Antique Appraisals

What’s It Worth?: Label gives hint that reader’s painting isn’t what it appears

What’s It Worth

This framed painting is not what it might seem at first glance.
This framed painting is not what it might seem at first glance. Contributed photos

In today’s What’s It Worth? we answer a reader’s question about her grandfather’s framed art and research the value of an old, rather outdated newspaper artifact.

Q. My grandfather had this picture, but I don’t know how he came to have it. He lived in California. The art (I don’t know if it is a painting or a print) measures 27 by 48 inches. Can you provide some background and a possible value? — Michelle in Kennewick

A. The image in your artwork is a copy of a painting by the American artist Thomas P. Otter, who was born about 1832 in Philadelphia and lived until 1890. He painted landscapes, seascapes and western scenes of everyday life.

Not a great deal is known about Otter’s life, but he is a “Listed Artist.”

That is, his name appears in almost all of the major art directories — printed volumes and online data bases.

This picture, Moving Westward, is quite typical of Otter’s work.

The label on the back is also quite typical of the company responsible for your printed reproduction, its framing and quite possibly its sale.

The Illinois Moulding Company of Chicago was the brainchild of Hungarian immigrant Herman Molner. He founded the firm in 1896.

Windsor Art Products was the art publishing division of the company. Windsor, so the reports tell us, would license art for reproduction, then mass-produce works of their contracted artists. The idea was to make a line of “fine” art affordable to all.

The company outlived its founder, who passed away in 1951. Windsor Art Products continued into the late 1960s or early ’70s.

Many Windsor Art pictures were “enhanced” with real brush strokes to simulate an original painting. Quite a few were sold through so-called “starving artists” sales set up in hotel ballrooms and shopping malls.

Reproduction paintings such as this one are attractive, decorative pieces and that is how their value is determined. How much you like it will guide you to how much you are willing to pay for it.

They are relatively common in the market and seldom sell for more than $30 or so. Since the label on the back lists a ZIP Code in the address, we know it was produced after 1963 — when the ZIP system went into effect.

Q. I got this old metal newspaper delivery cylinder off of its post by trading the subscriber for a new one — so it cost me nothing. But, as the Spokane Chronicle — the late, lamented evening paper here — has been out of business for several decades, I got to wondering what the value might be. A friend recently told me it was collectible. What do you think? — Hugh in Spokane

A. I think this is pretty cool. And these are tough to find.

Mostly used in rural areas and not very often in the city, these cylindrical boxes were filled with the daily paper by carriers using vehicles to cover their routes.

Yours is obviously old, and has the sun fading of its orange background paint to prove it. In this case, old could be anywhere from the 1930s or 1940s right up until the time the metal boxes were phased out for those made of plastic. If we had to make an educated guess, we’d say this is between 50 and 75 years old. And, yes, it is a collectible item.

The identity on this piece not only tells the carrier which box should receive his or her newspaper, it also sends a not-too-subtle advertising message for the Spokane Chronicle.

The Spokane Chronicle was founded in 1881 and printed its last edition on the afternoon of July 31, 1992. That is a long run in an industry that has seen a large number of major daily newspapers fold up shop in the past quarter century or so.

Among the casualties have been the Seattle Post Intelligencer, the Minneapolis Star, Portland’s Oregon Journal and the Christian Science Monitor, which ended its print editions in 2008.

Hugh’s metal delivery box is quickly becoming a survivor from another age. It would be valued between $75 and $125.

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