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"Folk art" is a term that includes more and more types of collectibles and art. When the term was first used it meant the typical amateur art of the people, compared with the art produced by trained artists.

It was easy to understand: A painting of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart was academic art; a painting of Washington by an unknown local artist was an example of folk art.

But the term "folk art" began to change. It started to mean any type of art or craft made by the untrained. Chip carved wooden pieces, tin-can figures and even pieces of commercial work such as carousel horses and cigar-store Indians were considered folk art.

Today the term has become so general that a new term has appeared: "outsider art," which refers to the newest untrained art made by people who are often still alive.

At antiques shows you might find a table made from broken dishes or "memory jars" covered with toys and small prints. Even folded cigarette-pack purses, and figures made from bottle caps are all sold as "folk art."

The unusual, the eccentric and the humorous are always good buys even if not really art.

Write the Kovels

The Kovels welcome letters and answer as many as possible through the column. The volume of mail makes personal answers or appraisals impossible. If you wish other information about antiques, include a self-addressed, stamped (55 cents) envelope, and the Kovels will send you a listing of helpful books and publications. Write to Kovels, The Buffalo News, King Features Syndicate, 235 E. 45th St., New York, NY 10017.

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