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Published August 20, 2010, 12:00 AM

Pedestals from famous makers draw top dollar

Statues and plants were important decorations in the large Victorian home. The designers of the day believed in filling all available space. Pedestals made of wood or ceramics were put in halls and in corners of living rooms and dining rooms. Live plants, especially ferns, were popular. Pedestals were often colorful and covered with decorations.

By: Terry Kovel, INFORUM

Statues and plants were important decorations in the large Victorian home. The designers of the day believed in filling all available space. Pedestals made of wood or ceramics were put in halls and in corners of living rooms and dining rooms. Live plants, especially ferns, were popular. Pedestals were often colorful and covered with decorations.

Art pottery companies like Roseville and Rookwood made pedestals in their early years. The majolica potteries of England and Germany made elaborate pedestals with 3-D decorations of animals and birds. A few furniture firms made wooden pedestals.

One of the most famous 19th-century decorating firms in New York City was Herter Brothers. It made furniture for the rich and famous, including President Ulysses S. Grant (for the White House) and William Vanderbilt. Herter furniture was made in a variety of styles, from Victorian to Japonisme. Today Victorian pedestals are difficult to find but sell for moderate prices. Pedestals by well-known makers, however, bring high prices. A Herter Brothers pedestal sold this year for $5,500.


Q: How do you spot a Shawnee Corn King fake? I recently purchased three Shawnee Corn King dishes at an antiques mall. When I got home, I noticed that the items did not have “USA” stamped with the Shawnee logo on the bottom like the rest of my collection. Are these fakes? Did all original Shawnee Corn King dishes have the “USA” stamp?

A: The dishes you just bought are probably reproductions. Corn King pieces with bases too small to fit the words “Shawnee” and “USA” are marked simply “USA” or are not marked at all. Compare the style of the logo on the dishes you just bought with the style on your other pieces. And compare the quality of the pottery and the way the corn rows align. Reproductions tend not to be as heavy or well made as originals, and some have the corn rows on top of each other rather than staggered, as they are on originals.

Shawnee Pottery was in business in Zanesville, Ohio, from 1937 to 1961. A Georgia wholesaler now owns rights to the Shawnee trademark and has been selling reproductions marked “Shawnee” (without “USA”) for a few years. Other copies, not marked at all, have been around for decades.


Q: After my father died, I went through his top dresser drawer and found an odd-looking 2-inch metal fastener marked “Washburne Pat’d Mar 27-94, Feb 4-96.” There’s a small clip at each end of the fastener that can be opened and locked closed. One clip is mounted perpendicular to the shank, and the other is horizontal. What in the world was it used for? And would anyone be interested in buying it?

A: Your fastener is a Washburne “Bull-Dog Grip” cuff holder invented by James V. Washburne of Morrison, Ill. Washburne was a prolific inventor of clips, clasps and fasteners for clothing, key chains and paper. They were all marketed as “Washburne Fasteners.” The cuff holder was meant to hold a loose shirt cuff tight, with one end of the clip holding the top of the cuff in place and the other end attached to the sleeve-opening above the cuff. We have seen Washburne cuff holders offered online as a means to cheat at cards – apparently you can hide an “ace up your sleeve” using one end of the clip. That was not their intended use, at least according to the U.S. Patent Office. A pair of Washburne cuff holders might sell online for $15 to $20.


Q: I own a single small shoe that was one of a pair that belonged to a Chinese woman with bound feet. I also have the documentation that accompanied the shoe when it was given to a U.S. Navy officer in 1920. The shoe has a curved wooden base that’s covered with hand-stitched needlework. What could the shoe be worth today?

A: The Han Chinese tradition of binding women’s feet lasted about 1,000 years, ending only early in the 20th century. Women whose feet were bound needed special shoes, and today those shoes, especially if they’re hand-embroidered, are valuable. They normally sell as pairs, however, so a single shoe probably would sell for less than half the price of a pair. Pairs can sell for $500 or more, depending on age, style and condition. If you no longer want the shoe and are having a hard time selling it, consider donating it to a Chinese-American museum.


For more information about antiques and collectibles and free price information, visit Kovel’s website, www.kovels.com.

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. We cannot guarantee the return of any photograph, but if a stamped envelope is included, we will try. The volume of mail makes personal answers or appraisals impossible. Write to Kovel, The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019.

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