July 19, 2024

Antiques & Collecting: Mechanical creatures

Is it a music box, a toy, a showpiece or a robot? Wind it with a key, and a feathery bird pops out to chirp and flutter in a lifelike way.

Robots may sound like cutting-edge technology or science-fiction dreams of the future, but automated mechanical creatures have captured people’s imaginations for centuries. Animals and music were always popular themes.

Legends say that King Solomon surrounded his throne with mechanical animals, including lions that would raise their paws and roar when he approached and birds that would descend to give him his crown and a scroll.

There are records from the Middle Ages and Renaissance of clever inventors in Europe and Asia creating mechanical animals and musicians.

Despite all this innovation, the “Golden Age of Automata” did not arrive until the 19th century. Technology had advanced enough to make automata accessible outside of royal palaces, but not so much that the novelty had worn off.

All kinds of automata were made with different levels of complexity, from pictures with moving paper figures to life-size mechanical puppets.

Music boxes with mechanical features were popular, too. A favorite style was the singing bird, like this one that sold for $4,560 at Morphy Auctions.

It was made in Germany in the late 19th century and winds with a key. When it is wound, a small bird with red feathers pops out of the enameled box to chirp and flap its wings.

I have a Boy Scout handbook, “Revised Edition, 13th Printing, One Hundred Thousand Copies.” It has a list of copyrights from 1911 to 1930. It is in fair condition. The cover and first page are torn, and the back is taped. What is it worth?

The Boy Scouts of America started in 1910. The first handbook, titled “The Official Handbook for Boys,” was published in 1911.

The title of the handbook has been changed several times. From 1927 to 1948, it was “Revised Handbook for Boys.” The copyright dates in your handbook indicate it was printed in 1930 or shortly after.

A Norman Rockwell painting called “Spirit of America,” originally made for a 1929 Boy Scout calendar, was used for the cover art on the handbook from 1927 through 1937.

It pictures the profile of a Boy Scout against a blue background with profiles of Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Charles Lindbergh, a frontiersman and an American Indian. Copies in poor condition usually sell for $10 or less.

Tip: Spray the inside of a glass vase with nonstick food spray. It will keep the water from staining the glass.

Current Prices

Card set, Funny Valentine, multicolor illustration and inscription on front, insult on reverse, black and white with red accents, Topps, 1959, 66 pieces, $85.

Paper, Valentine, cutwork, watercolor, red, yellow, green, ring of eight hearts around center medallion, inscription in each heart, swags, stylized flowers, painted frame, 19th century, 11 inches, $500.

Teddy bear, Teddy Baby replica, brown fur, stitched nose, red collar, yellow tag in ear, Steiff, 1980s, 11 inches. $945.

Terry and Kim Kovel

For more collecting news, tips and resources, visit www.Kovels.com. © 2024 King Features Synd., Inc.