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Rolling the wine down the table

A trolley, according to an American dictionary, is a cart that moves on a track or wire. But in Europe, the definition can include a wine trolley, a cart that was used to serve wine.

Today, we have table-height wine trolleys made for restaurants that are pushed by a waiter serving wine. In earlier centuries, it was the custom to roll back the tablecloth at the end of a dinner. Then the after-dinner port was coasted or slid from person to person on a dishlike wooden or silver piece that we now call a coaster. The most common form was made with a smooth wooden bottom and a low silver "fence" that held the bottle upright.

But soon a more elaborate idea evolved and a wine trolley was invented. A coaster or a pair of coasters were put into a wheeled cart and rolled down the table. Antique sterling-silver trolleys sold at auctions this year for $500 to $3,000.

>Q: I inherited a huge 1960s desk about 20 years ago. It has a long honey-colored wooden desk with a Formica top and two side drawers, and a long credenza that fits perpendicularly under the top of the desk. The credenza has a wooden frame and two fabric-covered sliding doors. Both pieces have straight tapered legs. A label on the credenza says, "Planner Group, designed by Paul McCobb, Winchendon Furniture Co., Winchendon, Mass." When were the pieces made? And what are they worth?

A: Paul McCobb (1917-1969) designed furniture for all sorts of settings, including offices. But his early designs, including his first Planner Group pieces, were designed for homes. Winchendon manufactured the popular line from 1949 to 1964.

Early desks were smaller than yours and had flared, not straight, legs. Formica desktops became an option in 1956, and larger desks and credenzas with straight legs probably were introduced after that. Prices of Planner Group furniture are pretty solid, although collectors favor the earlier designs. An early desk and chair sells for about $400, and an early credenza for about $600.

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>Q: Are old cereal boxes collectible? The kind with sports stars on the front, or special offers featuring famous people or cartoon characters?

A: Some old cereal boxes are especially collectible. Best are those that feature sports stars, because sports collectors are willing to pay a lot of money for the boxes. A 1935 Post Grape-Nuts box featuring pitcher Dizzy Dean is worth more than $1,000 and a 1968 Ralston-Purina All-Pro box picturing Roger Maris is even more valuable. Other older and even more recent cereal boxes that feature cartoon characters, athletes, sports teams, toys or games sell for a quarter into the hundreds of dollars. Most experts advise collectors to open boxes from the bottom to empty the cereal. Otherwise insects can infest the contents and then eat holes in the boxes.

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