Folk art is unique and often is both useful and humorous.

At a Cowan’s auction in late 2012, an example of these traits was seen in a mirror offered for sale. The 19th century mirror’s pine frame was carved to look like a man, with his head at the top, shoe-clad feet at the bottom and hands held up near his neck. One hand holds five fingers up, the other just two.

The artist seems to be referring to the seven years of bad luck that awaits anyone who breaks a mirror. Or perhaps it was a gift for a seventh anniversary or just a suggestion of the lucky number seven. It was good luck for the seller. The mirror, only 17 inches high, was estimated at $1,000 to $1,500. It sold after a bidding battle for $5,700.


Q: I am thinking about remodeling my home office and am agonizing over replacing my old desk and chair. I bought the very heavy desk about 20 years ago from an elderly couple. It was made by the Imperial Desk Co. of Evansville, Ind. It has a few nicks, but it's in very good shape. The chair was made by Domore Chair Co. of Elkhart, Ind. I had it reupholstered about 18 years ago. It has a cast-metal frame and also is heavy. Are the desk and chair valuable antiques I should keep? And if so, is it OK to use them?

A: Your desk and chair are not valuable antiques. But they are good, solid pieces of office furniture. Depending on their style and condition, the desk might sell for about $350 and the chair for about $200. Base your decision on how useful the pieces are and if you like their “look.”


Q: I have a lithograph published by Associated American Artists. Can you tell me something about this group?

A: During the Depression, most people couldn’t afford fine art, so Reeves Lewenthal founded Associated American Artists in 1934 to provide art for the middle class. He hired well-known American artists, including Thomas Hart Benton and Grant Wood, to make lithographs, which were reproduced and sold in department stores. Later, the art was sold in the Associated American Artists gallery in New York City and by mail order. Watercolors, oil paintings and other works, including home furnishings, were also sold. Prints originally sold for $5 unframed and $7 framed. Today, some sell for hundreds or even thousands of dollars, depending on the artist.

Q: I recently found a unique item at a yard sale. It’s a ceramic pig with tiny holes on its back. Is it valuable?

A: Toothpick holders in the shape of animals became popular in the 1950s. They are fun to use at a party, but most aren't worth more than $20 to $25.