Andirons are useful, decorative | Lifestyles


Brilliant red and yellow eyes peer into the dancing shadows. It could be a scene from a haunted forest – or a cozy living room fireplace.

A cast iron figure of an owl perched on a twisted branch decorates each of these andirons, which are sold in pairs for $660 at Morphy Auctions. They use fire to their advantage with colored glass marbles that catch light for the eyes. Appropriately, they are marked “Bright Eyes” on the back.

Andirons have been used for hundreds of years to hold logs off the hearth floor, allowing air circulation and allowing the fire to burn brighter. They are also decorative, with styles changing over time. Figures of animals and birds became popular in the 19th century.

Owls have been used in art and decoration since ancient times. Their large bright eyes and their ability to see at night make them a symbol of wisdom. But being nocturnal, not to mention their eerie cries, means they’re also associated with darkness and bad luck. Of course, around Halloween, when it’s time to scare, a sign of bad luck can be a good thing!

Q: I have an unusual fork with one wide tine on the left side and two narrower tines. It says “Wm. A. Rogers SXR” and “Pat Apr 17 06”. What was it for?

A: You have a pastry fork. It was used to eat pie or cake. There were numerous silver companies named “Rogers”, including at least eight using some form of the name “William Rogers”. Wm.A.Rogers Ltd. was started by a merchant in New York in the 1890s. The company began making silver-plated cutlery in 1894. Oneida Silversmiths purchased the company in 1929. The letters “SXR” indicate that the fork was silver-plated. an extra layer of silver. The patent date is probably the date the design was patented.

Q: My sister bought a pitcher and sink at an estate sale on the East Coast. The pitcher measures 12 inches tall and the basin measures 16 inches in diameter. It is marked “Royal Foley Ware, J. Kent, Semi porcelain, England”. Can you tell us the value of this set?

A: James Kent started his business at Old Foley Pottery in Longton, Staffordshire, England in 1897. Kent’s sons joined the business. It became James Kent Ltd. in 1913. The pottery was run by members of the Kent family until 1981. Ownership changed several times thereafter. Old Foley Pottery was demolished in 2006 and the business closed around 2008. The mark on your wash set indicates that it was made between 1897 and the 1920s. Pitcher and basin sets sell for between $75 and $150.

Q: I have a Wheaties box with the image of Jackie Robinson in excellent condition. Can you tell me if this is worth anything?

A: Wheaties cereal, called “Breakfast of Champions”, was created in 1921 when a wheat bran mixture accidentally spilled onto a hot stove by a Minnesota clinician working for the Washburn Crosby Co., later General Mills. A clever marketing strategy instituted by company president James Ford Bell promoted Wheaties as a healthy breakfast option through its association with athletics. Athletes have been featured on the iconic orange cereal boxes since 1934, when New York Yankees first baseman Lou Gehrig was introduced. Wheaties put Jackie Robinson (1919-1972) on the box in 1996 to commemorate when he broke baseball’s flush line and started at first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947. At last count, more than 850 athletes have been on the box, including nearly 100 Olympic medalists. Prices depend on the box and whether it’s a commemorative edition, but are usually under $50.

Q: I found the strangest tea set in my father’s attic. It must be for children because the rooms are small. The background is white with an old lady holding a baby, a jester and a frog smoking a pipe printed in red. The border and the flowers are also red. Most pieces have “Punch” printed on the bottom. There are 16 pieces, and all are in very good condition. Can you tell me something about the set and its possible value?

A: The tea set is a children’s set made by Charles Allerton & Sons, Staffordshire, England, in the late 19th century. The characters you describe are the famous burlesque puppets, Punch and Judy and their baby. The character of Punch originated in 16th century Italy. A routine comedy usually ends with another puppet (often his wife, Judy) the target of a hit from Punch’s “slapstick”. Slapstick also originated in 16th century Italy when two thin pieces of wood were slapped together to produce an exaggerated, loud slapping sound during comedy shows. Puppets have been popular for about 350 years. Tea sets like yours have recently sold for between $110 and $160.


TIP: Early (18th century) glass is thinner than later glass. The first mirrors reflect a darker image than the new mirrors.


Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel are syndicated columnists.


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