when mission style furniture was very much in vogue. Your piece could be restored, but before you do that, talk with a local expert in your area. In some cases, restoration can damage value. As is, your desk could bring as much as $500.
A ladies’ desk from the Macey Furniture Co., circa 1920.
Q: I bought these pants at an auction and there is no label or other identifying information. The pants have a button fly. I tried to take pictures that would show the most features. Anything you could tell me or suggest would be greatly appreciated.
A: You’re right; the pants appear to be military. They look like the service breeches worn with American uniforms in World War I. They have a similar design to civilian men’s sportswear of the early 1900s. Soldiers wrapped their lower legs in cloth strips from the cuffs of the breeches to the tops of their boots. The uniforms were made in khaki cotton for summer and olive drab wool for winter. The website for the U.S. Department of Defense has an online exhibit of U.S. Army uniforms from the Revolutionary War to the present (https://www.defense.gov/Multimedia/Experience/Common-Threads/Common-Threads-Army/) that lets you explore uniform components in detail. The Smithsonian’s online collection (si.edu) includes a picture of similar-looking pair of pants in olive drab, with the same shape, button fly, and lacing, listed as part of a “doughboy uniform.” “Doughboy” was a nickname for American soldiers in World War I. It may have come from the “doughy” brown color of the uniforms. Congratulations on your find! World War I uniforms and parts have sold at recent auctions for $60 to $700.
Q: I purchased this lamp almost 25 years ago. I would like to know who the artist is that made it. I tried to research; however, I was unsuccessful. The signature on the lamp appears to be “Frigber.” It’s a very tall Lucite lamp.
A: Lucite is a versatile material used today in interiors just as it was in 1937 when it became commercially available. Lucite is actually a brand name for a kind of acrylic resin developed in the 1930s by DuPont, basically the same as Plexiglas. You have a very impressive lamp emulating the Mid-Century Modern style. You mention you purchased your Lucite lamp with chrome fittings about 25 years ago, roughly 1998. You did not mention if you purchased your lamp new. (In 2002 there was a Lucite renaissance.) Or possibly you bought it used from an antique store. Famous designers of the 1960s included Karl Springer, Valdimir Kagan, Charles Hollis Jones and Gaetano Sciolari. Of course, these were certainly not the only designers of that era. We don’t recognize the designer but if your lamp is an original Mid-century piece, you have prize. We suggest you have your lamp appraised in your area for a more detailed evaluation than we can provide here. Mid-century Lucite lamps are quite fashionable and in demand. Depending on condition, they can command anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000, and possibly more.
Q: We recently came across this old typewriter while cleaning out my parents’ home after my father died. He was a bit of a packrat. Can you tell me anything about the typewriter, including its value?
A: As you know by the name of the typewriter, you have a Royal Companion, a popular portable typewriter from the 1930s into the 1940s. Royal, which was established in Brooklyn, introduced its first typewriter, the Royal 1, in 1906 and became a giant in the industry. The Royal Companion was a personal typewriter, one of their lower priced models that lacked a tabulator mechanism. Royal sold a lot of them, but then again, Royal sold millions of typewriters over the years, the Companion being only one of many models. Production of the Companion ceased during WWII and resumed with a slightly different look after the war.
How much are typewriters worth? No one can really say for sure, which makes collecting them even more fun. There are no standard catalog prices for old typewriters the way there are for some other collectibles. Not enough are bought and sold regularly to create a marketplace that would establish standard values. It usually comes down to what a buyer is willing to pay, and a seller is willing to accept. Rarity and condition are extremely important in establishing value. Condition of a typewriter can range from like-new to rust-bucket. With that said, your Royal Companion could be worth anywhere from $50 to $150, depending on condition and demand.
Q: These are pictures of envelopes that my mother received in 1941. Are they of any value?
A: The Post Office Department began scheduled airmail service between New York and Washington, D.C., on May 15, 1918 — an important date in commercial aviation. Airmail as a separate class of domestic mail officially ended on May 1, 1977, although in practice it ended in October 1975, when the Postal Service announced that First-Class postage — which was three cents cheaper — would buy the same or better level of service. By then, transportation patterns had changed, and most First-Class letters were already zipping cross-country via airplane. Airmail as a separate class of international mail ended on May 14, 2007, when rates for the international transportation of mail by surface methods were eliminated.
Individual airmail envelopes have sold online for about $5 – $10. Large lots and rare examples have sold at auction for higher prices. If the envelope was from a first flight, used for international mail, has a famous person’s handwriting or a historically significant stamp, or is otherwise associated with a historical event or famous figure, it will sell for more. Very early envelopes with postal marks picturing zeppelins have sold for over than $100. Collectors of airline memorabilia, stamps, postcards, or paper ephemera may be interested in your envelopes or have more information. A collectors’ club may be able to help you find a value.
Q: I recently came across this piece of furniture at a yard sale and found it fascinating. So, I bought it without knowing anything about it, other than I like it. Can you tell me what I have? Thank you.
A: This side-lock dresser, also known as a Wellington Chest by more seasoned antique collectors and dealers, is quite an interesting piece of furniture. They were dubbed Wellington Dressers after Arthur Wellesley, first duke of Wellington who reportedly had a side-lock chest he carried on his military campaigns. They are also known as “boarding house dressers” because the side-lock could protect the contents from residents of some of the less respectable residences. The term side-lock dresser or chest is probably the most accurate, if not descriptive, name for these pieces. The number of drawers range from six to twelve and some were produced in the United States, but most are English in origin.
This particular side-lock chest is made of walnut with walnut burlwood panels. It has heavy, decorative brass pulls and the top opens to reveal a mirror; the mirror is cloudy and elbow hinge is in need of repair, otherwise this piece is in good condition. Twenty years ago, these chests could easily sell in the $2,000 range; however, today, prices vary on these pieces, which sell in the $800 to $1,200 range depending on the region and venue in which it is offered.
A Wellington Chest is also known as a side-lock chest. Decorative brass pulls highlight the piece.