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'COMFORT DOGS' DATE BACK TO KING CHARLES

You have an old house, antique furnishings and vintage clothes. What about a dog to go with the collections?

It could be a live King Charles spaniel or a figurine. The figurines, called "comfort dogs" or "Staffordshire spaniels," were inspired by the King Charles spaniel, named for King Charles II of England, who had a pet spaniel in the late 1600s.

The potters of Staffordshire made many figurines. Pairs of seated dogs were made to face each other from each end of a fireplace mantel. The dog always had big eyes and an inverted "smile" and wore a collar and chain with a padlock.

The dog figurines date from 1720 to the present, but the most interesting and most collectible were made from 1840 to the 1890s.

Beware of reproductions. An old dog has a hole about an eighth of an inch in diameter in the base for heat to escape during the manufacturing process. If the hole is larger, sometimes as big as a quarter, you have a 20th-century version. Later dogs are often marked with the words "Staffordshire" or "Made in England." Old dogs are usually unmarked.

A matched pair of dogs is worth more than two single dogs. Dogs with rust coats are the most common. All-white dogs are rare, but not as popular with collectors.

Wooden armchair

Q: My family has owned a wooden armchair for many years. The metal label on the bottom reads "Kuchins, Color Kist, Made in Grand Rapids." Can you give us some history on the maker?

A: Kuchins Furniture Manufacturing Co. made dinette suites, tables, chairs and cabinets at factories in Grand Rapids, Mich., and St. Louis from 1929 to 1940. Color Kist was the company's trade name.

Write to Kovels in care of King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019.

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