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HOPE OR CEDAR, CHESTS VALUED FOR FAMILY TRADITIONS

The hope chest of the past, also called a wedding or dower chest, is still a popular piece of furniture, although it is no longer used in the traditional way.

In 17th- and 18th-century America, a hope chest was given to a young girl. During her teen-age years, she wove fabrics, made quilts, embroidered towels and collected all of the household linens she would need in her home when she married. Textiles were among the most valuable possessions in an 18th-century home. The wedding chest went with the bride to her new home. The linens were taken out and used, and the empty chest was filled with family records, jewelry, special-occasion clothes or other items that should be stored.

In the early 1900s, the cedar chest became popular. Lane Company made chests that stored woolens in a moth-free space. The chests were marketed as "hope" chests, symbols of romance and marriage. Today, all sorts of chests are back in demand. Copies of early painted Pennsylvania chests, simple wooden chests or even chests with upholstered lids are being made. The chest is used for storage and as a seat, often kept at the foot of the bed.

A toy tractor

Q: Sometime around 1930, when I was 8 or 9 years old, I received a Marx wind-up tractor for Christmas. I still have the toy, and it still works, but it's missing its original driver and rubber wheel treads. The tractor is marked "Louis Marx & Co., N.Y." It is 12 inches long and made of a silver-colored metal with red wheels. What is the tractor worth?

A: Your nickel-plated toy tractor was introduced by Marx, the famous toy manufacturer, in 1931. It originally came with a driver and tractor attachments, like a sweeper, plow and metal wagon. If you had the driver and the attachments, your tractor would sell for $125 to $275, depending on its condition.

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