Fort Myers Florida Weekly

Cold bronze technique lost


This cold-painted cobbler shop lamp, about 9 inches high, was offered for sale at an auction for $2,000 to $4,000. COURTESY PHOTO

This cold-painted cobbler shop lamp, about 9 inches high, was offered for sale at an auction for $2,000 to $4,000. COURTESY PHOTO

Bronze figures usually are signed by artists, who sometimes use initials or strange names that are hard to find in the important art listings. Nam Greb was an artist who made detailed, colorful cold painted bronze figures in Austria during the early 19th century. Some of his work was easy to identify. He favored tabletop scenes of Oriental life with colorful tents, figures in Arab garb, market stalls and animals. Some were even small lamps. But some figures of men had cloaks that opened to show erotic scenes or women who, when the doors opened, were naked. The strange name “Nam Greb” was the reverse spelling of Bergman, the name of a well-known Austrian artist who also made conservative figures for his regular customers. Franz Bergman (or Bergmann, 1861- 1936) lived in Vienna, Austria. In about 1900, he inherited a bronze factory from his father. Bergman developed cold bronze decorations. They were made of several layers of paint that were not fired. Unfortunately, his technique has been lost.

Q: Years ago, my father brought home an autographed color photo of Emmett Kelly. It was made out to me personally. I still have it. Is this something that is considered a collectible? Is it worth anything?

A: Emmett Kelly (1898-1979), who is considered the world’s most famous clown, was born in Kansas. At an early age, his mother enrolled him in a correspondence school for cartooning. He later gave “chalk talks” and entertained in schools. He created his signature character, Weary Willie, in the early 1920s while working for a film company. In 1937, he performed that character for the first time. Kelly worked for Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey from 1942 until it closed in 1956. He also worked in movies, television and night clubs. There are collectors of Emmett Kelly memorabilia as well as collectors of clown items. Autographed photos of Kelly have sold from $50 to about $200. Your name in the autograph will lower the value. Collectors pay less for personalized autographs.

Q: I have been researching a cabinet that looks like it was made for cocktails. It’s wood with carved panels of Asian scenes. The top opens and the front drops down to reveal a mirrored bar. The sides open for storage and the corners have fitted stemware racks. I was told it might be by George Zee. I like it and won’t sell it, but what is it worth?

A: Your liquor/bar cabinet sounds like it was made by George Zee & Co. George Zee studied at the Princeton Seminary, then went into the furniture business in Shanghai in the 1930s. He was good at attracting Western clients, and his company became one of the leading Chinese furniture makers in Shanghai. Just before the communists took over in 1949, Zee left Shanghai for Hong Kong, where he re-established his business. Zee died in 1967 and the business was left to his widow. It closed in 2010. George Zee cocktail cabinets have sold at auction for $500 to $700.

Q: I was given a set of Poppytrail by Metlox dinner service for four. It includes plates, cups and saucers, bowls and a small creamer and sugar bowl, and they are in perfect condition. What is the set worth?

A: Metlox Potteries was founded by Theodore C. Prouty and his son, Willis, in Manhattan Beach, Calif., in 1927. The company was sold to Evan K. Shaw in 1946. Poppytrail was a division of Metlox from 1946 to 1989, when the pottery closed. Several hundred Poppytrail patterns were made. Prices depend on the desirability of the pattern. A five-piece place setting of Sculptured Grape, including two plates, bowl, and cup and saucer, was offered for sale for $36. A sugar in that pattern sold for $16, and a creamer sold for $20.

Q: I’d like information about a National Cash Register I have. The serial number is 4473484. How old is it and what is it worth?

A: National Cash Register was founded in Dayton, Ohio, in 1884. Brass cash registers were made from the 1890s to about 1918. Metal cases stamped and painted to look like wood were made beginning about 1918. The serial number indicates your cash register was made in 1948. Old ornate brass and marble cash registers sell for high prices, from hundreds to over $1,000. Newer models like yours that are not brass sell for much less.

Tip: Don’t wrap Christmas ornaments in newspaper. The ink may rub off. Don’t store them in plastic bags. Moisture may condense and cause problems.

— Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel answer questions sent to the column. Write to Kovels, Florida weekly, King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803.

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