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Corralling items from Old West Antiques: Native-American art and craftwork and frontier furnishings are rising in value as collectibles.


All kinds of Western collectibles are rising in value, including American Indian baskets, pottery, beadwork and other crafts; saddles; spurs; cowboy hats; clothing; and pictures of cowgirls.

Even Western-inspired furniture, metal wastebaskets with pictures of cowboys, woven bedspreads picturing Indians and lamps with bases shaped like bucking horses are in demand.

Roseville, Rookwood and Weller pottery pieces picturing Indians were made in the early 1900s. The images were made from some of the famous photographs of the tribes taken at the turn of the century. Such pottery pieces sell for hundreds to thousands of dollars.

The Indian chief in feather headdress was an image that was used not only as a decoration but also as a logo on labels, suggesting strength and exotic products, especially tobacco.

We recently bought a child-sized rocking chair with a carving of the battleship Maine on the back. What can you tell me about it?

The "carving" on the back of your chair is a pressed-wood decoration. Pressed-back chairs and rocking chairs became popular starting around the turn of the century.

The Maine was sunk in Havana harbor in 1898. The event helped precipitate the Spanish-American War.

Many pieces were made to commemorate that era of U.S. history, including fabrics, plates and furniture. Your chair would be worth about $250 to a collector.

I saw a book in an antiques store that had a scene painted on the edge of the pages. One can only see it when the book is closed. It was expensive, and I was told it is rare.

You saw an example of a fore-edge painting. Some books have hidden paintings that can be seen only when the book is opened and its pages are fanned. When the book is closed, a gilt edge appears. Some show a painted scene on the edge only when closed.

Fore-edge paintings date to the 1500s. Later versions, usually done in Britain, included landscapes, buildings, hunting and sporting scenes and portraits.

Double fore-edge paintings have two scenes -- each shows when the pages are fanned in a different way. Split fore-edge paintings have two vertical pictures side by side when the book is opened to the middle.

There are also panoramas that wrap around the top, side and bottom of the pages. Books containing any of these paintings are rare and expensive.

I have a strange-looking pressing iron that has a round ball at the back. It seems it would hold some sort of fuel. When were irons made that did not have electric cords?

The first irons were just heavy pieces of metal, usually iron, that could be heated on a stove. Early 19th-century attempts were made using whale oil to heat the iron. It was an expensive fuel.

Later, many types of fueled irons were tried. Some used kerosene, some gasoline and others naphtha. Each could explode if mishandled. Because of the danger, the ironing board usually was kept near a door. In case of fire, the iron was thrown outside.

A fueled iron needed a tank. Some held the fuel on the side or under the handle. Self-heating irons were popular in rural America until the 1930s, because only a small percentage of the farmhouses had electricity. Most makers stop producing fueled irons by the 1950s.

Some of the companies that made fueled irons are Acorn Brass Manufacturing, Fox, Coleman, Montgomery Ward, Standard, American Gas Machine and Sun Manufacturing.

Pub Date: 4/06/97

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