Common household items don't bring big paychecks

By Terry Maurer, What's It WorthJune 15, 2014 

Q. We have an old oak library table. It has two drawers, the legs are turned oak with hand carving and there is an oak center piece to support the legs. There is more hand-carved trim. The drawer pulls are original. The top is 48 by 29 inches. I purchased this table in 1994 at an antique dealer's business in Portland. What would be a current value? -- Roy in Richland

A. Library tables are a quite common furniture form, their height of popularity was during the 19th century. Library table origins go back further than that, and they were widespread in England and France as well as the United States.

Made in just about any furniture design style you can imagine, those most popular are from the American Arts and Crafts era.

This table features turned legs, two drawers and a turned stretcher -- the piece running sideways under the table, supporting the legs. Sometimes these stretchers were flat and served as shelves.

Library tables were designed to hold books, periodicals and newspapers on the top surface, but they could serve any number of purposes. After all, a nice table is always handy. In modern times, some of them have been cut down to be used as coffee tables.

Much of the furniture we see, like this table, is unmarked. That makes identifying the origins challenging. It was most likely made in the United States, but the British Isles are also a possibility. We would describe it as Victorian, that is, made during the reign of Queen Victoria: 1837 to 1901.

It seems to be in excellent condition. Commonly found furniture pieces have experienced a marked decline in value during the past 10 to 20 years. At a well-advertised auction today, one would expect this table to bring between $500 and $750.

Q. Here is a hand-operated vegetable grinder, made in France. It has been in our family for several generations. Can you share with us any background or interesting facts about its use, and what it might be worth as a collectible? Thanks. -- Janet in Pasco

A. Your 13-inch-long French hand-cranked food mill was invented in 1932 by a man named Jean Mantelet. It is generally considered that his design is the grandfather of the modern food processor.

Mantelet got his start as owner of a small metal works in the eastern suburbs of Paris. A man of many talents and great ambitions, between 1929 and 1953 he applied for almost 100 patents.

In 1957, the by-now very successful company, Moulin-Lgumes, was renamed Moulinex. A few years later an advertising campaign used the slogan, "Moulines libre la femme," or "Moulinex, liberator of women."

By the 1960s, many of the hand-operated Moulinex kitchen implements had been motorized. That led to the marketing slogan, "Vive la cuisine presse-bouton!" or "Long live the push-button kitchen!"

Moulinex made a wide variety of kitchen gadgets. Included on the list is the first affordable electric coffee grinder, introduced in 1953. The company's products included various models of hand-operated graters, ricers, nutcrackers, pepper grinders and the like.

As happens with many international companies, financial difficulties brought on by changing markets and foreign competition brought the firm to its knees by the end of the 20th century. Moulinex declared bankruptcy in 2001. Today, the Moulinex brand is owned by SEB, a French firm that still makes kitchenware, including the Krups and Tefal product lines.

These are very functional devices and came with a selection of round blades. They can still be used to puree foods and are a handy kitchen gadget.

Quite easy to find -- Moulin food mills were made in the millions -- an expected price today would be $15 to $20.

-- Terry K. Maurer, Tri-Cities personal property appraiser, is a member of the Certified Appraisers Guild of America. For possible use in a future column, direct questions to What's It Worth? by email to tchwhatsitworth@

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