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Published December 30, 2011, 12:00 AM

Kovels Antiques: ‘Swinging-arm clock’ one of most famous of mystery clocks

Mystery clocks have been popular since the 18th century. The clock seems to have no mechanism, yet keeps time.

By: By Terry Kovel, INFORUM

Mystery clocks have been popular since the 18th century. The clock seems to have no mechanism, yet keeps time.

One of the most famous is the “swinging-arm clock.” A tall classical figure, usually bronze, holds some long rods with a pendulum bob on the bottom and a ball with a clock face on the top. The pendulum swings back and forth and the clock keeps time. These clocks were made for display in jewelry-store windows because their motion attracted customers.

One famous example was made by the Ansonia Clock Co. of Ansonia, Conn. It is known as “Gloria.” The winged figure of a woman in a revealing draped dress holds the large clock ball in her right hand. How the clock works is not really a mystery. The clock mechanism is inside the ball. When wound, the pendulum moves back and forth for about eight days. Ansonia made these clocks in the early 1900s using different figures, including “Huntress,” “Juno” and “Fisher.” The Gloria clock sold for $5,175 at a recent James D. Julia auction.


Q: I was hoping you might be able to give me some information about my maple chair. It has a padded back and seat. I was told it is a “cricket chair,” but I don’t know what that is.

A: A cricket chair is a small armchair or rocker with a back cushion and padded seat. The padded seat usually has a drop skirt. The chair has turned legs and posts. Nobody knows why it’s called a cricket chair.


Q: My husband was left a majolica tobacco jar that must be about 100 years old. It originally belonged to his grandfather. It’s in the shape of a man’s head topped by a green hat brim. The man has longish hair and a large mustache, and he’s wearing a blue collar and red cravat. Unfortunately, the hat that would be the tobacco jar’s top is missing. Would it still be worth something to a collector?

A: Your tobacco jar, probably made in Europe, might sell without its top for about $50. With the top, it would sell for several times that. You may be better off saving the heirloom as a keepsake rather than trying to sell it.


Q: My family has owned a cast-iron mechanical bank for more than 60 years. I understand it originally cost about $40. The base of the bank is titled “Hometown Battery.” On the base’s platform there’s a baseball pitcher, batter and catcher. You put a coin in the pitcher’s hand, press a lever and the coin is pitched past the batter and into the catcher’s coin slot. Embossed on the bank’s bottom are the words, “Reproduced from Original in Collection of The Book of Knowledge.” What is the bank worth?

A: Several thousand “Book of Knowledge” reproductions of 30 19th-century American cast-iron mechanical banks were made between 1957 and 1972. Yours is a copy of a bank originally titled “Darktown Battery,” which featured black ballplayers (the players on your bank are white). The original bank, patented in 1888, was made by J. & E. Stevens Co. of Cromwell, Conn. The copies, made by Grey Iron Casting Co. of Mount Joy, Pa., were cast from originals, so they are slightly smaller than the original banks. The originals used as models for the copies were in a collection assembled by Grolier Inc., the publisher of a children’s encyclopedia called “The Book of Knowledge.” That’s how the reproductions got their name. A reproduction bank like yours sells today for $50 to $100.


Q: I bought a rattan-covered stoneware jar at a flea market and hope you can help me date it. The paper label on the bottom has Chinese words but it also says, “Shanghai Handicrafts” and “Made in the People’s Republic of China.”

A: Your jar, marked with an English-language label, was made for export. The People’s Republic of China was not the official English-language name for mainland China until 1949. But trade with the United States did not resume until after President Richard Nixon visited China in 1972. And once the United States established full diplomatic relations with China in 1979, labels on exported goods read “Made in China.” So your jar most likely dates from the mid 1970s.


Q: I have a copy of the August 1946 issue of Salute magazine with Marilyn Monroe’s photograph on the cover. There’s no picture credit saying it’s Monroe, but it definitely is. Any idea of the magazine’s value? It has been in a frame for 20-plus years.

A: The Salute cover photo was taken before Marilyn Monroe ever made a movie and before she changed her name. She was born Norma Jean Mortenson in 1926. An Army photographer took her picture while she was working in a munitions factory during World War II. The photo was printed in Yank magazine in 1945. That led to her signing with a modeling agency and bleaching her hair blond. She appeared on several more magazine covers before she signed her first movie contract in August 1946 and changed her name to Marilyn Monroe. She died in 1962. Salute magazine was published from March 1946 until sometime in 1948. The masthead said it was “produced by former editors and writers of Yank and Stars & Stripes.” It was meant to appeal to World War II veterans, but it didn’t sell well and its focus was changed to “a picture magazine for men” in February 1948. The magazine evidently went out of business later that year. The value of your magazine depends on its condition. In excellent shape, it could be worth $650.


Tip

Save your wine corks. Cut them in thin slices with a bread knife and slide a piece under a wobbling chair leg.

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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