July 25, 2021

Antiques & Collecting: Tramp art birdcage

What is tramp art? There is folk art, regional art, naive art, fine art and other very special names for groups of collectibles and antiques, but tramp art is probably the latest one to become popular.

Tramp art has been made for many years, but the name was invented by a folk-art author in 1959 to describe whittled objects made from old cigar boxes and other scrap wood.

Although wooden cigar boxes were used to hold cigars since the 1850s, the idea of chip carving the wood into picture frames, birdcages, dollhouses and more didn’t become a noticeable craft until about 1875 to the 1930s.

What is still called tramp art was made not only by the “tramps,” or hobos, of the past, but also by prisoners, sailors and others, almost always men. Today we can use a cellphone to fill lonely hours, but in the past, whittling and other crafts were popular.

At first collectors thought it was an American idea, but by the 1980s, antiques dealers were finding similar carved boxes in Europe, especially Germany, and bringing them back to sell at shows.

Today tramp art, like graffiti, has been accepted as an art form. This 34-inch-wide architectural tramp art birdcage has five doors and other openings. It sold at a Skinner auction in Boston as part of a collection of tramp art for $615.

I’ve been holding onto a pair of candlesticks given to me more than 40 years ago, and I never use them. They’re not really my thing. Can you help with the marks? It has a “W” in a circle with three curved lines on either side. It also says “sterling cement reinforced.” Any pricing info would be great, too.

Your candlesticks were made by Frank M. Whiting Co., of North Attleboro, Massachusetts. The company was in business from 1878 to 1940, when it became a division of Ellmore Silver Co. That company went out of business about 1960.

Silver that is “cement reinforced” also is called “weighted” silver. The heavy base helps the candlestick stand up.

One of the ways to value silver is to find the meltdown value by multiplying the current price of silver by the weight. The cement is heavy and makes judging silver value different. A weighted Whiting candlestick sold online for about $20.

Current Prices

Stoneware, water cooler, barrel, cobalt blue bands, crown stencil, metal spigot, Robinson Ransbottom, 4 gallon, 15 1/2 inches, $59.

Folk art, cane, dog handle, full body, wood, carved, Pennsylvania, 1800s, 33 3/4 inches, $71.

Gaudy Dutch, Single Rose pattern, plate, green & yellow leaves, blue & yellow border, 10 inches, $148.

Toy, Robot, Rotate-O-Matic Super Astronaut, black, red, feet, stop ‘n go, hinged door, blinking & shooting gun, sounds, S.H. mark, Japan, box, 1960s, 11 3/4 inches, $315.

Tip: Do not dry-clean an old quilt. The chemicals will damage the fabric.

Terry and Kim Kovel

For more collecting news, tips and resources, visit www.Kovels.com. © 2021 King Features Synd., Inc.