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Steam locomotive iron fetched $15,000 at auction

The old iron your great-grandmother used to iron her clothes with would not seem to be of much use or value today, but there are many collectors who want irons and other laundry-related collectibles.

Prices are determined by age, condition, maker, rarity and appeal. It's like a romance for these collectors — something about the iron seems unusual, entertaining and intriguing.

So when a collector found an iron in Alabama about 10 years ago that looked like a locomotive with a handle, she knew it had to be hers. She was able to buy it for about $35. The 10-pound, 8 1/2-inch-long iron has most of its original black paint and gold trim. It was heated with burning alcohol. Research showed that the iron, marked with 1888 and 1889 patent dates and the name "E.B. Crosby," was known; at least two other examples exist. The figural steam locomotive iron was auctioned at the annual convention of the Pressing Iron and Trivet Collectors of America. It brought $15,000. The new owner is taking it to Romania to put in a museum.

Q: I have a sugar and creamer marked "Lotus Ware." They also have the letters "KTK" in a circle with a crown on top. Who made them? When?

A: Lotus Ware was made by Knowles, Taylor & Knowles Co. of East Liverpool, Ohio, from 1890 to 1900. The Belleek-like porcelain was sometimes decorated outside the factory. Lotus Ware sugar and creamer sets sell for $100 or more, depending on the quality of the decoration.

Q: Since 1964, I have had an old teacher's desk and armless swivel chair that were removed from my grammar school before it was torn down. The desk is nondescript and unmarked, but the chair has a metal piece on the back that says "Heywood-Wakefield." What can you tell me about the chair?

A: Heywood-Wakefield Co. was formed in 1921. Its immediate corporate predecessor was Heywood Brothers & Wakefield. So your chair doesn't date earlier than the 1920s. Both Heywood-Wakefield and its predecessor manufactured school furniture, including children's and teachers' desks and chairs, starting in 1897. The earliest furniture was wooden. Later pieces were cast iron, steel or (in the 1950s) plastic.

Q: I have an April-June 1934 copy of a newspaper called the American Illustrated News. It's filled solely with stories and photos about Hitler, applauding his leadership and reconstructive work in the "new Germany." I haven't been able to dig up any information about this newspaper. Any ideas?

A: We found some articles about the American Illustrated News in the archives of the New York Times. The issue you have may be the only one that ever made it to print. The 64-page broadsheet was dedicated to promoting Hitler and the achievements of the Nazi party to English-speaking readers in London and New York City. But Carl Bergmann of Berlin, the editor of the newspaper, is quoted as saying he regards the newspaper "as a tourist promotion and not as a political venture." He said that 50,000 copies were printed and that American readers would be charged 80 cents for a copy, which was expensive at the time.

Q: Are all Boehm figurines marked on the bottom? I recently inherited several porcelain figurines that were always referred to as "Boehm," but they are not marked at all.

A: Edward Marshall Boehm (1913-1969) opened a porcelain studio in Trenton, N.J., in 1950. The studio is still there, although today it's owned by a private group of investors. Boehm figurines are always marked. Some are signed with the company's name either on the bottom or on the plinth. Others carry the company's horse-head logo. And each piece is numbered, too. Some numbers and marks are stamped and may have worn off, but it's highly unlikely that all the marks on all of your figurines would have worn off. Your figurines probably were not made by Boehm. Many companies copied Boehm's style.

Tip: Put your pearls on after you finish using hair spray or perfume. Both will discolor the pearls.