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Wicker furniture collectible, especially unusual pieces

Wicker furniture has been used since the ancient Egyptians, but most of today's collectors are buying pieces made in the 1800s and 1900s. In the early 1830s, a Boston grocer named Cyrus Wakefield was watching ships unpacking cargo. Bundles of rattan wrapping were discarded. He thought it might be suitable as a material for furniture, especially chair seats. After experimenting, he developed braided wicker furniture and even had ships import more cane and rattan. His Wakefield Rattan Co. was founded in 1855. Heywood Brothers, founded in 1861 by Levi Heywood, was the largest chair company in the United States by 1870. The company began making wicker furniture in 1875 using rattan bought from Wakefield. The two companies finally merged in 1897. Many styles of wicker furniture were made, including Victorian, Arts and Crafts and Art Deco. Plant stands, easels, fishbowl-planters, shelves, baby carriages, wheelchairs, cribs and even lamps and lampshades were made. The wicker was shellacked, stained or painted. Today collectors pay the highest prices for wicker with elaborate curves and intricate designs. They also like the unusual.

Q: What can you tell me about a pot that's marked "Clifton, Arkansas 206" on the bottom? It has a Native American design.

A: Clifton Art Pottery opened on Clifton Avenue in Newark, N.J., in 1905. Its founders were William A. Long, an Ohio potter, and Fred Tschirner, a chemist. Clifton made art pottery for about six years, and one of its lines was known as "Indian ware." Marks on Indian ware included the location of the tribe where the style of the pot originated. So your pot was inspired by Native Americans in Arkansas. The number 206 is a Clifton shape number. Clifton Indian ware sells for high prices.

Q: I have a Marx Merrymakers Band toy. I've read that this toy has a mouse waving a baton sitting on top of the piano, but mine has a mouse playing a violin atop the piano. What's the story? Also, what is the difference between a lithographed toy and a tin toy?

A: One of Marx's most popular toys was the Merrymakers Band. It came in two versions: one had the mouse bandleader on the piano, the other had the mouse violin player. Some of the toys came with a moon-shaped backdrop. The most desired variation has the backdrop and the violinist. The toy was introduced in 1931 and sold for 98 cents. All of the Merrymakers toys are made of tin and are decorated with lithographs of the mice, the piano and the backs of the chairs. Depending on the condition of your toy, it could be worth from $600 to $1,200.

Q: I own a chronometer in a cherry-wood double-lidded box. The case inside is silver and is inscribed "Lukens, London." Could you give me any information about age, history and value?

A: Chronometers were invented in the 1700s to keep time at sea. They're very accurate under extreme conditions of temperature, atmospheric pressure and movement. Your chronometer was probably made by Isaiah Lukens (1779-1846), a clockmaker in Philadelphia. He probably had a sales agent in London, because England was the world's major sea power and the largest market for chronometers. Your chronometer, if working and in excellent condition, could sell for $2,000 or more.

Q: I have a blue iridescent glass vase signed "Durand" inside a large letter "V." Alongside the V there are two numbers, "1812" and "7." The vase, about 7 inches tall, is in great condition. Who made it and what is it worth?

A: Your vase was made at the Durand Art Glass Co. in Vineland, N.J., between 1924 and 1931. Victor Durand Sr. and his son, Victor Jr., founded the Vineland Flint Glass Works in 1897, but art glass wasn't made there until Martin Bach Jr., Emil J. Larson and other trained glass artists joined the firm in 1924. Durand glass competed for sales with Tiffany, Steuben and Quezal art glass. Your vase, with the large V mark, probably dates from the late 1920s. The 7 in the mark refers to the vase's height, and the 1812 is probably a shape number. Durand vases with decorations usually are worth more than plain ones. Your vase could sell for more than $500.

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