Value on rise for ferris wheel dexterity puzzle


June 06, 1993|By Lita Solis-Cohen and Sally Solis-Cohen | Lita Solis-Cohen and Sally Solis-Cohen,Contributing Writers

Q: How valuable is my glass-covered 5-inch-square ferris wheel puzzle by Columbia Manufacturing Co. of Baltimore? The object is to get steel balls into open slots on the ferris wheel. Its box says that $300 in prizes would be distributed on May 31, 1894, to those solving the puzzle fastest.

A: Vintage dexterity puzzles, those mesmerizing but often frustrating games requiring manipulating small boxes of balls or beads into slots or holes, are becoming addictive collectibles. Until recently, most traded at flea markets for under $10 each. Nostalgia has fueled the market, pushing many into the $15 to $60 range. Rare, early dexterity puzzles like yours, with interesting graphics, can bring higher prices.

Columbia Manufacturing introduced its ferris wheel puzzle after the first American ferris wheel was erected at Chicago's 1892-93 World Columbian Ex9position. It's advertised at $2 per dozen in the 1894-95 catalog of Selchow & Righter Co., a New York wholesaler, noting: "This came out late last fall and has had a very large sale." Although this puzzle remained popular for years, few survive, making yours worth around $100 in good condition, said Jerry Slocum, co-author of "New Book of Puzzles" (W.H. Freeman, $23 postpaid from Slocum, P.O. Box 1635, Beverly Hills, Calif. 90213).

Q: What's the age and value of my round frosted-glass uncovered footed sauce dish in the "Westward Ho" pattern? It's decorated with a stag, buffalo and log cabin. A similar piece is exhibited at the Corning (N.Y.) Museum of Glass.

A: Popular "Westward Ho" molded pattern glass (also known as the "Pioneer" pattern) was first produced by Gillinder and Sons of Philadelphia around 1876. It has been widely reproduced from new molds since the 1930s, making it difficult for dealers to sell vintage examples for much money, said Barbara Lessig of Pleasant Valley Antiques, 21000 Georgia Ave., Brookeville, Md. 20833; (301) 924-2293. Sauce dishes like yours, whether new or old, generally retail for $25 to $35 each.

A dealer needs to examine your dish to determine whether it's an 1880s original or a 20th-century copy. Later examples have a whiter acid-finish, are rougher to the touch, and lack attention to small details, such as the hair on the bison and deer, which are clearly visible on vintage "Westward Ho" glass. Have a question about an antique or collectible? Write to the Solis-Cohens, P.O. Box 304, Flourtown, Pa. 19031-0304, enclosing a clear photo of the whole object and all marks, and noting its size. If you want your photo returned, include a self-addressed stamped envelope. Personal replies are not possible, but questions of general interest will be answered in this column.

Solis-Cohen Enterprises

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