Prohibition whiskey bottle might bring around $40

CURIOUS COLLECTOR

June 13, 1993|By Lita Solis-Cohen and Sally Solis-Cohen | Lita Solis-Cohen and Sally Solis-Cohen,Contributing Writers/Solis-Cohen Enterprises

Q: Years ago a friend gave me an unopened bottle of "Old Mock Whiskey" made in 1916 according to its still-intact federal tax stamp. It was bottled in 1933 during Prohibition. Both its bright green and red box and tax stamp are clearly marked "Medicinal Use Only," the only way to legally acquire whiskey during Prohibition. Who might want it and how much is it worth?

A: It's unusual to find an unopened Prohibition-era whiskey bottle with its box in such good condition. But you might not be able to sell it in some states without a liquor license. Your boxed "Old Mock Whiskey" bottle is worth around $40, said Michael Graham, whose 4,000-piece collection of Prohibition memorabilia includes one of Al Capone's fedoras and the doors from the gangster's suite at Chicago's Lexington Hotel. Mr. Graham is a principal of "Capone's Chicago," a new multimedia attraction devoted to Prohibition, set to open June 25 at 605 N. Clark St., Chicago, Ill. 60610; (312) 654-1919. Institutions with extensive Prohibition-era

collections include the Hagley Museum and Library, Wilmington, Del., the University of Michigan library in Ann Arbor, and Ohio State University in Columbus. Some bars and restaurants also ++ display these relics.

Q: How old and collectible is my antique wicker baby carriage? Its original label says: "Patented F. A. Whitney Carriage Co. PTC Leominster, Mass." The wicker is in perfect condition, but the original fabric inside needs a cleaning and the handle is rusty.

A: Your machine-woven wicker carriage likely was made in the 1920s or 1930s when the F. A. Whitney Co. was a division of Heywood-Wakefield, then America's top wicker producer. It's a fairly common piece, which would retail for around $250 in good condition, said dealer Mary Jean McLaughlin, of A Summer Place, 37 Boston St., Guilford, Conn. 06437; (203) 453-5153.

Two wicker baby carriages are included in the first-ever museum exhibition of American wicker furnishings, on view through Aug. 1 at the Smithsonian Institution's Renwick Gallery in Washington. For information, call (202) 357-2700. An illustrated book, "American Wicker, Woven Furniture from 1850 to 1930," by the show's curator, Jeremy Adamson (Rizzoli, $45), accompanies the exhibit.

Mass-produced wicker furnishings, made of woven rattan, reed or other fiber, could be found in nearly every fashionable drawing room, bedroom or dining room from around the end of the Civil War until the 1930s. Although much old wicker has been painted white, hiding repairs, the most sought-after pieces are those in their natural finish. An unpainted late 19th-century Wakefield Rattan Co. settee with a star-caned back sells for $2,500 at A Summer Place. Vintage white-painted "Bar Harbor" style armchairs, the ubiquitous porch furniture with upholstered cushions and a simple "cross pattern" weave, generally fetch $400 to $600 each in good condition.

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.

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