Question: When my favorite aunt died several years ago, I inherited a number of unused purses she collected from the 1980s through early 2010. One of my favorites is a metal mesh bag, 3 ¾ inches wide and 6 inches long with a 14-inch gold frame and carrying chain. The bag’s back is solid blue metal and on its front is a large colored portrait of actor Clark Gable. It is in perfect condition, and I am curious about its age, maker and possible worth. S.D., Hammonton
Answer: Your bag is one of four metal mesh portrait purses featuring Hollywood stars. They were introduced in 1976 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Whiting and Davis Company located in Massachusetts since 1876. At that time, Charles Whiting formed a partnership with Wade Davis that eventually became one of the most prestigious American makers of women’s handbags.
The anniversary portrait purses, made only for a short time, included the faces of “King of Hollywood” Clark Gable, Charlie Chaplin, Marion Davies and Renee Adoree.
During the early 1900s, Elsa Schiaparelli and other famous jewelry designers were offering similar bags and continued producing the popular purses until the beginning of WWII when metals were no longer available.
However, after the war’s end, demand for metal mesh handbags returned.
From the 1950s to the 1990s, large, soft mesh handbags as well as other metal mesh accessories and apparel were produced and by 2000, vintage and rare metal mesh bags had become popular collectibles.
Presently, Whiting and Davis continues to be recognized as the leading maker of metal handbags offered in a variety of shapes, designs, colors and styles.
Recently, a Whiting and Davis Clark Gable Hollywood Star Portrait bag like yours sold for $1,100.
Question: My husband and I recently attended an estate sale held at an old Atlantic City home that had once been a boarding house. We were very interested in the 17 cast-iron figural doorstops offered for sale and purchased one for our home. It is a lovely little cottage-style painted house, 8 inches wide, 4 ½ inches high and 2 ½ inches deep surrounded by flowers and marked “C.J.O. Judd Co. 1283.” Although there is some slight paint wear, the metal is not rusted. We would like to know who made this piece, when, where and if the $50 we paid for it was a fair price. B.B., Ocean City
Answer: The circa 1900-40 model 1283 doorstop you describe, frequently categorized as a house, home or cottage, was made by the Judd Manufacturing Company located in Connecticut. Founded as the J.H. Judd Co. in 1833, the firm originally made harnesses, but over the years, as it changed hands among family members, Judd became a cast-iron foundry.
Popular cast-iron items produced by Judd include doorstops, bookends and desk sets as well as still and mechanical banks. The pieces became so popular that Judd eventually opened a New York retail store where doorstops like yours were sold for decades.
Although many present asking prices listed for similar cottage doorstops with original painted, undamaged finish and without rust or surface wear range from $285 to $625, one sold last year for $175.
Alyce Hand Benham is an antiques broker, appraiser and estate-liquidation specialist. Send questions to: Alyce Benham, Living section, The Press of Atlantic City, 1000 W. Washington Ave., Pleasantville, NJ 08232. Email: treasuresbyalyce81@ hotmail.com. Letters may be used in future columns but cannot be answered individually, and photos cannot be returned.