What can this painted iron elephant do? The sleek art deco design suggests that it was made between about 1925 and 1940. The trunk moves up and down. Think elephants and peanuts, because this is a nutcracker. Put a nut in his mouth, quickly lower the trunk, and crack the nut's shell. Red paint with white and black accents covers the 5-by-10-inch figure. One source says it was made by Hubley of Lancaster, Pa., another that it was made by Bendix Corp. At least four of these nutcrackers have been offered for sale in the past few months, proving that it was a popular best-seller when new. Today, the nutcracker sells for about $100 and still works perfectly.
Q: I have a set of outdoor furniture that has been in my husband's family since the late 1940s. The chairs have metal frames and rope seats and backs. A few years ago I had the rope redone. The company that did the work told me that the furniture was original Brown Jordan outdoor furniture. Can you tell me the value of these pieces?
A: Brown Jordan was founded by Robert Brown and Hubert Jordan in Pasadena, Calif., in 1945. The company claims to be the first to make furniture specifically for "full-time outdoor use." Walter Lamb designed a line of bronze and cord outdoor furniture from materials salvaged by the U.S. Navy from ships that sank during the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. Brown Jordan bought the patent for Lamb's design and began making the furniture after 1945. When the salvaged material was no longer available, similar materials were used. Brown Jordan is still in business and makes a line of Walter Lamb furniture in brass. A 1940s or early '50s lounge chair with original rope sells for about $1,500.
Q: Should I save the little ceramic figures in Red Rose tea bag boxes? I understand they are collectible.
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A: Most people can't resist saving the tiny figures packed with the tea bags. They are made by Wade Ceramics Ltd. of England. The figures, known as Wade Whimsies, were made from 1953 to 1959 to sell to the public. After that they were just given away as premiums for tea. From 1971 to 1984, Wade again sold whimsies to the public, but since 2005 the figures have been used solely as premiums. Whimsies were packed with Red Rose tea bags in Canada beginning in 1967. In the 1980s, they were finally given away in the United States. Whimsies were made in sets. In 2005, the set was a pet shop; in 1998, a set of endangered species; and in 1993, a circus. This year you will find calendar figures. Dealers at some antique shows offer a selection of whimsies for prices ranging from $2 to $20 each. A few early rarities sell for more.
Q: I collect kitchen pots and pans and have a very old cupcake pan made before 1910. When were the earliest muffin or cupcake pans made in the United States?
A: The first recipe book to mention muffins was written in 1828. Nathaniel Waterman, owner of a store in Boston, patented a "muffin pan" or "roll pan" in 1859. Some pans are found today with the 1859 patent date marked in the iron. There are many similar pans we call muffin pans today. Roll pans, cornstick pans, popover pans, Vienna roll pans and French roll pans are all classified as muffin pans, but each has a special shape needed for a specific type of roll or muffin. A "gem pan" is used to make miniature muffins or cupcakes. All of these variations were made in the 19th century, and most are still made today. Almost all of these pans were iron until recently, because iron heats evenly and quickly. Today there are some plastic muffin pans that are used because the pan bends and the finished muffin can be popped out with little trouble. Collectors pay the most for unusual iron pans made by the top manufacturers, Wagner or Griswold. Prices vary from about $25 to over $500 for rarities. You can cook in any of the iron pans. Clean the pan, remove any rust, season it with oil, heat it and then use it. Don't use steel wool to clean iron pans.
Q: My pitcher and matching wash basin are in a pink floral pattern with gold trim. The bottom of each is marked with a crown above a circle. Inside the edge of the circle are the words "Ridgways, Royal Semi-Porcelain." The word "England" is in the center of the circle, and the word "Muscatel" is under the circle. Please tell me how old the set is and who made it.
A: Ridgways was the name of an English pottery company in Shelton, Hanley, Staffordshire, from 1879 to 1920. It used the mark you describe between about 1905 and 1920. Your set is 100 years old or close to it.
Q: What can you tell me about an old black-and-white framed print of three women in classical dress standing with their arms draped around each other? The print is 28 by 20 inches. The lower portion of the picture is marked "published only by the National Art Company, Cincinnati, Ohio, premium edition." I know it's at least 50 years old.
A: Your print was given away as a premium to newspaper subscribers more than 100 years ago. An ad in an 1876 edition of the American Agriculturalist offered the print free to subscribers. The print is titled "Three Graces," with the figures representing Faith, Hope and Charity. The National Art Co. of Cincinnati also printed postcards that are collectible today.
Tip: Use silicone, not soap, on the bottom of drawers that stick.