Toys often were made to resemble famous people or characters in plays, books or TV shows. Sometimes the character that inspired the toy is forgotten, but the toy remains popular with collectors because it is so well-designed, unusual or lovable. Raggedy Ann and Andy are still recognized by young and old, and the storybooks featuring them remain in print. But Johnny Gruelle, who wrote and illustrated the books, created other characters that are forgotten today.
"Johnny Mouse and the Wishing Stick" is a children's book published in 1922. It was based on stories and illustrations from Gruelle's monthly series, "Johnny Mouse and the Woozgoozle," which appeared in Woman's World magazine in 1920 and 1921. The Johnny Mouse felt doll was patented in July 1921. The magazine sold it by mail order for $1. The gray felt mouse has a long pointy pink nose, shoe-button eyes, one ear and a yellow hat that covers the missing ear. The mouse's body was dressed in a printed shirt, felt trousers, a yellow neck bow and felt shoes. His clothes could not be removed. The identification of the mouse doll as a design by Gruelle added to the value when the 10-inch doll sold at a Theriault's auction in Anaheim, Calif., in July 2011. It cost the new owner $1,024.
Q: I bought a pair of metal candle sconces at a recent estate sale for a buck each. When I came home, I realized that the word "Wilton" is stamped on the backs. Each has two candleholders below a flat circular piece decorated with a curved-line cross, hearts, circles and a scalloped border. I'd like to know more about Wilton and the value of these sconces.
A: The Wilton family established its first metal manufacturing company in Wrightsville, Pa., in 1892. Wilton Products was founded in about 1935. It produced candleholders, bottle openers, garden plaques, mechanical banks, trivets, wall decorations and other decorative items at plants in Wrightsville and Santa Barbara, Calif. Wilton Products closed in 1989, but some of its products have been reintroduced by Wilton Armetale, another Wilton company. The curved-line cross on your sconce is called a "lauburu" or "Basque cross." Value: about $50 for the pair.
Q: I inherited eight life-size copper figures of insects, lobsters, shrimp, crabs and crayfish. They were all made in Japan years ago. Their arms, legs and other body parts move on hinges. Can you tell me something about them?
A: You may have a group of valuable ornamental figurines called "jizai okimono." They are realistic metal figures of animals. Experts believe they were first made by armor craftsmen in Japan in the 18th century. They are still being made. Depending on condition, artistry and age, a single figure can sell for more than $1,000.
Do not use anything but a very soft pencil to label pictures or papers.