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Published July 22, 2011, 12:00 AM

Kovels Antiques: ‘Fake’ doesn’t always mean ‘worthless’

Sometimes “fake” is fine in the world of collectors. There are examples of “faux” marble made from plain white marble with a skillfully painted marblelike pattern. Inexpensive woods were grain-painted. Jewelry was made with foil-backed glass that resembled diamonds.

By: Terry Kovel, INFORUM

Sometimes “fake” is fine in the world of collectors. There are examples of “faux” marble made from plain white marble with a skillfully painted marblelike pattern. Inexpensive woods were grain-painted. Jewelry was made with foil-backed glass that resembled diamonds.

All of these “fakes” can be valuable today. One of the most interesting uses of substitute materials dates from the late-19th century. Asian ideas influenced designers then, and bamboo furniture became popular. But bamboo is soft and flexible and is not strong enough for large, heavy pieces.

So some American makers began to make faux bamboo from bird’s-eye maple. Bedroom sets that included beds, dressers, small side tables and washstands looked like bamboo but actually were maple. A top-quality furniture company, R.J. Horner of New York, sold many of these sets to upper-class New York City families. This well-made furniture is a bargain today, lower in price than it was five years ago.

Q: Is it true that psychedelic posters from 1960s concerts now sell for hundreds of dollars? I was a music fan back then and went to Jimi Hendrix, Beach Boys, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Grateful Dead concerts, but I must have thrown away the posters I “liberated” from telephone poles.

A: There have been a few museum exhibits of 1960s and early-’70s psychedelic posters that show that the style was a new art form that influenced the art that followed. Many of the posters included specially designed type styles that had strangely shaped letters of different sizes made to fill the space around the other designs. Some were done with fluorescent paint so that they glowed under a blacklight. The posters are scarce today because most eventually were discarded. Search your mother’s attic. You may find some of your posters, and even in poor condition they sell for hundreds of dollars or more.

Q: Please tell me what my pink “Sea Sprite” and blue “Wood Nymph” Royal Doulton figurines are worth. I remember buying them at a duty-free shop in the Caribbean 40 or 50 years ago. The first one, marked “HN 2191,” is 7 inches tall, and the second, “HN 2192,” is a little taller.

A: Your two Royal Doulton figurines were in production from 1958 to 1962, so they are indeed 50 years old, or close to it. They were designed by Margaret “Peggy” Davies (1920-1989) and were part of the company’s “Teenagers” series. Every Royal Doulton figurine in the huge “Harry Nixon” series, introduced in 1913, was given an HN number. Nixon (1886-1955) was in charge of the figure-painting department at Royal Doulton’s factory in Burslem, Staffordshire, England. Each of your figurines, if in perfect condition, would sell for about $100 to $300 today.

Q: I inherited a violin that’s labeled as a copy of a Stradivarius made in 1721. Is it worth anything?

A: Antonio Stradivari (1644-1737) made violins, violas, cellos, guitars and harps in his shop in Cremona, Italy. After he died, his sons continued

in the business. “Fake” Stradivarius violins have been made in many countries since the mid-1800s. Instruments meant for export to the United States had to be marked with the country of origin after 1891. Beginning in 1957, the words “copy of” were added to labels on some of these violins. Today, some manufacturers make violins using modern techniques that replicate Stradivari’s work and sell for high prices. But most “Stradivarius” violins are poor imitations and don’t sell for much. Prices depend on quality, and range from $50 to $500.

Q: I have an old Schoenhut toy piano with a matching bench. The piano bench is well made, but I’m wondering if it came with the piano or if it was homemade. Can you tell me if a Schoenhut toy piano originally was sold with a matching bench?

A: Albert Schoenhut (1848-1912) founded his toy company in Philadelphia in 1872. His first product was a toy piano with metal sounding bars and other features found in full-size pianos. Keys were

full-size, too, although the keyboard was, of course, much shorter. Eventually Schoenhut toy pianos were made in more than 40 different sizes and styles. The larger ones were sold with piano benches or adjustable stools, but the benches and stools also could be purchased separately. Schoenhut toy pianos were perennial bestsellers for more than 100 years. The company has changed ownership several times, but it’s still in business, and it still makes toy pianos.


If you find an old bottle with an unwanted old cork inside, pour ammonia into the bottle until it covers the cork. The cork will dissolve.

For more information about antiques and collectibles and free price information, visit Kovel’s website,

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