NewslettersRuby Lane's newsletters are designed to celebrate the antiques and art, vintage collectibles and jewelry communities around the world. Our Past Times newsletter focuses on antiques and collectibles. Our Creative Hands newsletter celebrates fine art and handcrafted jewelry on Ruby Lane. Our shop owners are frequent article contributors, sharing their expertise and their passions for the items they collect and create. Enjoy!
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Ruby Lane's Past Times Newsletter for February 2006
The monthly newsletter from Ruby Lane Antiques, Collectibles,
Fine Art, and Artisans
Welcome to Past Times! IN THIS ISSUE:
o The Romance of Antique Rocking Horses by Sally McGurn of
Sally's Rocking Horses
o Vintage Cake Toppers by Penny Henderson of Sentimental
o February EDITOR'S PICK: A Token Of Love
o Share Past Times with A Friend
MCGURN OF SALLY'S ROCKING HORSES My passion for rocking horses started at the tender age of 11,
when I purchased my first horse. This grew to a collection of
six horses by the time I was in my twenties. When I wanted to
buy another horse, I had to sell one to finance it. At that
point I realised just how much interest there was in rocking
horses. My business began trading two years ago and we have gone
from strength to strength. Biggest achievements so far include
becoming the supplier of rocking horses to the antiques
department in Harrods of Knightsbridge, and supplying 28 rocking
horses to a museum in Japan. Rocking Horses are very rare in
Japan and the arrival of ours caught the attention of national
TV and newspapers!!
Our rocking horses vary greatly in age, appearance and price.
They all have one thing in common though. They were all made as
toys and have been used and loved. There is something very sad
about a rocking horse which remains in "as new" condition.
The top makers of Rocking horses in the UK, are F H Ayres, G and
J lines and Collinsons. Ayres and Lines horses are quite
different to look at. Lines horses tend to be prettier and more
feminine whereas Ayres horses can be quite wild looking. Both
Ayres and Lines produced some of the finest rocking horses and
supplied such stores as Harrods and Hamleys. Collinsons were
reputed to have been the oldest established firm of rocking
horses in England and maybe the world. They were based in
Liverpool from 1836 through to 1993. The company stayed in the
Collinsons family throughout.
Traditionally there were two main styles of rocking horse. The
earlier ones were on traditional bow rockers. The safety or
swing stand was invented in the 1880s. It was thought to be
safer. Bows are beautiful, but they take up a lot of room, they
tend to travel across the floor when being ridden, and there is
a real danger that siblings get their fingers caught underneath
Early bow rocking horses are very collectable and realise high
prices. The earliest bow in my collection at the moment, is
Wallace who pre-dates 1850.
Very collectable rocking horses include the Ayres spring horse,
Ayres swivel head and three seated rocking horses. Only a
handful of Ayres swivel heads have ever been found. My swivel
head sold recently at a cost of almost 20,000.00 sterling. The
Ayres spring stand is an interesting horse. My spring stand can
be seen on my website. He is a large extra carved horse, who has
been fully restored retaining his original paintwork. He has
recently been on loan to the Guards Museum in London. His
saddle cloth has an embroidered George fifth royal cypher.We
have the original remnant royal cypher which was removed during
restoration. This horse was reputed to have been owned by King
George fifth. We are currently researching this fascinating
piece of history.
Three seated rocking horses are beautiful and very collectable.
My three seater bow Lucy Grey, is currently undergoing
restoration and will be available shortly. She was made in
London by Lines circa 1910.
The finest quality English rocking horses always had horse hair
manes and tails, glass eyes and turned pillars on their swing
stands. If a horse has lost its saddle, check its back. Earlier
rocking horses always had side saddle pommels for girls. These
were detachable and usually got lost over the years, leaving two
round holes in the horses back at the base of the neck. A useful
way of checking age.
Be very wary of horses with carved manes. English rocking horses
never had carved manes. A large amount of reproduction rocking
horses were imported into America and UK during the 1980s. They
are quite pretty horses to the untrained eye. They are usually
not perfect. Many will have broken stirrup leathers which have
been tied. They are easily identified by their carved manes and
poorly carved feet and legs. These horses have no value,
although I do see a large amount of them advertised for sale as
antique, Georgian and Victorian!!
There have been few books published on rocking horses, but the
"must have" for rocking horse enthusiasts is The Rocking Horse,
a history of moving toy horses by Patricia Mullins. This
beautiful book is sadly now out of print, although copies can
sometimes be found to purchase.
We invite you to visit Sally's shop: Sally's Rocking Horses.
SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY The Wedding Cake Topper – The quintessential love token and
promise of eternal love. The topper stands proudly on top of the
wedding cake symbolizing the beginning of a new life together as
husband and wife.
I have been collecting wedding cake toppers since the 1980's.
Just when I think I have seen them all I find other varieties
and compositions to add to my collection. The dates of my cake
toppers span from the 1870's to the 1980s. My favorites however
are the antique toppers that are very difficult to find. They
are rare because, with the exception of the fabric flowers, they
are made entirely of a sugar base material, which includes the
base, the bride and groom, cupid, or a horseshoe on top.
Discussing cake toppers is my favorite subject, and because my
collection was expanding into the hundreds, and I had gathered
so much information about them, I decided to write a book on
the subject. The book is called "Vintage Wedding Cake Toppers"
and is published by Schiffer Publishing. In this newsletter I am
going to discuss how to get started collecting, what you should
know about the topper, and how to avoid disappointment. Since
there are also many kinds of cake toppers with different
decorations, such as, brides and grooms, cherubs, horseshoes,
kewpies, bells, and birds, I will concentrate only on the
traditional bride and groom cake toppers in this newsletter.
There has been no documentation found to date, as to exactly
when the first "bride and groom" actually topped a wedding
cake. However, the actual ‘cake toppers' that could be taken
off the cake and saved for posterity were being produced in the
1890's. Cake toppers are made of various kinds of
compositions. Beginning in the 1800's they were made of
different types of sugar based materials, hereafter described as
food product. Most of them were made in molds but occasionally
you can find examples of hand made brides and grooms, cupids,
and horseshoes as well. The molded types of bride and groom
cake toppers using food products were produced well into the
1930s. The only difference is the skirts became shorter in the
1920s due to fashion changes. I recently acquired two bakery
supply catalogs and made an interesting discovery: One catalog
is from the late 1920s, and the other dates to the 1930s. Both
catalogs were still selling cake toppers that look exactly like
the Victorian style toppers made in the late 1800's.
There always seems to be something new to learn about cake
toppers. Later brides and grooms were made in bisque,
porcelain, celluloid, plastic, paper mache, metal, chalkware,
ceramic, wax, and wood - just about everything you could
imagine. Figures made of bisque, paper mache, food product, and
celluloid were prevalent in the 1920s and 1930s. Wax figures and
‘hands' were used to decorate cakes from the late 1800s and into
the 1930s. If these decorations were set on bases the base was
usually made of a food product. In the late 1930s and early
1940s a new form of hard, thick, plastic was also being used for
the bride, groom, and base. However, production of cake toppers
appears to have ceased during the WWII period. During this
period wedding cakes were in short supply due to sugar
rationing. Imports from Japan and Germany ceased during these
years. After the war American companies began producing
chalkware cake toppers. Chalkware brides and grooms can be found
on food product, and chalkware bases. The chalkware bride,
groom, and base were also molded into a single unit. In the
1950s chalkware, ceramic, and later plastic, brides and grooms
appeared on plastic bases. The 1960s became the era of the
all-plastic topper. The above is a good rule of thumb, but on
the downside, there are no guarantees about the compositions
since there was a lot of overlapping of materials into different
decades. That is why it is helpful to consider the style of
clothing the bride and groom is wearing on the cake topper.
Bride and groom cake toppers can be closely dated by the style
of their attire.
However, there are always exceptions that can mislead you, such
as the example I mentioned above, with the Victorian style
toppers being produced into the 1930s. That being said, you
should come close to identifying the age of most cake toppers by
the styles of the time. Below is a short synopsis of the style
changes from the 1890s to the 1970s. Throughout the late 1800s
to the early 1900s the bride wore the long flowing Victorian
wedding gown. In the late teens to the early 1920s gowns became
slightly shorter so the feet could be seen. The mid-1920s gown
was just below the bride's knees and usually had a tiered
hemline. The 1930s was the long sleek form-fitting gown. In the
1940s the fuller gown with peplums and puffed shoulders was in
style. The 1950s ushered in the crinoline skirts and molded
bosom, while the 1960s lifted the waistline and the shift style
prevailed. In the late 1960's the style became nostalgic with
the Victorian style button down fronts and high collar and
cuffed sleeves. Brides wore knee length skirts as well as all
the former styles from past decades in the 1970s. Once again,
there is no guarantee of the actual date the cake topper was
used because at the time they were still producing cake toppers
from one decade to the next without changing the styles on the
bride and groom.
The style changes that I have mentioned above will give you an
idea of the time the topper may have been used, usually within a
10 year period. Sometimes we are lucky enough to find a cake
topper with written documentation, or the date handwritten on
the bottom. Unfortunately, it is rare to find documentation and
the exact date the topper was used. The good news is, when the
chalkware cake toppers were being produced the companies often
dated them and gave the manufacturers name. Many of the plastic
toppers in the late 1950s through the 1970s also give you this
information. These dated toppers were probably used on a
wedding cake within five to ten years after they were produced.
The cake toppers that are made of a food product are the most
desirable for many collectors and rarest to find because of
their fragility. Many of them have deteriorated because they
weren't properly taken care of, or bugs have chewed on them.
Because of this they are very rare and you can expect to pay a
high dollar depending on the age and quality. Quality is most
important, however because antique toppers are so rare, some
damage or discoloration is usually expected and is acceptable.
The only other exception, with damage considered acceptable,
are the WWII wedding cake toppers. They are rare to find so you
can expect to pay top dollar for them even with a little damage.
Personally, unless the cake topper is one of a kind, or as
described above, I don't accept damage of any kind. However, if
you find one that is damaged and inexpensive enough, you might
consider purchasing it with the intent of replacing it with one
of better quality at a later date. Depending on how ornate the
topper is you can expect to pay from $200 USD to 600 and
possibly more for a rare example from the late 1800s to the
early 1900s. The World War II military toppers range from $100
to $400 The ones with more decoration such as flags, red,
white, and blue ribbon, and/or the size of the bride and groom,
the price will escalate. If you find a rare military topper
from the WWI period you can expect to pay much more. Celluloid
and bisque toppers range in price from $50 to $200. Depending
on their decorations. If the bisque couple is made in Germany,
prior to the war, the value could go higher. Chalkware toppers
start at $50 and can go for as much as $130. Once again
depending on the decorations. Plastic toppers range in price
from $10 to $85 depending on age and uniqueness. Please note
that these price evaluations were NOT gathered from on-line
auctions, such as eBay. Auction prices are not consistent due to
many different factors. I compiled my values from antiques
shows, shops and malls, and antiques flea markets across the
You will find many types of wedding cake toppers for sale on
Ruby Lane. By now, you should have an idea of what type of a
cake topper you'd like to collect whether it is by decade,
style, composition, or all of the above. With the tools I have
given you, hopefully you will feel comfortable making an
educated decision in evaluating your cake toppers value and
date. Most important, collect what you like so you will be happy
with your collection for many years to come.
We invite you to visit Penny's shop: Sentimental Journey.
And according to certain scholars it was the English poet,
Geoffrey Chaucer, who first truly associated romantic love with
St. Valentines Day. In his 1381 poem "The Parliament of
Fowls", the love making of birds in the Spring, popularly
believed in Medieval times to occur mid-February, was connected
by Chaucer specifically to St. Valentine's Day.
"For this was on St. Valentine's Day, When every fowl cometh
there to choose his mate."
"The Parliament of Fowls", was penned by Chaucer to honor the
betrothal of Richard II, king of England, and Anne of Bohemia,
whom the king married in1382. Because their marriage was
apparently a happy one for both, Chaucer's poem in their honor,
the mating of birds in the Spring, and eros (romantic love),
became inextricably linked with St. Valentine's day in the minds
of the people.
In 1415, some thirty years after "The Parliament of Fowls" was
written, the correspondence thought to be the oldest surviving
example of a Valentine love poem was sent. It was composed by
the Duke of Orleans while a prisoner in the Tower of London and
it was intended for his young wife, Bonne of Armagnac, whom he
had married only five years before. Charles remained a prisoner
in the Tower for twenty-five years. Though Bonne was to receive
messages that expressed his longing for her during the years of
his imprisonment, she was never again to see an expression of
love on his face. She died before he was finally released in
1440. The Valentine that Charles had written to Bonne soon
after he was sent to the Tower is now housed in the British
Library in London.
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