A timely tale about advent of mechanical clocks

There has always been a need to tell time, and early methods — sundials, hourglasses, water clocks or even large arrangements of stones and shadows –were not accurate.

The first mechanical clocks were invented in the 14th century, the pendulum clock in 1656, and by the 1700s there were many clocks in church towers that rang bells to tell citizens the time. The small watch that could be carried by a person was developed after 1810. Then came pocket watches worn on a chain, and in 1868 the wristwatch was made. But there was still no affordable clock for home use.

An unknown person made the first watch holder in the early 1800s. The holder was a small decorative stand that held an available pocket watch on a table.

They were made of ceramics, metal, wood — anything that could be shaped into a stand with a large hole. Some were even made by famous artists and jewelers of bronze or gold, or by a company that made ceramic dishes or statues.

Most were not signed. The watch holder is often a “whatsit.” The hole in the middle is confusing to a 21st century person who tells time with a wristwatch or cellphone.

A Neal Auction in New Orleans sold an early 19th century watch holder of gilt bronze. It is shaped like a harp held by swans on a pedestal base. When the watch is inserted in the hole near the top, it creates a decorative “clock.” It sold for $875.

Q. I have a collection of Time magazines, 1959-85, in good condition. What are they worth?

A. The value of old magazines depends on cover art, content and rarity. Magazines covering an important event aren’t always the most valuable because so many people saved those issues. Most old magazines sell for about $5 or less, though some sell for $20 or more. The Sept. 22, 1967, issue of Time, featuring the Beatles, is listed online for $70 and up. It’s collected for both the cover art and subject. There are online sites where you can check prices on each of the issues you have to see if any are worth more than $5. If you don’t want to try selling them yourself, take them to a used bookstore and see if they’ll buy them. Expect to get half the price they’ll sell them for. You might be able to get a better price if you know there are some that are valuable.

Q. I have a boudoir-sized lamp, and I would like to know its value. The shade is glass with a painted landscape of a bridge over a small river on yellow ground. The base is bronze with a thin stem and a spread foot that is marked “Handel.” Can you help?

A. Handel lamps were made in Meriden, Conn., from 1885 and in New York City from 1893 to 1933. The company made art glass and other types of lamps. Handel lamps with reverse painted shades sell for the most money. Collectors look for marks on the base, rim and inside the bottom of the shade. Price is determined by the design on the shade and the shape of the bronze base. While Handel is marked on the base of your lamp, you don’t mention a mark on the shade. Reproduction Handel shades have been made and are of little value. Your boudoir lamp would sell for $400 to $500 if the reverse painted shade is also marked Handel, and $200 to $300 if the shade is not marked. Handel boudoir lamp bases with a slender stem and a spread four-lobed foot like yours sell for about $100 to $150.

Q. When I was 11, I found a Pinocchio doll. The doll was about 14 inches tall and was made of that mixture of sawdust and glue called composition. It had a white shirt and khaki colored pants with shoulder straps. I remember his hair. It was made of the same material as the head, with a wave that stuck out over his forehead. I searched to identify it but unsuccessfully. Can you help? I’d like to know I didn’t dream this doll!

A. The Walt Disney movie “Pinocchio” was released in 1940. A few companies made dolls that looked like the legendary puppet brought to life by a fairy who told him he could become a “real boy” if he was brave, truthful and unselfish. Your doll was probably made in 1939 by the Knickerbocker Doll and Toy Co., which operated in New York City from 1925 to 1983. The doll is composition with jointed legs and arms. Its molded and painted black hair swoops out in front and is frequently found scratched or nicked. The doll came dressed in khaki shorts with shoulder straps and big yellow buttons over a lighter shirt with a satin bow and a felt hat. Old composition dolls usually have light to severe crazing or cracks that affect their value. In good condition, this Pinocchio doll has sold at auction from $260 to $650. Pinocchio dolls were also made by Ideal Toy Co. and Crown Toy Co. They sell for about $250.

Q. We have an iron doorstop from my grandfather’s house. It has five black and white puppies hanging on a log fence and is 8 inches high and 12 inches wide. We’d like to sell it but don’t know what it’s worth. Can you help?

A. Cast iron doorstops were made beginning about 1890. They became popular around 1910 when several companies in the United States began making figural doorstops. Vintage figural cast iron doorstops made from 1890 to the 1930s, and in good condition, usually sell for the highest prices. New designs and reproductions of old doorstops sold in gift shops, home decorating stores and online are worth less. The doorstop you describe was made in China and is not old. It sells online for $30 to $60.

TIP: If you are a collector of old Christmas tree ornaments or Christmas lights, use these on the tree. Do not use burning candles — it is too dangerous.


Current prices are recorded from antiques shows, flea markets, sales and auctions throughout the United States. Prices vary in different locations because of local economic conditions.

– Roycroft inkwell, lid, hammered copper, dome shape, glass liner, c. 1920, 2 1/2 x 2 1/2 inches, $50.

– Cloisonne plate, cranes, peonies, red, pink and white flowers, leaves, buds, branches, blue, 12 inches, $215.

– Chandelier, 7-light, Italian opalescent art glass discs, chrome, white, 20 x 19 inches, $340.

– Hubley doorstop, cat, red, art deco, cast iron, c. 1925, 5 1/4 x 4 1/2 inches, $375.

– Jewelry box, enamel, gilt bronze, green and black, beaded handles, 4 footed base, 8 x 9 inches, $360.

– Tramp art box, chip carved, bisected rectangles, repeating triangles, hinged lid, 5 x 12 inches, $400.

– Tiffany salt and pepper shakers, owl, silver, 2 1/2 inches, $920.

– Hasselblad camera, 503CX, Zeiss lenses, branded carrying case, 10 x 13 inches, $1,970.

– Ed Eberle vase, nude men and women, walking, standing, laying down, black, white, geometric border, 12 1/2 inches, $2,750.

– Marble console, Italian renaissance style, acanthus, animals, scrolls, lions, fruits, shells, 36 3/4 x 18 inches, $8,250.


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