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Published December 03, 2010, 12:00 AM

Kovels Antiques: Topsy-turvy, upside-down styles popular

"Topsy-turvy” designs, sometimes called “upside-down” or “two-faced portraits,” were a clever idea that found favor in the 1870s and later. Plates, cups, pitchers, advertising mirrors, advertising cards, vases, comic strips and even books could be made that way.

By: Terry Kovel, INFORUM

"Topsy-turvy” designs, sometimes called “upside-down” or “two-faced portraits,” were a clever idea that found favor in the 1870s and later.

Plates, cups, pitchers, advertising mirrors, advertising cards, vases, comic strips and even books could be made that way. A topsy-turvy is a design that looks correct if it’s right-side up or upside-down. Some children’s books were made so two different stories could be read, one right-side up and the other upside-down. The picture on each page is an optical illusion that looked like one thing in one direction and another in the other direction. So an elephant head looking over a fence becomes an ostrich in front of the fence. A picture of a frowning woman could be seen as a laughing man by just revolving the page.

“Topsys and Turvys,” two 1893 books by Peter Newell, are still popular and still in print. Another type of upside-down design was created by those who made ceramics. A famous cup made in the mid-1800s looks like a fluted cup with an elaborate handle until it is turned upside down and becomes a swan. A British majolica helmet pitcher made in the 1870s looks like an ordinary pitcher until it is turned bottom up and becomes a Roman soldier’s helmet. Designs like these delight collectors. Look carefully at unfamiliar decorations and shapes. You may find a topsy-turvy for your collection.


Q: I have an upright piano that my parents purchased, either new or used, around 1915. The inscription on the front panel above the keyboard says, “Hensel, E.G. Harrington & Co., Makers, New York.” I would appreciate any information you can give me about the piano.

A: E.G. Harrington & Co. was founded in 1871. After 1900 it was affiliated with Hardman, Peck & Co., which built pianos under several different names, including “Harrington” and “Hensel.” Aeolian bought Hardman Peck in the 1930s. Harrington pianos were built until 1960. In order to determine the year your piano was made, you need to find its serial number. It may be inside the piano or on the back of the case. Since your piano dates to about 1915, the serial number should have five digits. Once you find the number, you can look it up in the Pierce Piano Atlas (www.pianoatlas.com) or the Bluebook of Pianos (www.bluebookofpianos.com).


Q: My son found an empty glass jar that looks like a honeycomb. It has the hexagonal markings that indicate the small honey storage cells in a large square on the side of the bottle. The top seems to have had a screw-on cap. Any idea how old it is?

A: The honeycomb jar design dates from the early 1930s. Variations were made for many years. They ran in size from 2½ to 7 inches tall. Some even say “Honeycomb jar-honey” near the top. The jars, of course, were filled with honey and sold in stores. Researchers have found that Lake Shore, an Illinois company, packed honey and honey-related products in the bottles for many years. The company used a round bottle with raised squares, probably representing a beehive, in the 1980s.


Q: I’m looking for instructions for the board game “Countdown to Space,” made by E.S. Lowe in the 1960s. I have a game complete with pieces but missing the instructions. How would I find the instructions?

A: Rules for some games are available on the Association of Game & Puzzle Collectors website, www.AGPC.org. The rules for your game are not posted, but the website may be able to give you some clues about where to look. Search online for other sites that offer instructions for games or tips on how to find them. If you find someone who has the complete game, you may be able to get a photocopy of the instructions. The E.S. Lowe Toy and Game Co. was founded by toy salesman Edwin S. Lowe in about 1929. Your game, “Countdown to Space,” was introduced in 1967. It is based on the Apollo moon mission. E.S. Lowe was bought by Milton Bradley Co. in 1973.


Tip

To clean silver, gold or diamond jewelry, soak it in a glass of vodka overnight. But remember, discard the vodka after using it; don’t drink it.


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.

  • Felix the Cat wooden figure, jointed, name on chest, leather ears & tail, Pat Sullivan copyright, Schoenhut, 4½ inches, $115.
  • Talking Ken doll, blue eyes, reddish-brown eyebrows and molded hair with sideburns, “Hi, I’m Ken. Let’s go to the big game tonight,” Mattel, 1968, 10 inches, $135.
  • Pendleton blanket, geometric designs, bright yellow, green and red on brown ground, circa 1920, 60 by 70 inches, $150.
  • Veteran Brand Peanut Butter pail, image of trademark Civil War officer on both sides, navy blue and white, 3½ by 3¾ inches, $250.
  • Liniment bottle, embossed “Jack Johnson’s Own Liniment, Vielek Mfg. Co., Pittsburgh, Pa.,” molded, circa 1910, 6½ inches, $275.
  • Ludwig Von Drake cookie jar, ceramic, red felt tongue, square black hat, glasses on nose, 1961 Disney copyright, American Bisque, 9 inches, $295.


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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