Wicker was used for furniture for many years before it was used in America to make baby carriages.
By the mid-1870s, thousands of carriages were being made by furniture manufacturers, such as Heywood Brothers and Co. or Wakefield Rattan Co., or by carriage companies like Gendron Wheel Co. and F.A. Whitney Carriage Co.
Wicker baby carriages were in such demand that Sears, Roebuck and Co. published a special carriage catalog in 1897. The carriages sold for $2.50 to $33.50, making them a luxury item at a time when a beer and a sandwich cost 5 cents.
The carriages of the 1890s and early 1900s were very ornate, with wire wheels, many trim pieces and often a parasol to keep the sun off the baby.
Wicker cracks and breaks if it becomes dry, and many old carriages that were stored improperly were eventually discarded. A damaged carriage can be repaired, but repairs are expensive.
Bisque piano baby
Q: I bought a large bisque piano baby at a country auction. It is a beautifully painted girl sitting and holding a cup in her hands. She is 14 inches tall and sits on a base that's 9 inches wide.
A: Bisque piano babies like yours were first made in the 1880s. This was an era when many proud piano owners spread a shawl over the top of the piano. The shawls could easily slip off, so piano babies were used to hold the shawls in place. Your piano baby, if original (piano babies have been reproduced) and in excellent condition, could sell for $175 or more.
Q: When I moved into my house about 11 years ago, I discovered a huge collection of toy marbles in the woods on my property. There must be more than 500 marbles -- some clay, some sulfides and some onionskins.
A: Clean the marbles so they will be easier to identify. The marbles you found probably date from the 20th century, but some of them could be of considerable interest to a collector. There are two collectors' clubs, the Marble Collectors Society of America and the National Marble Club of America. You can contact the clubs by checking our Web site, www.kovels.com.
Write to Kovels in care of King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019.