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Antiques aren’t always politically correct

Trying to be politically correct in the antiques and collectibles world is becoming more and more difficult. Watch out for endangered species discussions and laws. Are we protecting living elephants by making it illegal to sell any ivory, even carvings or teapot handles, made more than 100 years ago? Watch out for stereotypes. Is it trying to change history to delete vocabulary and cartoonish figurines from 100 years ago? Unflattering depictions of suffragettes or Shylock are tolerated, but a Confederate flag, a Chinese man with a queue or a black child with an alligator or non-PC word embossed on a bank must be omitted in a “for sale” ad. And which firearms can be legally sold at antiques auctions without special permits? Is a cannon OK? Recently, a life-size iron figure of a woman wearing a painted late 19th century carnival costume was sold at auction. She is a shooting-gallery target, part of the history of a past lifestyle. She sold for more than $43,000, even though she had marks from shots and some repairs. Times have changed – no shooting gallery would have a human target, but one from the past is a historic artifact.


Q: I have two lions from Bennington Vermont ceramics from the year 1849. I’d like to sell them. One of them was damaged, but I can get it fixed and restored. Is it worth it?

A: A lot of fake Bennington has been made. The lions should be seen by an expert to determine if they are the original old Bennington or more recent reproductions. Contact a good auction house or antiques shop. Prices for Bennington have dropped in the past five years. It might pay to fix the damaged lion so you can sell them as a pair. A pair is worth more than two singles.


Q: I found a Speedball Linoleum Cutter made by Hunt Manufacturing Co. It’s in its original box. The blades are in their own little box. It says there are supposed to be five blades, but there are nine. What can you tell me about it, and how much is it worth?

A: The company began when C. Howard Hunt started a pen manufacturing company in Camden, N.J., in 1899. The company became well-known when it introduced the Speedball nib, which made lettering faster, in 1913. It began making linoleum cutters and other accessories for block printing in 1936. The company name was changed to Hunt Manufacturing Co. in 1962. It was restructured in 1997 and now makes linoleum cutters and other art products under the name Speedball in Statesville, N.C. New and used linoleum cutters sell online for less than $10.

Write to Kovels, King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019.