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Swiss family carved 'Black Forest' furniture

"Black Forest" is a term used to describe the elaborate, realistic wood carvings that were thought to be made in the Black Forest region of Bavaria, Germany. In the 1980s, new research proved that the carvings were done in Switzerland, most by the Trauffer family.

It is easy to identify pieces. Bears that play instruments, climb trees, hold benches or beg are part of the legs, seats and stands that make up the furniture. Each bear was carved from a linden or walnut tree trunk. Pieces were not signed. A similar type of carving that featured birds, branches and plants also was made in Switzerland. Clock cases were made to hold Swiss clock movements often marked with a company name.

Collectors still call both types of carved pieces "Black Forest." A carved, tall case clock recently sold for $14,000 at Neal Auction Co. in New Orleans. The clock movement was marked "Hawina," a trademark of a German clock company owned by Hans Winterhalder and his family. The company was in business from the 18th century until 1937. The elaborately carved case with owls and branches is not by the carvers of the bear furniture, although it is collected as "Black Forest."


Q: I own a cash register that belonged to my great-grandfather. He used it in his produce store in New York City in the late 1930s. It's in perfect working order; even the customer count works. It must weigh close to 200 pounds and seems to be made out of solid brass. Just under the number display is a fancy plate with the serial number 935158416. Can you tell me its age and value?

A: The first commercially successful cash register was invented in 1878 by James Ritty, a saloon owner in Dayton, Ohio. Ritty sold his cash register business and patents to National Manufacturing Co. In 1884, John H. Patterson bought National Manufacturing and its patents and renamed the company National Cash Register. The serial number on your cash register, 935158, indicates it was made in January 1911. The model number is 416. It is one of the 400-class registers, which are often found today. National Cash Register was the world's largest manufacturer of cash registers. The name was changed to NCR Corp. in 1974. Today most businesses have replaced cash registers with computers. NCR now makes the modern equivalent of a cash register -- point-of-sale workstations -- as well as ATMs, software and other products and services.


Q: I inherited more than 40 Royal Doulton figurines from my mother. My husband and I have no children to leave them to. Should we sell them now while there is still a market for them?

A: Old and rare Royal Doulton figurines sell for good prices, but common newer ones sell for less than half their issue price. The highest price for a Royal Doulton figure sold last year was $2,415 for the figurine Young Widow, HN 1399. Several figurines sold for hundreds of dollars; many sold for under $100. Royal Doulton figurines were introduced in 1913. The figurines have been made in China since 2005. Sort through your figures, then decide which ones you might want to sell.

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