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Published June 17, 2011, 12:00 AM

Kovels Antiques: Elaborate wine trolleys favored by antique fans

A trolley, according to an American dictionary, is a cart or wagon of several types that moves on a track or wire. But in England and other parts of Europe, the definition can include a wine trolley, a cart that was used to serve wine.

By: Terry Kovel, INFORUM

A trolley, according to an American dictionary, is a cart or wagon of several types that moves on a track or wire. But in England and other parts of Europe, the definition can include a wine trolley, a cart that was used to serve wine.

Today, we have table-height wine trolleys made for restaurants that are pushed by a waiter serving wine. In earlier centuries, it was the custom to roll back the tablecloth at the end of a dinner. Then the after-dinner port was coasted or slid from person to person on a dish-like wooden or silver piece that we now call a coaster.

The most common form was made with a smooth wooden bottom and a low silver “fence” that held the bottle upright. But soon a more elaborate idea evolved and a wine trolley was invented. A coaster or a pair of coasters were put into a wheeled cart and rolled down the table. Antique sterling-silver trolleys sold at auctions this year for $500 to $3,000.


Q: I inherited a huge 1960s desk about 20 years ago. It has two parts – a long honey-colored wooden desk with a Formica top and two side drawers, and a long credenza that fits perpendicularly under the top of the desk. The credenza has a wooden frame and two fabric-covered sliding doors. Both pieces have straight tapered legs. A label on the back of the credenza says, “Planner Group, designed by Paul McCobb, Winchendon Furniture Co., Winchendon, Mass.” Did McCobb design office furniture? When were the pieces made? And what are they worth?

A: Paul McCobb (1917-69) designed furniture for all sorts of settings, including offices. But his early designs, including his first Planner Group pieces, were designed for homes. Winchendon manufactured the popular line from 1949 to 1964. Early desks were smaller than yours and had flared, not straight, legs. Formica desktops became an option in 1956, and larger desks and credenzas with straight legs probably were introduced after that. Prices of Planner Group furniture are pretty solid, although collectors favor the earlier designs. An early desk and chair sells for about $400, and an early credenza for about $600.


Q: Are old cereal boxes collectible? The kind with sports stars on the front, or special offers featuring famous people or cartoon characters?

A: Some old cereal boxes are especially collectible – the older the better. And best are those that feature sports stars, because sports collectors are willing to pay a lot of money for the boxes. A 1935 Post Grape-Nuts box featuring pitcher Dizzy Dean is worth more than $1,000 and a 1968 Ralston-Purina All-Pro box picturing Roger Maris is even more valuable. Some early Wheaties boxes were printed with baseball cards on the box. Those are wanted by sports collectors, too. Other older and even more recent cereal boxes that feature cartoon characters, athletes, sports teams, toys or games sell for a quarter into the hundreds of dollars. Most experts advise collectors to open boxes from the bottom to empty the cereal. Otherwise insects can infest the contents and then eat holes in the boxes.


Q: My family has owned a very elaborate Chinese-style teapot for more than 100 years. It’s shaped like a dragon with a tail sweeping around the pot to form the handle and spout. It wasn’t made in China, though, because it’s marked “Fischer, Budapest.” What can you tell me?

A: Your teapot was made at the Fischer Porcelain Factory in Budapest, Hungary. Fischer was founded by Ignac Fischer in 1864 and was taken over by his son, Emil, in 1895. Sometime in the early 1900s it was taken over by Zsolnay Pottery, another Hungarian firm. It is likely your teapot, which could be worth more than $1,000, dates from the 1880s. That’s when the Fischer factory is known to have made many pieces in the Chinese style.


Q: I own an official-looking deed issued by the Klondike Big Inch Land Co. Inc. I think it was originally issued via some kind of cereal promotion about 50 years ago. Please fill me in.

A: Your deed was issued in 1955 as part of a brilliant ad campaign dreamed up by Quaker Oats. At the time, it was sponsoring the popular radio and TV show, “Sergeant Preston of the Yukon.” A deed to 1 square inch of Yukon land was packed inside every box of Puffed Rice and Puffed Wheat. A total of 21 million deeds were printed, but they were all a sham. The Klondike Big Inch Land Co., apparently a Quaker Oats subsidiary, was indeed registered as a corporation in Illinois, where Quaker Oats is still headquartered. But the individual deeds were never registered and the 19-acre plot of land involved, originally purchased by Klondike for $1,000, was repossessed by the Canadian government in 1965 for nonpayment of $37 in property taxes. But the deeds have become collectible. We have seen them selling online for $2 to $30 apiece.


Q: I have had a pair of yellow-green glass vases for years. Each one has a paper label that says, “Rossini, Genuine Empoli Glass, Italy.” What are they worth?

A: Empoli is a town west of Florence in the Tuscany area of Italy. Glass has been made there for centuries, but your vases date from after World War II. Each one probably would sell for about $30.


Tip

Scratches can be rubbed off the glass in a mirror by using a piece of felt and polishing rouge from a paint store.


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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