Phonolamps fell out of fashion fast

Phonographs were invented in 1877. The early ones had one needle for recording and another needle for playing. The music was recorded on tinfoil-coated cylinders using a needle to make tiny lines that, when played with the other needle, made sounds.

Thomas Edison, the inventor, founded his own company to make phonographs. He also invented movies, the light bulb and many other things, but failed to create a cement that could be used to make a case for the phonograph. And he never succeeded in making motion pictures with sound or creating a new way to mine iron ore. His phonograph company was successful for a while, and he even designed a combination phonograph-lamp in about 1920.

The lamp was made to be kept on a table in the living room so the whole family could listen. Many versions were made in the popular styles of the day. A design called a Phonolamp was made about 1920. It had an electric motor, metal case and an embroidered lampshade. These combination lamps soon went out of style but are liked by phonograph collectors.

A rare, working Phonolamp recently was sold in a German auction for $1,967.


Q: I have a print by Maude Goodman, and I’m wondering about its age and value.

A: Maude Goodman (1860-1938) was born in Manchester, England, and moved to London. She did sentimental paintings of women and children in Victorian settings. Her work was relatively unknown until the 1880s. Several of her paintings were exhibited in the Royal Academy of Arts in London in the late 1800s. Artwork has to be seen by an expert to determine the value. An original lithograph of one of her works sold at auction for $177, but many online sites sell reproductions of original works of art for $10 or less.


Q: Am I the only one collecting hubcaps? I can find and buy them, but I have little history about when they were first used and how styles differ?

A: There are many collectors of hubcaps, wheel covers and other car parts. Hubcaps literally are caps for the hub of a wheel. The early cars had wheels with wooden spokes connecting the outer steel rim to the center hub. The hub was filled with grease, and the hub cap was used to keep the grease in place. Steel wire spokes replaced the wooden ones in the 1920s, and they too needed a hubcap. In 1934, Cadillac added a stainless-steel disc that covered most of the spokes and was held by a hubcap. Cadillac changed to a wheel like the one used today in 1938, and enlarged the hubcaps into wheel covers. But the name “hubcap” was still used. In 1950, the chromed Cadillac hubcaps were so popular they were being stolen off the cars. Aluminum hubcaps were next. They were light weight and gave the car less weight and added speed. The 1970s was the beginning of plastic hubcaps that looked like aluminum caps. By the 1980s, plastic replaced almost all of the steel hubcaps. Collectors can search online, at flea markets or at car accessories auctions for metal or plastic hubcaps with different car logos.


Q: I have a set of dishes marked “Stetson China Rio.” The dinner plates all have the stamped mark, but the platters, bowls and cups and saucer are not marked. Are these knock-offs?

A: Stetson started as a decorating and distributing company in 1919 in Illinois. By 1946, Stetson China Company was making ceramic and Melmac (plastic) dinnerware. The company closed in 1966. Pieces often were not marked. The word “Rio” is the shape name. Your set probably was made about 1950. Many patterns were hand-painted on this shape. Stetson dinner plates sell for about $20 from matching services.


Q: I inherited my grandfather’s pocket knife. It’s embossed with an animal running through the woods and mountains in the background. The back is stamped “Imperial, Prov. RI.” Can you give me its history?

A: The Imperial Knife Company was founded by brothers Felix and Michael Mirando, who began making knives in a blacksmith shop in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1917. At first, the company made folding knife skeletons (knives with handles without covering material) for jewelers to use for pocket watch chains. The company began making inexpensive pocket knives with plastic handles in the 1920s. It became the largest knife manufacturer in the United States by 1940. Production shifted to trench knives and bayonets for the military during World War II. The company became part of the Imperial Knife Associated Companies Group in 1947. The name became Imperial Schrade Corporation in 1984. That company closed in 2004, and the name and trademarks were bought by Taylor Cutlery of Kingsport, Tennessee.


Tip: The more a charm bracelet charm moves or makes noise, like a tiny roulette wheel or whistle, the higher the price.