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Antique Collectible

Rose Mary
By Rosemary McKittrick
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Doorstops, Left to Right: $1,045; $1,870; $2,970; $825. Photo courtesy of Bertoia Auctions
I never gave much thought to doorstops. Even so, when you have something created by human beings, no matter what it is, there’s going to be a collector out there searching for it.

The fun part about my work is I get to lay bare the out of the ordinary and off-the-wall things most people don’t come across in their day-to-day travels.

We would all like to believe the objects d’ art we’ve stashed away since childhood like comic books, dolls or baseball cards might be worth something someday.

Jeanne Bertoia never thought much about doorstops either until her husband brought home a cast iron “bellman” doorstop some 15-years-ago. The blue and orange uniformed gent still stands in her home today waiting to hold the door for prospective visitors.

Author of “Doorstops: Identification & Values,” Bertoia says, “I just love painted cast iron.” In fact it’s the bright colors that make these dogs, cats, horses, Santas, and house doorstops all the more desirable to collectors.

As long as doors have been around there have been doorstops. They’re probably better than bricks for holding doors open and first appeared in the late-1700s in England. Some of the earliest were round, made of cast-brass, and fitted with long wooden handles.

Doorstops without wooden handles showed up around 1810. “But most collectors look for American doorstops,” says Bertoia. “They’re fun pieces and colorful. The English lack luster.”

The heyday of American doorstops was short lived. Popular from the late-1920s through the ‘30s, companies like Bradley and Hubbard and Hubley stopped production at the beginning of the W.W.II.

Doorstops were cast in factories and then passed along to the painters in the shop. Workers used a color chart and hand or spray painted each one. Some companies farmed the painting out. Other doorstops were sold unpainted so you could choose the colors yourself.

“You’ll pay as little as a $100 and as much as $4,000 dollars for a descent doorstop at auction,” says Bertoia. Condition, color and subject matter are the critical factors.

If an image on a doorstop can be dated, it gives a clue to its age. Knute Rockney for example and Rhett Butler were popular doorstop figures.

Bill Bertoia Auctions in Vineland, N.J., featured over 200 doorstops in its June 28-29 sale.

A few highlights were the Bradley and Hubbard “Whistling Jim” figure, $4,290, the Hubbard “Farm House,” $3,190; the Hubley “Charleston Dancers” designed by “Fish,” $2,970; a Hubley “Popeye,” $2,310; the attractive “Mary Quite Contrary,” $1,760.

Bertoia’s next doorstop auction is March 14-15. The doorstop price guide is available by writing to Jeanne Bertoia, 2413 Madison Ave., Vineland, N.J. 08360.

Q. My father bought this vanity many years ago. I’ve enclosed a photo. My sister started to take the old varnish off. Will this affect the value? What is it worth? John Krajnak, Ford City, Pa.

A. From the photo it looks like a turn-of-the-century piece. Open the drawer and look at the dovetailing. This is where the boards join together at the front. If the dovetails appear even and uniform in shape and size then the vanity was most likely machine dovetailed and is in fact turn-of-the-century.

If the dovetails were hand done, you’ll see a difference in size and uniformity. In such a case, the vanity is probably much older and worth more.

Original condition is always best in old furniture. You do alter the value by altering the condition. But, some pieces need it and the quality of refinishing make a big difference. As a turn-of-the-century vanity, your piece is worth about $250.

There is a book new on the market called Fake, Fraud, or Genuine? by Myrna Kaye. It’s a good pictorial resource for identifying authentic American antique furniture.

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