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Many collectors say they are searching for their childhood memories when they buy at flea markets.

Today, shows and shops sell many items made and used as late as the 1980s. Comic-book, movie and TV characters are especially popular.

In 1947, the children's TV series with Howdy Doody, a marionette, and Buffalo Bob, a person, appeared on the air. The series lasted until 1960. Howdy Doody was a redhead with 48 freckles -- one for each state.

Other live characters on the show included Princess Summerfall-Winterspring, Chief Thunderthud and Clarabell Hornblow the clown. Marionettes included Dilly Dally, Flub-a-Dub and Phineas T. Bluster.

In the late 1970s, the children who remembered Howdy from their younger days enjoyed hearing Buffalo Bob lecture at their college campuses.

Pine desk

Q: I bought a large Early American pine desk many years ago for $100. One of the drawers is marked "Link-Taylor" with a stamped picture of a log cabin. Can you tell me how old the desk is?

A: In 1936, Henry T. Link and Frank Taylor took control of the former Dixie Furniture Co. of Lexington, N.C. Link introduced mass-production techniques, and the company expanded to form four separate firms during the 1950s and '60s. Link-Taylor was one of those four. Your desk was manufactured no earlier than the 1950s.

Painted ceramic dresser

Q: My ceramic dresser set was given to me more than 50 years ago by my great-great-aunt. The painted violets on the pieces are all the same design, but the factory marks on the bottoms are different. Some are marks of German makers, and some belong to French companies. How can that be?

A: During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, American companies imported thousands of pieces of undecorated china from all over Europe. China-painting was an extremely popular hobby, especially among women. They bought the china blanks and then hand-painted flowers and other designs on dishes and dresser sets.

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

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