Antique Appraisals

What’s It Worth?: Baby carriage a common collectible, but with good value

What’s It Worth?

Americans — along with the rest of the world — have been pushing baby buggies for almost 150 years.
Americans — along with the rest of the world — have been pushing baby buggies for almost 150 years. Contributed photos

A reader asks about family’s old wicker baby carriage in today’s What’s It Worth?

Call it a pram — as the British do — or a baby buggy or a stroller, they are commonly seen items that have quite good value.

We also answer a question about an interesting wood container that once held gold paint.

Q. This baby carriage has been in the family for a number of generations. The frame is metal, the rest is woven and the tires are solid rubber. The base inside is also metal. There are no distinctive marks that I can find. Any info on how old it is and what it is worth? — Steve in Kennewick

A. Back in the day when the Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward catalogs were the Amazons of the world, you could order a baby carriage like this one and have it delivered. They were so popular that just before the turn of the 20th century, Sears distributed a catalog containing only baby carriages.

Wicker on a metal frame has always been the preferred construction method. Such American companies as Wakefield Rattan and the Heywood Brothers Co. made hundreds of thousand of these starting in about 1870. That was before the two firms merged businesses in 1897, and went on to produce what is now highly collectible Mid-Century Modern birch wood furniture in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s.

Other American makers included Gendron Wheel and the F. A Whitney Carriage Co.

It is not surprising that Steve’s example is unmarked. Many came with metal tags or paper stickers that either fall off or get removed over the years.

Before World War I, wicker baby carriages sold from $2.50 to $33.50.

Carriages of the early 1900s could be very ornate, featuring wire wheels and extra trim. Many had a parasol to keep sun off the baby.

This pram seems to be in quite good condition and even without a maker’s label, we’d value it at between $100 and $200.

Q. This came from an estate sale locally and I really don’t know what it is — except the label says it held gold paint, “Ready Mixed” and was Japanese. The wood container is 4 1/2 inches tall and 2 inches in diameter. Any ideas on this? — Edna in Richland

A. The label tells all, or almost all, in this case.

This is a small wood paint container from the Sapolin Co. Never heard of them? Neither had we.

Sapolin — of Brooklyn, N.Y. — was once a widely known, high-quality paint brand. They specialized in unique colors for metals, along with a line of regular wall and house paints.

Well-established by 1906, Sapolin made such speciality items as gold glazes and automobile enamels, as well as paints for floors and furniture.

Their “Japanese Gold Paint” was advertised as to be used for “all kinds of artistic and decorative gilding on any article.”

These orange, cylindrical wood boxes held a cork-stoppered glass bottle with about 4 ounces of paint. They were sold with a small brush and a descriptive brochure on how to use the paint. The little bottle is long gone — as is Edna’s — from almost all the examples we have seen.

Sapolin stayed in business until the 1960s or ’70s, although the firm went through several ownership changes, and many of their speciality products seem to have no longer been made after the mid-1940s.

Colorful and decorative, this little box (that is actually what it is) will sell for about $25, a little more if the internal bottle, brush and brochure are still there.

Terry K. Maurer, Tri–Cities personal property appraiser, is a senior member of the Certified Appraisers Guild of America. For possible use in a future column, direct questions on your antiques and collectibles to What's It Worth? by email to tchwhatsitworth@gmail.com

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