Birdbaths found in the garden could be valuable


July 18, 1993|By Sally Solis-Cohen and Lita Solis-Cohen | Sally Solis-Cohen and Lita Solis-Cohen,Contributing Writers

Q: We recently purchased a house with three birdbaths in the garden. How can we tell if they're old or valuable?

A: Vintage garden ornaments aren't all washed up; they're hot collectibles. Carefully examine your birdbaths for signs of age: A powdery white patina if they're lead, foundry marks on cast iron, or signs of weathering if they're cement or reconstituted stone can help determine their age. Dealers might be able to pinpoint their origin if the birdbaths are documented in old trade catalogs. Books to check: "The Official Price Guide to Garden Furniture and Accessories," by Margaret Lindquist and Judith Wells (House of Collectibles, $10), and "Antique Garden Ornament, 300 Years of Creativity: Artists, Manufacturers and Materials," by John Davis (Antique Collectors' Club, $81.50 postpaid, call [800] 252-5231 to order).

"Generally speaking, birdbaths were a Victorian invention, and early ones were unplumbed, tiered fountains which collected rainwater where birds would play," said dealer Michael Garden, of Elizabeth Street, 210 Elizabeth St., New York, N.Y. 10012, (212) 941-4800.

If your birdbaths are cast iron, they're probably old, according to Mr. Garden, since few manufacturers are producing cast-iron garden ornaments today. At Elizabeth Street, an American, 19th century, classically designed, cast-iron birdbath is $1,250; simple, vintage, cast-iron shells designed to lie on a lawn cost about $750 each; and a variety of modern lead reproductions from old molds, by England's H. Crowthers, Ltd., start at $750.

Stone or concrete composition birdbaths, dating from early this century to the present, generally are good values: One recently sold for $9 at Alderfer Auction Co., P.O. Box 640, Hatfield, Pa. 19440-0640, (215) 368-5477. New, they start at $35 at Waterloo Gardens in Devon, Pa. If you're looking to replace an old one, check popular mail-order catalogs: Jackson & Perkins -- (800) 292-4769 -- features a $179 composition-stone pedestal birdbath reproducing an 18th-century, English Regency-style example. Plastic/resin birdbaths in traditional forms start at about $20 at some garden centers.

Vintage garden-ornament collectors generally want interesting designs or iron-clad provenance. Dealer Ana Thompson, of Berwyn, Pa. (by appointment only, [215] 644-1110), recently sold an unusual, large, stone art-nouveau style birdbath for $850; an early-20th-century stone pedestal model, deaccessioned by the Hammond Museum, in Salem, N.Y., fetched $900.

Q: What's the value of my small-screen, 1949 Motorola "Golden View" TV?

A: Collectors of old televisions generally are turned on by sets in distinctive cases. Mass-produced "Golden Views" like yours, with a seven-inch screen and a simple rectangular case, one of Motorola's most popular late-1940s and early-'50s models, are quite common today and don't get much attention. In good working order they typically retail for $75 to $125 each, according to dealer Harry Poster, P.O. Box 1883, South Hackensack, N.J. 07606, (201) 794-9606.

Q: We have hundreds of German cigarette cards with fighting scenes from both World Wars. Many also have pictures of Adolf Hitler. Valuable?

A: These plentiful cards from late-1930s and 1940s German cigarette packages generally are worth 75 cents to $1 each, said dealer Alan Wexler, of Love of Past, P.O. Box 655, Voorhees, N.J. 08043, (609) 782-7374. Those depicting Adolf Hitler, or what Mr. Wexler calls "other World War II bad men," could retail for up to $10 each.

Recent auction prices

At Hake's Americana and Collectibles, P.O. Box 1444, York, Pa. 17405, (717) 848-1333:

* Nov. 23, 1963 (JFK assassination), complete issue of The Baltimore Sun, very good condition, $18.

* Uncle Sam PEZ container, 5 inches tall, blue body, flesh-tone face, black hat, mask and mustache, marked "Made in Austria," excellent condition, $51.

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. Photos can't be returned. Although personal replies are not possible, questions of general interest will be answered in this column.

' Solis-Cohen Enterprises

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