Rookwood art pottery still made, but old pieces are more valuable
Rookwood pottery probably is the most famous of the art potteries made in the United States in the late 19th and 20th centuries.
In 1880, she started the Rookwood pottery where they made white graniteware and yellow clay pieces. By the next year they were making vases with underglaze blue or brown prints, some with Japanese-inspired designs.
A few years later, the main product had “standard glaze,” a more even-shaded glaze.
Rookwood used many glazes, decorating techniques and designs before it went bankrupt in 1941, and it has been bought and sold several times since then. The company now makes new items, architectural tiles and art pottery.
The best of Rookwood sells for high prices, modern pieces for very little. But the company has always marked pieces with marks that can be dated.
The most famous is the RP mark with flames. After 1900, Roman numerals were added that give the year of manufacture. One unusual Rookwood piece that collectors like is the advertising tile made in 1915. It was given to stores that had Rookwood pottery in the giftware section. Today the 4-inch-by-8-inch tile picturing a bird called a Rook sells for more than $5,000.
Q: I have a solid oak glider rocking chair that belonged to my grandparents, who were married in 1894. The label on the underside of the seat reads “Wisconsin Chair Co.” Can you tell me something about this company and if the rocker has any value as a collectible?
A: The Wisconsin Chair Co. was in business in Port Washington, Wisconsin, from 1888 to 1954. The company began making McLean Patent Swing Rockers in 1891.
By the next year the Wisconsin Chair Co. was making a line of “fancy floor rockers and platform spring rockers,” declaring that “all of our designs for 1892 are new and tasty.”
The company was the largest employer in Port Washington. The factory was destroyed by a fire in 1899 but was rebuilt, and the company continued to make chairs until it closed in 1954.
Montgomery Ward sold several styles of McLean Patent Swing Rockers in its 1895 catalog for about $3 or $4. Platform rockers don’t sell well today. Your rocker might be worth $100-$200.
Q: I have an oak spool cabinet with nine drawers. It reads “Willimantic Co.” on the top drawer. There is a picture of an owl with a spool of thread around its neck. It is sitting on a branch with the moon behind it. It has the original hardware and lettering on six of the drawers. Can you tell me its age and value?
A: Austin Dunham and Lawson Ives bought a cotton mill in Willimantic, Conn., in 1854 and founded the Willimantic Linen Co. The company began making thread for sewing machines soon after.
Before the 1850s, colored thread came in skeins, and black and white thread came on spools. Willimantic was one of the first to make colored thread on spools. The owl was a logo used by the company.
The company opened a factory to make wooden spools in Howard, Maine, in 1879. The name of the town was changed to Willimantic in 1881. Willimantic Linen Co. became part of the American Thread Co. in 1898. Your spool cabinet was probably made in the late 1800s. Its value is more than $1,000.
Q: I have a Beatles metal lunch box made by Aladdin Industries. It’s light blue with the faces of the four Beatles and facsimiles of their autographs on the front and a picture of the band playing their instruments on the back.
It has a small amount of rust and the original thermos is missing. The inside has a poem about safety rules from the National Safety Council. I’ve seen these sell for upward of $1,000 on the Internet and I’m wondering what this is worth.
A: Don’t believe every price you see on the Internet. Look for prices of items that actually sold. Sellers can ask high prices, but items don’t always sell for that much. Lunch boxes in good condition, with no rust, and complete with thermos sell for the highest prices. A lunch box like yours with thermos sold for $450 in 2012. Another, in good condition but without the thermos, sold at auction in 2013 for $300.
Tip: Rearrange your furniture so valuable silver or paintings can’t be seen from the street.
For more information about antiques and collectibles and free price information, visit Kovel’s website, www.kovels.com.
Kim and Terry Kovel answer 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 other Kovel forum. We cannot guarantee the return of photographs, but if a stamped envelope is included, we will try. The amount of mail makes personal answers or appraisals impossible. Write to Kovels, The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019.