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Published April 29, 2011, 12:00 AM

Kovels Antiques: Bunnies’ links with Easter go way back

Easter bunnies are older than you think. They were part of pre-Christian fertility stories, and since rabbits are known to have many, many babies, they are symbols of new life in the spring.

By: By Terry Kovel, INFORUM

Easter bunnies are older than you think. They were part of pre-Christian fertility stories, and since rabbits are known to have many, many babies, they are symbols of new life in the spring.

They first became the symbol of Easter in Germany in the 1500s. But it took until the 1800s before edible Easter bunnies in the form of sugared pastries became part of the celebration. The bunny came to America with some settlers from Germany who immigrated to Pennsylvania in the 1700s.

The “Oschter Haws” (Easter Bunny) was popular with children who were told that if they were good, they would find a nest of colored eggs left by the bunny. The children made a nest in the house or yard using a hat and hoped for some eggs. The nest later became an Easter basket.

Easter celebrations in the 19th century, especially in Germany, included all sorts of rabbits and bunnies. Stuffed toys were popular, along with carved wooden toys, candy containers, iron doorstops, mechanical walking rabbits and even automatons in the form of fur-covered bunnies holding Easter baskets. Many collectors search for vintage pieces made for a specific holiday. Most popular is Christmas, then Halloween, then the Fourth of July or Easter. If you prefer Easter, don’t ignore postcards, greeting cards, table and wall decorations and, of course, all sorts of special eggs that are still often inexpensive.


Q: We have a B.L. Marble office chair and would like to know what it’s worth. Can you help?

A: The B.L. Marble Chair Co.’s history can be traced back to 1894, when Barzilla L. Marble (1851-1932) founded a chair-manufacturing business in Bedford, Ohio. It made household chairs until 1910, then started manufacturing office furniture, including chairs. The company closed in 1985. B.L. Marble office chairs sell for $25 to $200, depending on age and condition.


Q: I was one of many women who worked as welders at the Kaiser Shipyards in Oregon during World War II. When my husband returned to the States and called me to meet him in California, I quit my job. I never cashed the last payroll check I received from Kaiser in 1945. After deductions, including one for a war bond, my check totaled 3 cents. It’s a keepsake, but I’m wondering if it has any monetary value.

A: There were seven Kaiser Shipyards on the West Coast during World War II. Four were in the San Francisco Bay area, where today there’s a park dedicated to Rosie the Riveter – the symbol of women’s contributions to the war effort. It’s called “Rosie the Riveter World War II/Home Front National Historical Park” and is located in Richmond. The first Kaiser Shipyard was established in San Francisco Bay in December 1940 by Henry Kaiser. At that point, Kaiser was building ships for England. Your check in the amount of 3 cents might be of interest to the park or another historical society dedicated to World War II. Its value to a collector would be minimal.


Q: I have a small watercolor of a village market in a landscape that I bought in 1992. It is by Edward Dobrotka, who is a listed artist. He is best remembered today as an “inker” for the Superman comics and several other early comic books. Do collectors of comic books care about anything but the original comic strips, or would they want to buy a painting by one of the comic artists?

A: Dobrotka is not a major name among comic book artists and a landscape is not closely related to the look of a strip. Your painting will not bring a higher price because of the comic connection. Perhaps the only comic artist today whose art is wanted by comic book collectors is Frank Frazetta (1928-2010), who drew important fantasy comics.


Tip

Times change and products change, so shortcut tips for cleaning have changed, too. Don’t use tartar-control or whitening toothpaste to clean silver. Don’t use grainy bread to clean wallpaper; just use plain commercial white bread. Don’t use a feather duster; it just spreads dirt. Buy a new “picks-up-the-dust” cloth.


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.

- Easter greeting card original drawing, chick painting a picture of an egg while two bunnies play peek-a-boo behind it, pen and ink, Art Novelty Co., New York, 1942, $25.

- Easter pull toy, bunny cart with rider, painted fiberboard, rabbit wearing dress and apron, yellow cart with flowers, marked “Trixytoy, Pat. Pend.,” 1930s, 4 by 12 inches, $35.

- Tortoise & Hare cookie jar, wood-tone turtle with flowing orange scarf and pink tongue, rabbit lying on top holding carrot, California Originals, $65.

- Rabbit nodder candy container, riding motorcycle, wearing goggles, head attached to body with spring, Germany, 1940s, 8 by 4½ inches, $295.

- Celluloid rabbit in Easter bonnet baby toy, yellow rabbit with dark green bow, red flowers, lavender inner ears, Viscoloid Co., 1920s, 4 by 3¼ inches, $125.


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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