Antiques: Figurines of 18th, 19th Centuries

Article excerpt

Figurines were the "photographs" of the 18th and 19th centuries. Well-known politicians, royalty, sports figures, actors, writers, religious subjects and newsworthy criminals, places and events were the inspiration for the figurines.

They were made to sell, so the figurines had to depict something that would add decorative value to a home. But the potters had few sources to use when making a portrait -- just a few prints, paintings and sometimes statues.

Staffordshire potters wanted to tap the American market by selling figurines of American politicians. George Washington was a popular subject, and both standing figures and busts of Washington were made.

But since no English potter had ever seen the first U.S. president, some potters wound up labeling figurines of Benjamin Franklin as George Washington. William Shakespeare and John Milton were famous British writers seldom shown in widely distributed prints, but a large statue of Shakespeare stands in Westminster Abbey, and a smaller one of Milton is owned by the York Castle Museum.

So several Staffordshire potteries made 12-inch copies of the statues that could be displayed on a fireplace mantel. And, of course, displaying the statues suggested that the owners were well- read.


Q: My mother gave me a pressed-glass plate that has a frosted center embossed with a picture of a man on horseback spearing a lion. The scalloped edges have alternating panels of oak leaves and diamonds. It's signed "Jacobus." It's approximately 11 1/2 inches in diameter. I'd like to know more about it and its value.

A: Your plate was made by Gillinder & Sons of Philadelphia, which was founded by William Gillinder in 1861. It's part of the Classic pattern designed by P.J. Jacobus (1844-1910). There were five plates in this pattern. The others pictured the 1884 U.S. presidential and vice presidential candidates, Democrats Grover Cleveland and Thomas A. Hendricks and Republicans James G. Blaine and John A. Logan. Value: under $100.


Q: Can you tell me if there is a market for vinyl records from the 1940s and '50s? I have two albums' full.

A: Most records made before the 1940s were made with a hard shellac surface, so they usually broke if dropped. By 1946, unbreakable vinyl records were being sold commercially. Companies began phasing out the production of phonograph records after compact discs became available in 1982. There has been renewed interest in vinyl recordings in the past few years because they produce a fuller sound than digital recordings, which don't capture every tone. Some companies are even making new vinyl records. Most old records sell for less than $20, but an early rare recording by Elvis Presley might sell for several hundred dollars. Elvis Presley's first recording for Sun Record Co. in 1954, "That's All Right" and "Blue Moon of Kentucky," recently sold for $896.


Q: I have a collection of swanky swigs with various decorations. Most of them are in good shape, but some of them are cloudy. I've tried soaking them with denture cleaner and scrubbing the outside gently with liquid dish detergent, to no avail. Do you have any other suggestions for getting the glass clear again?

A: It depends on what caused the glasses to become cloudy. Hard water can cause calcium deposits to build up on the glass and make it cloudy. Filling the glasses with warm water and adding a denture tablet usually clears it up. …