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Antiques: Tango-dancing couples among the first windup toys

The tango was introduced in Argentina about 1902 but didn’t become the latest dance craze until about 1916. It spread to Paris, the United States and Europe, and remained a favorite until the 1920s.

The tango was popular in upper-class dance parlors and has gone in and out of favor. Early tango dances were very daring, and in some countries they were restricted by law. But dancing couples were among the first windup tin toys for children in the 1800s. Around 1916, a dancing toy with figures of a man in tails and an elegant woman in a pink dress was made by the German Gunthermann Co. (1877-1965). Wind the key hidden under the woman’s dress, and the couple dances in random patterns. Although the toy was sold in a box labeled “Tango,” it is sometimes called the “Waltzing Couple” or the “Dancing Couple.” The toy, in excellent condition with the box, sold at a James Julia auction in Maine in June 2015 for $3,851. Several other dancing couple toys have been made. In the 1930s, there was a Japanese key wind 6-inch-tall celluloid toy by Masudaya. The woman has a red dress. The toy sells today for about $40. In the 1960s, a Japanese company, Tokyo Plaything Shokai, made a dancing toy for Hikari Toy Products. The figures are tin with vinyl heads and the woman has a blue dress. It sells for about $360 to $400. The idea continued, and modern dancing toys have modern clothes, the latest dances, music and electronic controls.

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Q: I have a collection of Chinese mud figures and would like to know their value. Are there collectors interested in these figures?

A: Mud figures are small partially glazed pottery figures made in China in the 20th century. They originally were made for fish tanks or planters. Most figures are of farmers, scholars, workers or merchants. Other pieces are trees, houses and similar parts of the landscape. The figures have unglazed faces and hands but glazed clothing. They were made by hand, often by members of the village where they were made. There isn’t a big market for mud figures. Price depends on size, condition and interest in the design. They sell online and at auctions for about $10 to over $100.

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Tip: A quilt that is not in use should be aired out each year. Open it up and put it flat on the floor or a bed for a few days. A quilt that is used on a bed or hung should be taken down and rested every six months.

Terry and Kim Kovel answer questions. By sending a letter with a question, you give full permission for use. Names, addresses or email addresses will not be published. We cannot guarantee return of photographs, but if a stamped envelope is included, we will try. Write to Kovels, King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019.