Kovel’s Antiques: Bird whistles have been around for a long time | News, Sports, Jobs


People have been captivated by the songs of birds for centuries. At some point, clever craftsmen realized that whistles could not only imitate birds, but they could also look like birds.

Bird-shaped ceramic whistles have been made for hundreds of years all over the world. Examples dating to around 1000 AD have been found in Central America. Were they issued as bird calls? Musical instruments? Toys?

One such whistle, which sold for $2,006 at Conestoga Auction Co., was made in 19th-century Pennsylvania from red clay. Today, mass-produced, inexpensive bird-shaped whistles are made of ceramic, metal, or plastic. 20th century Italian company Alessi placed a red whistling bird on the spout of a stainless steel tea kettle, creating an icon of modern design.


Q: I bought a beautiful cobalt blue bottle at a door-to-door sale for $10. It stands 7 1/2 inches tall and has an embossed clipper on one side with the word “Franklin” below, and an eagle holding arrows with “TWD” under the eagle. Did I get a good deal?

A: Antique bottles (before 1800), historical flasks, hand blown bottles and decorative decanters from the early 19th century are classified as any good antique glass. Age, rarity, color, quality, condition and appearance are the important factors. Several vials are sold online as “Vintage cobalt blue embossed Clipper Franklin TWD vessel, Eagle bottle flask.” It’s impossible to tell without looking at it to see if yours is old. But it looks like you got a good deal. What appears to be the same bottle sells for $20-$30.


Q: My twins each received restored vintage tractors. They were too difficult to pedal and were only used once. They’ve been hanging in my garage for decades. Are they worth anything? They are red and have “Murray Trac” decals.

A: Metal farm toys have recently seen a surge of interest from collectors. Major farm equipment manufacturers made replicas of their models as children’s toys in the paint colors associated with their companies. The condition and level of detail of toys affects value. Pedal tractors have recently sold for between $90 and $3,500. There are collectors who will buy the tractors in any condition for usable parts.


Q: My dad was a writer and I was just tempted to buy a light blue Sears. “Tutor” typewriter in its original case for $35 which reminded me of his typewriter. Are typewriters collectibles?

A: Yes, these are very popular collectibles right now. People like it “retro” way of writing and maybe seeing a typewriter reminds them of their parents or grandparents. Christopher Sholes, an American mechanical engineer born in 1819, is credited with inventing the first practical modern typewriter in 1866. Five years later, after dozens of experiments, Sholes and his associates produced a model like the machines to write today. The keys on the Sholes’ typewriter jammed easily. To solve the problem, he and an associate split the keys of commonly used letters together to slow down typing. It has become the norm today “QWERTY” keyboard. Hope you bought this Sears typewriter. I’ve seen the exact same ones sold for $180 and up.


Q: In my grandparents’ basement, I recently found an old clothes iron. My grandmother had attached a tag to it, labeling it as a European iron from 1900. What can you tell me?

A: Flat irons have pointed handles and fronts. They were shaped like the electric and steam irons used today. They had shallow boxes and had installed “slugs” Where “radiators”, metal plates that have been heated in a fire and inserted into the base. At the turn of the 20th century, irons were heated with liquid gas, alcohol, gasoline or electricity. Unfortunately, some liquid fuel irons have exploded. The electric iron was patented in 1882 but did not come into widespread use until around 1915. Your iron is an interesting piece of history and is worth around $70 in good condition.

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