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  • 10 Mar 2015
    By Brucha Junovitch Antique furniture of many sorts and types are, and can be, readily found at local garage sales, flea markets, and antique stores. Of these, a person may find some items of less-than-perfect condition that, to many shoppers, bring with them more work and effort than it is worth. Yet, that can be a great find, especially once you know a bit more of how to restore and maintain antiques. Your perfect find might be a Victorian chair in need of a new seat, or an old American trunk that has seen far better days. The most important thing to maintaining or restoring antique furniture is keeping it clean. The following tips will help you do just that without damaging it: 1. Avoid using any of the popular spray dusting helpers. These tend to leave an unsightly buildup on furniture that’s hard to remove later on. Instead, use a soft cloth to gently wipe away the dust. You can also slightly dampen the cloth with liquid glass cleaner. 2. Avoid using any of the popular oil-based liquid furniture polishers. These leave an oily residue that attracts dust. Lemon oil is one of the worst because it doesn’t sink into the wood like commonly believed but lays on the surface acting as a dust magnet. 3. If there’s oily dirt or grease, such as may get on pieces in a kitchen, remove it with a mild dish detergent and water solution. Work on small areas at a time and dry immediately with a soft cloth. 4. Be extra careful when cleaning any wood that has been gilded. The gilt is usually applied with a water-soluble adhesive which can be removed by detergent cleaners. 5. To clean uneven or carved surfaces, use a soft-bristled brush or your vacuum cleaner with the brush attachment. Be careful not to hit the furniture in any way with the vacuum cleaner, itself. 6. Do not use feather dusters. They move the dust around and can scratch the surface. 7. Before using any cleaner on the surface of your furniture, test an inconspicuous area towards the back first. 8. Always avoid using too much liquid directly on your furniture’s surface. 9. You can get long-term protection by using a good paste wax, such as Minwax. This is a petroleum-based product that comes in both natural and dark shades for light and dark-stained furniture, respectively. The hard surface it produces can be dusted more easily and without the danger of scratching because its smoother. Waxing once or twice a year is sufficient for table tops and chair arms. For less used areas of furniture, such as chair legs and case pieces, wax only every four years. 10. Try not to polish hardware while it’s attached to the furniture. The polish will damage the furniture’s finish. Instead, remove the hardware and polish separately, being sure to rinse or wipe it thoroughly before reattaching it to your pieces. If you can’t remove the hardware from your piece, be sure to mask it from the furniture’s surface to prevent damage. For ornate hardware, use a cotton swab dipped in the detergent solution. 11. Do not polish ormolu, which really isn’t brass but bronze. Instead, wash it with a soft cloth soaked with a mild dish detergent. 12. To remove the musty odor from an antique cabinet or drawers of a chest, spray with Fabreeze and let dry. To keep it fresh, place a new drier sheet inside each cabinet or drawer. 13. If mold or mildew forms on a piece of antique furniture, dampen a soft cloth with a very mild bleach solution (two tablespoons of bleach to a quart of water) and wipe the affected area. Dry immediately with a soft cloth, then wax as stated above. 14. Heat dries out the wood of antique furniture, loosening joints. Keep your house at a comfortable level but not excessively hot in the winter. If you must keep the temperature up, put pans of water around to humidify the air or use a humidifier. The air will be healthier for you, too.
    1833 Posted by Brucha Junovitch
  • 17 Mar 2015
    By Brucha Junovitch For many book collectors, the value of their antique books is more than a specific monetary value. Often these collectors search out antique books to add to their collections based on their love for a particular subject, author or style of literature. For these individuals, the intrinsic worth of an antique book lies in the special meaning the book holds for them. 1. Dust Jackets, Spines and Covers If there is one single thing that can raise or lower the value of a book, it is the dust jacket. The value of a first edition copy of Bram Stoker’s Dracula can diminish by as much as 5% the full value. The price drop of books can often times be solely due to the dust jacket having been destroyed or heavily damaged, either deliberately or due to their fragile nature. If you have one on a good book, treasure it. Also, be sure to protect it with a plastic sleeve. 2. Who is the Author? A book is more likely to appeal to collectors, and therefore be worth more, if you have actually heard of the book or its author. Additionally, some books by famous authors are better than others. A first edition of John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath in good condition is worth far more than say his Travels with Charley. 3. Where was it Published? The location of publication is an often overlooked but important detail in a list of information about a collection of books. Many titles were published virtually simultaneously in two places; for example, London and New York. Whichever hits the shops first is the “true” first edition while the other becomes the “first American edition” or “first English edition.” The value of a “true” first is typically always greater. 4. Publishing Mistakes When certain books are evaluated, the number of “mistakes” that occur in the printing process will elevate their value. Thrifty printers will not throw out a batch of sheets simply because there was a mistake on the page. They will correct it and move on. Those first sheets now form an “issue point” that collectors use to determine how early in the printing process the sheet was printed. Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has over seven documented (and corrected) mistakes during the printing process. If you have all of them (or many of them) in your copy, it can greatly raise the value of the book. Other copies with a few mistakes are usually much less. These “issue points” can be found in online references to bibliographical information gathered on each book. 5. Missing Pages Completeness in a book is critical. Even simple pages that have no printing on them, called blanks, are critical to the value of the book. Make certain that there are no loose pages or gatherings of leaves that have come out or are in danger of falling out. One lost page can be devastating to a rare book’s value. 6. Ownership Look for ownership inscriptions on books. With luck, they will not be on the title-page, as this diminishes value; they should ideally be located on blank pages before the title page. An owner inscription or signature from a member of your own family is always interesting to find, and if he or she was a well-known person, could add to value. 7. Signed Copies Always look for author signed books. An author signature can mean an increase in value of ten times or more the ordinary value of the book in most cases. 8. Decorative Appeal Decorative visual appeal can increase a book’s value. A beautifully leather bound book or one with a pictorial gold leaf cover can form the basis for a really eye-catching shelf; these antique books are usually quite collectible. Simple beauty in a cover or binding can raise its value depending upon the complexity and execution of the design.  
    1242 Posted by Brucha Junovitch
  • 29 Apr 2015
    by Brucha JunovitchWhen the first English settlers came to America, England was just emerging from the Middle Ages. Furniture of the time was heavy and cumbersome and constructed chiefly of oak. By 1700, furniture had become gradually more plentiful and new forms appeared to fill domestic needs. The Queen Anne style offered homeowners lighter, graceful, more comfortable furniture, and the first "period" pieces were born. Political events, economics (including prosperity at home and trade with other countries), and the freedom to travel from one country to another influenced the styles of furniture as well as the amount considered essential in a home. Every so often, also, a great furniture designer who introduced new and different-looking pieces established a style and set a period. Between 1700 and 1800, five distinctly different furniture styles prevailed in England and America. The names attached to these styles or periods were sometimes those of the reigning monarchs, sometimes of a furniture designer. The Queen Anne style was, of course, named after Queen Anne of England. Though the style had become popular in England by 1705, it took another 20 years for it to become popular in America. Queen Anne furniture was lighter in appearance and much more graceful looking than the ponderous 17th-century pieces. Furniture remained functional, however, and also became comfortable. Lines were simple, with emphasis on the curvilinear. The single most important decoration of Queen Anne furniture was the carved cockle or scallop shell. Often, one large shell was carved on the slant top of a desk or on the front of a highboy, lowboy, or chest. A smaller shell sometimes was carved on the knee of a leg and-with or without carving on the legs-to top the splat of a chair or daybed. The shell motif emphasized the curvilinear element. On some pieces, this carved motif is more clearly recognizable as a fan or a sunburst. Cabinetmakers replaced the straight, turned legs on chairs, tables, and cupboards, with more graceful, curving ones called cabriole; that is, the leg had an out-curved knee and an incurved ankle. Feet were likely to be the simple pad or Dutch foot, occasionally the drake foot, which was carved with three toes, or the Spanish foot, which curved gracefully and showed rectangular lines of carving. Stretchers were omitted or else not particularly noticeable. The kettle or bombe base, which swelled outward at sides and front, appeared on cupboards and some other case pieces. Oak was still widely used in England but walnut became the preferred wood in both England and America. After walnut, cherry and maple rather than oak were the choices in this country. Regardless of the wood, a small amount of Queen Anne furniture was painted white and gilded. The drop-leaf table, either oval, round, or rectangular, replaced the trestle table for dining. Dropping the leaves, of course, saved space when they weren't in use. Rectangular tables with marble tops were made for dining rooms because, so far, no one had thought of making a sideboard. Card or gaming tables were another Queen Anne innovation that continued to be popular for more than a century. By the mid-18th century in America, it wasn't uncommon for a household to own a half-dozen or more fine examples of card tables. Each one was well made of selected hardwood and was handsome, for it was part of the furniture of the room at all times. No comparison is possible between this style of table, which has become a classic, and the collapsible bridge (card) table so common today. All of these card tables, now certainly antiques, had tops consisting of two leaves that were hinged so that one could be folded on top of the other or be supported against a wall when the table was not in use. Of the four or occasionally five legs, one was movable to support the folding leaf when the table was opened to full size. The square table with a top 36 to 38 inches when opened flat usually had rounded corners to hold candlesticks to light the gaming. Some tables also had four oval saucers, one at each player's left, for coins. Occasionally there was a drawer under the top.  
    1004 Posted by Brucha Junovitch
  • 22 May 2015
    by Brucha Junovitch What is a troll doll? Some people refer to them as dolls, others not so. Whatever you may call them, Trolls are immensely popular with collectors and have been since their creation in the 1960s.  Troll dolls were originally created in 1959 by Danish fisherman and woodcutter Thomas Dam, and were aptly named Dam Trolls, or Gonk Trolls in the Uk. The maker, Dam, could not afford a Christmas gift for his young daughter Lila and instead carved the doll from his imagination. When other children in the Danish town of Gjøl saw the troll doll, they wanted one as well.Dam's company Dam Things began producing the dolls in plastic under the name Good Luck Trolls.  The dolls became popular in several European countries during the early 1960s, shortly before they were introduced in the United States. They became one of the United States' biggest toy fads from the autumn of 1963 through 1965. The originals, also called Dam dolls, were of the highest quality, featuring sheep wool hair and glass eyes. Their sudden popularity, along with an error in the copyright notice of Thomas Dam's original product, resulted in cheaper imitations and knock-offs which flooded the North American shelves. The Dam company never stopped making the trolls in Europe, where they were always a popular item. In the late 1980s the Dam trolls started making another come back in North America. The E.F.S. Marketing Associates, Inc (located in Farmingdale, New York) was one of the few corporations which were granted permission to import and market the Thomas Dam trolls for re-sale in the United States. These Dam Trolls were marketed under the trade name of Norfin Trolls, with the Adopt A Norfin Troll logo on the tags.  Trolls have gone in and out of production ever since, and they are being produced today as both playthings and as collectibles by such companies as Nyform and even Dam (only in Denmark).  You can find very tiny trolls at only 2 or 3 inches tall, up to very large trolls at 18 inches or so. Any troll at 12 inches or so is considered very large, with trolls over that considered gigantic. Large vintage trolls are generally much rarer than small vintage trolls.  Nearly all trolls are made out of hard vinyl, although they have been made out of nearly every other material you can imagine including ceramics, rubber, porcelain and even hemp. Trolls generally have jointed arms and heads (although some have un-jointed arms) and plastic or glass eyes, with a little sprout of hair on their heads.  One thing to remember, though, not all trolls are as valuable today. They were produced in the hundreds of millions, and only mint and rare trolls bring high prices. A collection of trolls, however, can fit in nicely with either a collection of dolls or a collection of toys.
    952 Posted by Brucha Junovitch
Antiques - Collectibles 780 views May 25, 2015
Preserving Antique Books

by Brucha Junovitch

Lovers of old or rare books like myself have formed a sort of ritual over the years out of oiling the leather bindings of their most cherished volumes. It is a treasured thing to do, to store and preserve a loved item for prosperity. However, there is a growing consensus of collectors that believe that the best method for preserving leather-bound books should not include oil at all.

Some institutions have switched from the time-honored tradition of oiling books – research in the field has suggested that, not only are there few benefits, but also potential problems with oiling. For example, the New York Public Library gave up oiling books in the 1960s and conservators have followed this, recommending that private book owners do the same.

The reason for this change in attitudes is because experts have found that oiling sometimes darkens leather and can create unsightly blotches if not properly applied. The oily finish can also present another dilemma: it can infiltrate the pages of a book long after the owner has returned it to the shelf.

This can result in the oil seeping through the thin leather spine, when it can then bleed inside resulting in oiling the pages as much as half an inch. This, of course, can decimate a book’s value and reversing the damage is extremely difficult and costly.

Oil has been traditionally applied to old leather books to prevent or stem “red rot”, a term used by bibliophiles that deteriorates leather into a red powder. The common wisdom was that drying of the leather caused this powdery deterioration - which explains why oil was prescribed. However, red rot is actually caused by a chemical deterioration of the leather, and oil is unable to stem this chemical breakdown.

Other coatings, chemical treatments, and surface consolidants for leather are available on the market. Many, however, can damage the binding if applied incorrectly to the right leather, or if used on the wrong leather. Once applied, the chemicals cannot be removed. The best an owner of leather-covered books can do is slow down the inevitable deterioration using other methods and means besides oil.

You cannot duplicate rare book environments in a large library, but you can avoid the extremes, thus lengthening the lifetime of the books. Leather-bound books deteriorate more quickly when they are stored in high temperatures, at extreme humidity, or in air with high concentrations of gaseous pollutants, such as those found in car exhaust. Short of donating books to libraries with air filters, little can be done at home to protect books from gaseous pollutants. But a book lover can protect leather bindings from the other two culprits.

The best thing to do is to keep away from basements, damp areas and attics; high temperatures and high humidity can cause you endless problems. One option is to consider purchasing archival boxes or sleeves for valuable books. For example, the New York Public Library has boxed about 200,000 leather-bound volumes. Archival boxes, which can be bought for under $10 each from conservation supply firms, protect leather bindings from the normal wear-and-tear that comes with handling. These casings and paper sleeves also protect books from dust. Less dust means less need for dusting, which again minimizes the handling of these often fragile books.