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Published November 05, 2010, 12:00 AM

Kovels Antiques: Well-adorned country-store items sell well

Country-store collectibles still are selling well if they’re large, colorful and have unusual graphics or wording. Huge signs made of paper, tin or enamel and giant floor-size coffee grinders are wanted by collectors and decorators.

By: Terry Kovel, INFORUM

Country-store collectibles still are selling well if they’re large, colorful and have unusual graphics or wording. Huge signs made of paper, tin or enamel and giant floor-size coffee grinders are wanted by collectors and decorators. Also popular are cabinets kept on store shelves or counters in the early 1900s that feature a door with a lithographed tin front.

Diamond Dyes cabinets were made with at least six different fronts that picture young children, washer women or fairies. Inside were small sections that held paper packets of dye. Humphrey’s, a company that made many types of homeopathic and veterinary medicines, used cabinets picturing a horse’s head or a woman with a lion.

A Putnam Dyes cabinet shows a Revolutionary War hero, Gen. Israel Putnam, trying to escape from a group of British redcoats on horseback. Less popular with collectors are cabinets with tin fronts that list the medicines inside. Recently a Dr. Lesure’s Famous Remedies Veterinarian cabinet was sold by Morphy Auctions of Denver, Pa. It pictures a horse’s head looking through a hole in a wall. The great graphic helped push the price to over $4,000, four times the presale estimate.

Q: I collect the marbleized pottery made by Niloak Pottery of Benton, Ark. I have been told the colors of the clay are natural, taken from local clay banks. But I have also been told the color was added. Which is true?

A: The clay beds found near Benton are of several colors – red, cream, brown, gray and beige. But when the clays are heated, the color burns out. So Bullet Hyten, Niloak’s owner, decided to add color. Cobalt oxide was added to make blue, ferric oxide for red, chromic oxide for gray. He also developed and patented a method of firing the pieces because each type of clay required a slightly different temperature. Marbleized Niloak was made from 1910 to 1946.

Q: I have an old dower chest with a lid marked “Original Roos Mfg. Co., Chicago, Illinois, Est. 1871.” Can you tell me anything about it?

A: We receive many questions about Roos chests. It appears that there were two different Roos furniture companies in Chicago. The firms were probably related, perhaps by just two generations, because each was headed by a man named Edward Roos. Your chest was made by the older company, which by the 1880s was manufacturing cabinets, tables, curtain poles and cornices. The second company, Ed Roos Co. of Forest Park, concentrated on making chests and was in business from 1916 to 1951.

Q: I have a toy typewriter that my sister had when she was a little girl about 70 years ago. It has a round dial with numbers and letters on it and the words “Dial Typewriter.” In the center of the dial, the letters “MAR” are on top of two crossed bars. The letters and numbers are also printed on the flat “keyboard.” We would like to find out about the manufacturer of this toy typewriter and if it has any value.

A: The two “bars” are the letter “X,” which is part of the Louis Marx and Co. logo. Your toy typewriter was made by Marx in the 1930s. The typewriter was first advertised in a 1933 Sears catalog. It sold for $1.39. Value today: about $25 to $50.

Q: I have some vintage bronze bookends that are very dark. Should I clean them?

A: No. The bookends could be bronze, but it’s more likely they’re bronze-coated white metal. The color was mechanically applied, and if you clean them, the result will be a white-colored pair of bookends of very little value. Collectors want original finish on bronze, brass and painted metal, a cleaned finish on silver and silver-plated pieces, and they differ on the question of cleaning aluminum or pewter. To retain investment value, don’t clean.


Sculptures should be dusted with a clean, dry paintbrush. Never use water.

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.

  • Old Dutch Cleanser paperweight, “Chases Dirt,” two-sided, celluloid, yellow ground, Dutch woman in red wooden shoes, long blue dress, white apron, 1930s, 2½ inches, $95.
  • Tiny Tears doll, painted hair, rubber body, moving sleep eyes, 14 pieces of clothing, pillows, bright red carrying case, stamped “AMF Character” on neck, American Character Doll Co., 1950s, 13 inches, $175.

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. 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.