Many mystery clocks sell for high prices

The Gilt Ceres, Goddess of Agriculture, holds a suspended clock that appears to be running without any power source. She is 28 inches high. The clock, made about 1890 in France, was sold by Skinner Auctions of Boston for $5,843.

What is a mystery clock? How does it work? Magicians never tell the secrets of their trade. But the secret of the mystery clock, first made in the 1860s, has been exposed.

The most famous mystery clock had a figure, often a goddess, who held a long pendulum that swung for no obvious reason. She stood on a circular base with a platform. The platform moved slightly, making the pendulum swing and the clock hands move to tell the time.

A different type of mystery clock was made in the 20th century. It was very popular from the 1950s to the 1980s. A normal-looking circular face that was secretly made of four glass discs was set in a modern looking case, usually rectangular. The hands were glued to the discs. The numbers for the hours were on a band on the case that went around the glass, so the hands seem to float on the glass while keeping the time. Many of these clocks were made with gold and jewels and sold for high prices.

Ceres, the goddess of agriculture, is featured in a mystery clock that sold late in November for $5,843. She is holding a ball-shaped black clock suspended on chains from her left hand. The round black clock has raised Roman numerals, and it furnishes the necessary rotation.



Q: I have an old 20-inch toy Army truck by Buddy L. It was given to my brother in 1940. The truck has a green metal body, a canvas cover and rubber wheels. The side door is embossed with "Buddy L." The truck is in good condition. What is it worth?

A: Your Army transport truck with the Buddy "L" bar and circle logo embossed on the door was made from 1939 to 1940. The truck was sold alone or with a trailer. It's worth $90 to $175, depending on its condition. The Buddy "L" company goes back to the Moline Pressed Steel Co. that was started by Fred A. Lundahl in 1913 in Moline, Illinois. His son, Arthur Brown Lundahl, was born in 1915 and nicknamed Buddy. Another boy named Buddy lived in their neighborhood, and to avoid confusion, Buddy Lundahl was called Buddy "L." His father's company began making toys under the name, Buddy "L" in 1921. Buddy "L" toys still are being made.



Q: I have a delicate blue and gold cup and saucer with flowers that is marked "Dresden, Saxony" along with an animal that looks like a calf. I'd love it if you could give me some information about it.

A: The mark on your cup and saucer was used by Ambrosius Lamm, a decorator who opened a studio in Dresden, Germany, in 1887. He decorated porcelain made by the famous manufacturers in the nearby town of Meissen. His mark shows a lamb over the word "Dresden." The word "Saxony" was added in 1915 and used until about 1934, when the mark was changed to say "Made in Saxony." That is when your cup and saucer were made. When Lamm retired in 1934, his daughter took over the business and continued to operate it until 1949. The fancy blue and gold decoration on your cup and saucer suggests the set is worth $100 to $150.



Q: I have six luncheon plates and six cups and saucers marked on the bottom "Designed for Pan Am" above an oval mark for "Bauscher Weiden, Bavaria, Germany." They are solid white with a gold border and are surprisingly sturdy. Do they have any value, or should I just give them to my granddaughter for her kitchen play?

A: Pan American Airlines was in business from 1927 until 1991. Early Pan Am planes had "dining rooms," where passengers dined at tables set with china plates, silverware and real glassware, not plastic. Dinnerware was made especially for Pan Am by several different manufacturers from the 1930s to the 1980s. Airline china, like railroad china, and other restaurant ware, is heavier, making it less likely to break with constant use. Your dishes are the "Gold Rim" pattern originally made by Noritake in Japan in the early 1970s. Later, the same pattern was made by Bauscher Weiden. Another white pattern, with a wavy border design, was made for Pan Am by Bauscher Weiden beginning in 1986. There are collectors who search for vintage airline and railroad china. Six place sets like yours might auction for $150 to $250 depending on where and when it is sold. It will sell best at an auction with other airplane collectibles.


Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel answer questions sent to the column. Write to Kovels, Tyler Morning Telegraph, King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., New York, New York, 10019.

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