Kovels dancers

This pair of dancers titled “Cavaliere Indiano and Danzatrice Indiana” were made in the 1930s in Turin, Italy.

Pairs of ceramic dancing figures in exotic costumes were favorites in the Art Deco period, starting about 1920. Many different pairs about 19 or 20 inches high have been selling with the mark “Cia Manna” and sometimes the added words “Turin, Italy.” A search of old books and even new information online has offered little insight. The pairs of dancing figurines depict a bare-breasted woman and a shirtless man posing in exaggerated dance poses. Dozens of different pairs were made, most from 1925 to the 1950s.

An artist and designer named Mrs. Manna, who worked for the Lenci doll company, decided to form her own company in 1930. She named it Ceramica Italiana Artistica. The dancing figurines were marked “C.I.A. Manna.” Often the mark omitted the periods, so the first word looked like “Cia.” The company worked into the 1950s. The Art Deco look is still popular, and most of the pairs have sold for $800 to $1,500.

Q. Can you tell me what company used this mark? It pictures a globe with the word “Dresden” on it.

A. The Potters’ Co-Operative Co. of East Liverpool, Ohio, used this mark. The co-operative started in 1882 and included eight potteries from the East Liverpool area. One of those potteries was The Dresden Pottery Works, which was started by Brunt, Bloor, Martin and Company in 1875 or 1876. White ware, hotel ware, toilet ware and some decorative ware was made. The pottery was renamed Dresden Pottery Company in 1925 and went out of business in 1927.

Q. My great-aunt left a chair for me in her will. I had always admired it as a young girl because it is decorated with shiny pieces of shell and painted gold trim. The chair is black, lightweight, curvy and has a woven seat. I think it is made of papier-mache. Can you give me some history because when I show it to friends, they always ask how old it is?

A. It sounds like you have an English papier-mache chair made in the 1850s. This type of furniture was popular from the late 18th to the early 19th centuries. The process for making a hard paper product that could be sawed and glued like wood was invented by Henry Clay in 1772. The furniture could be made in molds. It became so popular, Birmingham and Wolverhampton, England, became the center of a new industry. The first American factory was in Litchfield, Connecticut, from 1850 to 1854. Furniture was made in the same style as the wooden Victorian pieces. The chair base was made of papier-mache, lacquered and decorated with painted flowers and ornaments. Pieces were often given more decoration by gilding other patterns and using mother-of-pearl inlay. By the late 1860s, fashions had changed, and women were wearing large crinoline skirts. Some say the black chairs went out of style because they were lightweight and would tip over when the woman and her skirt got up. A small “slipper chair,” which is what you seem to have, sells today for about $1,000 in very good condition. Repairs are difficult and almost always show.

Q. Do McDonald’s restaurant giveaway toys have any resale value? My children have been saving them in the unopened packages for more than 15 years. Is there a way to tell the age?

A. Very few McDonald’s Happy Meal toys are worth a lot of money. Most full sets (eight or more toys) given away in the past five years are worth under $50 at a retail source. That means a single toy is worth less than $5, and they usually are just $1 or $2, if you are lucky. The 1987 set of 12 Mr. Potato Head toys retails at $75. It is said that a set of eight Furby toys from 2000 sold for $900, but that may be a myth. Other old sets (be sure it is the original set, many have been repeated) including Beanie Babies, Lion King or even Jerry from the movie Despicable Me can sell for over $100. A British petition is currently calling for an end to Happy Meal and other fast-food chain plastic toys due to concerns about their environmental impact.

Q. When and where did they make the small, round, porcelain boxes that had advertising lids with black printed letters? I also have seen a few with color decorations. The shops call them “advertising pot lids.”

A. The first ceramic containers with printed advertising lids were made to hold fish paste around the second half of the 18th century in England. The pots were made in the Staffordshire district until the end of World War I. They contained bear’s grease, cold cream, ointments, shaving cream and toothpaste. Tooth powder had been packaged in paper bags or wooden containers, but the ceramic pots with transfer-printed messages or hand-lettered names became the standard. The shape changed slightly from round pots with flat or domed lids to rectangular and square pots in the late 1870s and ‘80s. A few oval pots were made. Sizes ranged from one inch in diameter to five inches.

It is claimed that there are 10,000 different English pot lids and fewer than 300 American ones.

TIP: Never push antique furniture across the floor. Pick it up. Old furniture may have weak glue joints and may be damaged in the process.

Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel answer questions sent to the column. By sending a letter with a question and a picture, you give full permission for use in the column or any other Kovel forum. Names, addresses or email addresses will not be published. We cannot guarantee the return of photographs, but if a stamped envelope is included, we will try. The amount of mail makes personal answers or appraisals impossible. Write to Kovels, (The Daily Times), King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803.

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