Get the joke along with the figure Antiques: Inexpensive pottery pieces made for tourists were often designed for humor.

September 21, 1997|By Ralph Kovel and Terry Kovel | Ralph Kovel and Terry Kovel,KING FEATURES SYNDICATE

Less-than-serious pottery pieces have been made for centuries. Small figurines made to attract tourists, for example, have been sold at fairs and shops since the early 1800s.

The best known are "fairings," which often had a title on the front explaining the joke of the piece. A small figurine might portray a woman in bed watching a man carrying a baby, with the title "Twelve months after marriage."

Porcelain pieces that collectors call "flip-overs" exhibit an even-more-subtle type of humor. For example, a seemingly innocent figurine picturing a young woman on a swing could be turned over to expose the woman's bottom.

There are 18th-century Chinese export plates as well as 1920s ashtrays and bisque figures that use such a design. Many flip-overs were made from the 1880s to the 1920s. Each one has the unexpected joke bottom. The inexpensive, crudely made figures were rarely produced after World War I.

The figurines sell today for $100 to $300.

I understand that three southern African countries have been given permission to begin selling ivory tusks again. Will the price of old ivory pieces go down?

The prices of antique, carved ivory pieces are not likely to be affected by the sale of nearly 60 tons of stockpiled ivory to Japan.

Experienced ivory collectors usually can tell old ivory carvings from new ones by comparing the quality of the work and the patina.

In June, the nations that are party to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species agreed on a plan that allows Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia to sell their stockpiled elephant ivory.

Novice collectors should learn to distinguish between elephant ivory, walrus tusks, whale teeth, boar teeth, mammal bones, celluloid and other plastics. The differences can be found in the grain, density, color and hardness of each material.

My doll is marked "The Princess Doll." It belonged to my grandmother. I think it is about 70 years old. Can you help?

The American Unbreakable Doll Corp. of New York City marked its Princess line of dolls with that name. The round mark has a picture of a child and a doll and the words "The Princess Doll." The mark was used beginning in 1923.

The Kovels welcome letters and answer as many as possible through the column. Write to Kovels, The Sun, King Features Syndicate Inc., 235 E. 45th St., New York, N.Y. 10017.

Pub Date: 9/21/97

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