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Published June 18, 2010, 12:00 AM

Unique styles of furniture draw top dollar

The 20th century brought a new style of furniture. Earlier furniture designers made slight changes in the shape of a leg or the height of a chair-back as they went from Queen Anne to Chippendale to Sheraton to Empire to Victorian to Arts and Crafts.

By: By Terry Kovel, INFORUM

The 20th century brought a new style of furniture. Earlier furniture designers made slight changes in the shape of a leg or the height of a chair-back as they went from Queen Anne to Chippendale to Sheraton to Empire to Victorian to Arts and Crafts. Suddenly chairs became expensive art objects that looked like round plastic bubbles hanging from the ceiling or a group of strangely shaped cushions that fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.

Not everyone liked the new designs, so most furniture still resembled old-time favorites. But modern chairs made since the 1950s of Lucite or bent plywood or cardboard or unusual fabrics have been pictured in decorating magazines, movies and TV shows and are being copied for everyday use.

Designers are searching for even more unusual “looks.” Many are odd and often uncomfortable. One designer, Christopher Royal, began his career as an actor. Then he made jewelry and later a group of miniature chairs meant to be displayed on a shelf. The unusual chairs attracted Tiffany & Co., which used them in window displays starting in 1995. In 1998 the chairs were made full-size by Rockledge Design Studios of Florida. Today you can buy 21st-century chairs and 20th-century chairs that are still in production. All attract collectors of modern design.

Q: I have a shallow divided box with 17 Coca-Cola stamping plates of various sizes. They appear to be brass attached to a solid wood back. I received them in the box, and they look like they belong there. The stamps have pictures and writing in reverse. Can you tell me something about them?

A: You have a printer’s job case with the plates that were used to typeset ads in newspapers or magazines. Old printer’s boxes make interesting display cases for small collectibles and sell for $10 or more, depending on size. Your Coca-Cola printing plates would be of interest to a Coca-Cola collector, and are worth about $10-$20 each.

Q: I have a pump organ with collapsible legs that has a label that reads “Peloubet, Pelton & Co.” I’ve been told it is a melodeon and was probably made in the late 1800s. Can you tell me if this is correct?

A: Peloubet, Pelton & Co. was formed in 1873 by Louis Chabrier Peloubet and J.M. Pelton when they merged their two musical-instrument manufacturing firms. Peloubet had been making wind instruments since 1836 and small reed organs, called melodeons, since 1849. Pelton’s firm had been named Pelton Standard Organ Co. The partnership, based in New Jersey, dissolved in about 1882. Peloubet continued in business under other names.

Q: Somewhere I read that cracked china teacups could be saved by boiling them in milk. If this is possible, what grade of milk – whole, half, fat-free – should be used? How long is the boiling process? I’m considering donating a set of china to a charity and two of the cups are cracked.

A: We’ve seen several sources that recommend repairing china by boiling it in milk. Evidently the hint originally came from a 1940s book of home remedies. We’ve never tried it. It might help if the cracks aren’t too large.

Test the method on one cup. Put the cup in a pan and cover it with milk. It doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s whole milk or not. Bring the milk to a boil and then immediately lower it to a simmer. Simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour. The protein in the milk may react with the kaolin in the china and “mend” the crack.

Be careful. If you continue to “cook” the china at a high heat, the crack may widen. Let the milk cool completely before taking the cup out. If the china is valuable, you should have it professionally repaired.

Q: Can you tell me if Black, Starr & Frost ever made silver-plated items? I am trying to identify a six-sided two-handled tray marked “7033.”

A: The mark “7033” is not much of a clue to the tray’s maker. But it wasn’t Black, Starr & Frost. Black, Starr & Frost has never manufactured silver or silver-plate. It has only been a retailer, and probably exclusively of sterling silver. The company name, not the maker’s name, was often put on items ordered by a store.

Q: I would like to know the value of some toll tickets for the first crossing of the Brooklyn Bridge.

A: The Brooklyn Bridge opened to foot and vehicle traffic on May 24, 1883. Tickets were sold on both sides of the bridge beginning just before midnight the day before. Walkers who crossed that day were charged a penny. The cost rose to 3 cents the next day. Vehicles were charged a nickel.

If your tickets are dated May 23 or 24, 1883, for crossing the Brooklyn Bridge on opening day, they would be of interest to a New York historical society. Their value is hard to estimate. More than 150,000 walkers and 1,800 vehicles crossed the bridge on opening day.


Wood-boring beetle larvae sometimes find their way into furniture in a house. The adult beetles emerge in July or August and fly to other pieces of furniture. Watch for signs of pinhead-size holes or sawdust. Spray immediately and treat with appropriate bug-killing chemicals.

For more information about antiques and collectibles and free price information, visit Kovel’s website,

Kovel answers as many questions as possible through the column. By sending a letter with a question, you give full permission for use in the column or any Kovel forum.

Write to Kovel, The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019.