Halloween is becoming one of the most popular holidays for collectors. Of course, children still dress in costumes and go door to door for treats, but the holiday’s collectors are more interested in the “trick or treat” bags or decorations that are created each year.
Carved pumpkin jack-o’-lanterns are being replaced by plastic, foam or cardboard. They can be saved and used for many years. Hundreds of witches, ghosts, black cats and skeletons are manufactured and sold to decorate a house inside and out, but it is the vintage toys, candy containers, postcards, costumes, noise makers and sparklers made since the early 1900s that attracted the collectors in the late 1970s.
Today there are important auctions featuring Halloween, including modern dolls and figures, full-size ghosts that guard the front door and even a pair of legs in striped stockings and pointy shoes that is all that is left of the witch who landed in the planter headfirst. Display the collection in a cool room without bright lights or sunlight and handle with care the papier-mache candy containers made in Germany in the 1930s. They are expensive today, $50 to $150, and an adult-size skeleton costume in good shape with a papier-mache skull mask sells for hundreds of dollars. This toy, a dancing couple with pumpkin heads, is on a wheeled platform, and they dance in circles when wound up. It was probably made in the early 1900s. Bertoia Auctions sold the toy for $1,920.
Q. I have an old highchair that looks like a bentwood chair. The back and seat are woven cane. The tray is a curved shape and lifts up. The chair also has a curved footrest. A stamped mark on the bottom reads “Thonet / Austria.” Can you please give me a value?
A. Michael Thonet (1796-1871) was a German-Austrian cabinetmaker. In the 1830s in Germany, Thonet experimented with wood bending using strips of veneer and glue. He opened his own shop with his four sons in the 1840s in Vienna and developed a technique for bending rods of solid beechwood into sleek curves using hot steam. Versions of his Vienna “bentwood” chair won medals at the 1851 Great Exhibition in London and the 1855 Exposition Universelle Paris. When Michael Thonet died in 1871, the company had sales locations across Europe and in the U.S. During the late 1800s, many bentwood furniture designs were created. In 1976, the Thonet company was divided into separate and independent German and Austrian companies. We have seen Thonet highchairs listed for sale for about $600 to $1,000 retail, but at auction they have been sold for $100 to $300.
Q. I inherited a bronze statue of a woman in a “classical” pose, scant clothing gracefully draped around her body, and one arm raised above her head. It’s signed “Moreau, Mathu.” She’s about 20 inches high. What is its value and where can I sell it?
A. Your bronze statue was made by Mathurin Moreau, a French sculptor who lived from 1822 until 1912. He’s best known for his bronzes but also worked in cast iron and marble. His work can be found in garden statues, fountains, lampposts and on building facades in public places in Paris and other countries. Moreau signed his work several different ways, using different abbreviations for his first name and sometimes signing his last name first, as on your statue. Price depends on size and detail. Many of his bronze statues sell at auctions for over $1,000. You can contact an auction house to see if they can sell it for you, but be sure to ask about the seller’s premium and other costs.
Q. How much is a Royal Bayreuth milk pitcher or creamer worth? It’s shaped like a cockatoo and is white with slight coloration on its comb, feathers and feet. It’s about 5 inches high. There is a blue mark on the bottom that says “Royal Bayreuth” and has a lion holding a shield with a capital letter “T” on it, the year “1794,” and the word “Bavaria” written upside down.
A. Royal Bayreuth was founded in Tettau, Bavaria, in 1794. The factory closed in 2019. This mark was used after 1902. Some examples are tinted more than others. The value of your cockatoo creamer is hard to determine because it is rare and few have been sold in the past two years. There is less collector interest in the Royal Bayreuth look today. Prices before 2000 were up to $700, but newer sales only brought about $100.
Q. How can I tell if a vase was made by Charles Binns? I have two vases that are 17 inches high and are the same shape as other Binns vases I’ve seen on Pinterest. One of the vases has something embossed on the bottom that might be an initial.
A. Charles Fergus Binns (1857-1934) has been called “the father of contemporary American ceramics.” He worked at the Royal Worcester Porcelain Works in Worcester, England, before immigrating to the United States in 1897. Binns was director of the New York State College of Ceramics in Alfred, New York, from 1900 to 1931. He specialized in glazed stoneware and marked his pottery with his initials, “CFB,” individually or conjoined. The shape alone isn’t enough to identify the vases as made by Binns. If they aren’t marked with his initials, it’s impossible to tell if they were made by Binns.
TIP: Old papier-mache jack-o’-lanterns originally had a thin painted piece of paper for eyes. The light from the candle showed through the paper. You can make a replacement with tracing paper and watercolor paint.