Starting in about 1885, plants were among the decorations in a house because central heating kept homes — and plants — warm in the winter, and glass windows let light into most homes. Only a small group of plants were popular, partly because of the look of the foliage, partly because they could tolerate the dry air of the home. Boston ferns, Maidenhead ferns, palms, jasmine, citrus trees, aspidistra and mother-in-law tongue’s (sansevieria) were most common. A houseplant required a large decorative pot, so ceramic jardinieres consisting of a pedestal and bowl were made by many companies like Roseville and Weller. Wooden pedestals to hold potted plants were made by Victorian cabinetmakers like Mitchell & Rammelsberg of Cincinnati, and companies like Bradley and Hubbard of Meriden, Conn., made metal plant stands. Because fewer plant stands were made than more common furniture forms like chairs, it is hard to find an interesting vintage stand. Prices are high.
Q: About 25 years ago, I bought a modern-looking side table just because I liked it. The other day I noticed that it’s signed “Johan Tapp.” What do you know about him?
A: Johan Tapp (1888-1939) was a Dutch designer. His furniture designs, many with a midcentury modern look, were apparently manufactured and sold by various companies. Today his pieces can sell for $200 to $2,000 or more.
Q: I have a pyrography-decorated wooden wall plaque of five kittens. It’s about 12 by 8 inches. On the back, it’s marked “Flemish Art Company, New York” and “866.” Can you tell me anything about it or its value?
A: The word “pyrography” means “writing with fire.” It’s sometimes called “pokerwork” because the design is burned into the wood with a thin poker-like tool. The earliest examples were done in China more than 2,000 years ago. The technique became popular in the United States in the late 1800s, when a method of coloring the designs by using benzoline was developed. By the early 1900s, boxes, candlesticks, plaques, novelties and furniture were being decorated with pyrographic designs. The Flemish Art Co., also known as Flem-Ar-Co, was the major producer of pyrographic items in the United States. The term “Flemish art” is sometimes used generically to refer to any pyrographic work. The company was in business in the late 1800s and early 1900s and sold finished pieces, unfinished pieces, woodworking supplies and pyrographic kits through Sears catalogs. Pyrographic wall plaques usually sell for less than $10 today.
Q: We have two antique or at least vintage convertible highchair strollers. They are both made of wood and have steel wheels. One is faux bamboo. When it’s converted to a highchair, the stroller wheels rise up and the stroller handle converts to solid chair legs. The other chair is plain wood with a cane seat. The wheels on this chair stay on the ground when the seat is raised to make a highchair. Do you know which chair is older? And what are the chairs worth?
A: A patent for a highchair similar to your chair with a cane seat was granted in the 1940s, while a patent for a highchair matching your faux bamboo chair was granted in the 1950s. So both of your highchairs are probably at least 50 years old. But a child should not be seated in one of them today. Neither is safe nor reliable. Still, a collector might pay $150 to $175 for each chair.
Q: In 2001 my wife and I bought a Thomas Kinkade painting, “The Garden of Prayer,” and donated it to our church in memory of our parents. Along with the painting, we gave the church a certificate of limitation and authenticity and a warranty registration card that listed the painting as “3073/4850 S/N Paper.” Unfortunately, the church has lost these documents. Can the certificate and warranty be replaced? What is the value of the painting?
A: You have a limited edition print of one of Thomas Kinkade’s most popular paintings. Limited edition prints were made in various sizes on either canvas or paper. Yours is on paper, which is less valuable than a print on canvas. The size of the print and how it’s framed also affect its value. Thomas Kinkade died earlier this year, but his company still is in business and can be contacted via its website, thomaskinkade.com. Someone there can tell you about replacement documentation for the print. Prices for Kinkade prints have gone down in the past few years.
Q: My gold-trimmed Limoges fish plate has two marks on the bottom. One is green with the words “Limoges” and “France” divided by a horizontal arrow. The other is red with the circled initials “AK” above “CD.” Outside the circle are, again, the words “Limoges” and “France.” Please tell me who made the plate, how old it is and what it’s worth.
A: It’s likely that the two marks on your plate were made by two different companies in Limoges: the green mark by the company that made the plate, and the AK/CD mark by the decorating firm. Experts think the AK stands for A. Klingenberg, and the CD for Charles Dwenger — two decorating firms that may have merged in the mid-1890s. The mark appears on dishes made between about 1895 and 1910. Limoges fish plates the age and quality of yours sell for $150 or more.