Kovels Antiques: Mystery part of collecting fun

Part of the fun of being a collector is trying to identify recently discovered old tools and, if possible, trace the past owners of the finds. A strange brass object was auctioned in Chicago in 2011. It was identified as a "mechanical wine pourer...

Wine pourer
Few would recognize this as a wine pourer. It is about 60 years old, was used in an English bar and sold for $1,952 at a Leslie Hindman auction in Chicago.

Part of the fun of being a collector is trying to identify recently discovered old tools and, if possible, trace the past owners of the finds.

A strange brass object was auctioned in Chicago in 2011. It was identified as a "mechanical wine pourer." It looks like a construction toy with a rectangular "arm" made of brass rods.

It's shaped to hold a bottle. The arm is at the top of a 14-inch-high H-frame made of brass rods. Turn a crank at the bottom of the frame, and the arm and bottle dip down.

It was indeed a wine pourer. It was marked "Yeo, Ratcliffe & Dawe," so it was possible to learn more about it. The company opened in 1946 in London, and was sold in 1961.

Online records of local archaeology studies proved the company was housed in a building constructed in 1415 (yes, it's almost 600 years old!) and housed a wine merchant even then. The building was restored many times, and the 1946 restoration revealed an amazing history. It had been a three-story building serving as a wine merchant's shop and home.


Parts of the original 15th-century roof, 15th- and 16th-century beams, an original fireplace, an old white oak floor and 18th- and 19th-century additions were found. Some of the original plaster mixed with straw was still in place. An early woman's shoe and some clay pipes that were hundreds of years old also were discovered.

The mechanical wine pourer dates from the recent owner - sometime around 1950. But the brass pourer had extra value for collectors because of its time in the historic building. It sold for more than $1,950.

Q: What can you tell me about my electric percolator? It not only makes coffee but can toast a slice of bread at the same time. The attached metal plate says, "Armstrong Perc-o-Toaster Model PT." What is the age and value?

A: The Armstrong Perc-o-Toaster Model PT was made by Armstrong Electric and Manufacturing Corp. of Huntington, W.Va. The company was founded in 1899 and made table stoves, electric ranges and other electrical appliances. Your combination percolator-toaster was first made in 1918, and was still being made in the 1930s. A waffle iron mold, which could be inserted after removing the toast drawer, was available as an accessory. A 1931 ad in the Saturday Evening Post claimed that the Perc-o-Toaster also could cook bacon and eggs. The base of the appliance was made in different finishes, including nickel plate, black enamel and white enamel. The price in 1931 was $11.85. Perc-o-Toasters today sell for about $200. However, the appliance can be used only with its original cord, which has a non-standard double-plug arrangement.

Q: Is there any value to the old toys given out with McDonald's Happy Meals?

A: McDonald's introduced Happy Meals in 1979. The meal came in a box decorated like a circus wagon, and included a "McDoodler" stencil, McDonaldland character eraser, ID bracelet, puzzle lock, spinning top or "McWrist" wallet, a wristwatch-shaped wallet. Millions of Happy Meal toys have been made since then. Disney toys were first included in 1987, and Teenie Beanie Babies in 1997. These toys appealed to adult collectors as well as children. Toys are tested to make sure they are safe for young children before they are included in Happy Meals. A choice of a toy for a boy, a girl or a child 3 years old or under usually is offered today. Toys from McDonald's Happy Meals often are listed for sale online. Most sell for $5 or less.

Q: In the mid-1980s, I bought a matching carved oak buffet, table and four chairs from a local Minnesota antiques dealer. I think she said she bought the set somewhere in the South. There's a plaque inside one of the buffet doors that says: "Wood Green Furnishing Co., Actual Makers of Good Hand Made Furniture, 134b High Road, Wood Green, N.22, Telephone Bowes Park 2767." I can find out nothing about this furniture maker. Can you help?

A: Wood Green is a district within the city of London. The Wood Green Furnishing Co. started the legal process of liquidating its assets in 1941, so your furniture was made before the 1940s.


Q: I have 38 black-and-white photographs of the 1927 Rose Parade. There's a description of each photo on the back. They're all 3½ by 5½ inches and in excellent condition. Are they collectible?

A: Original photos of the 1927 Tournament of Roses Parade (its official name) sell online for $5 to $10 apiece. The first Rose Parade was held in 1890, but 1927 was the first year the parade was broadcast on the radio. A set of 38 photos from the parade might be of interest to a historical society or museum in Pasadena or nearby communities. If so, you could consider donating the photos.

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

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,

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