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Decorative Andirons

Shining red and yellow eyes peer from the dancing shadows. This helps to give a cozy living room fireplace.

A cast iron figure of an owl perched on a twisted branch decorates each of these andirons, which sold as a pair for $660 at Morphy Auctions. They use the fire to their advantage with colored glass marbles that catch the light for eyes. Appropriately, they are marked Bright Eyes on the reverse.

Andirons have been used for hundreds of years to hold the logs off the fireplace floor, allowing for air circulation, and letting the fire burn brighter. They are also decorative, with styles changing over time. Animal and bird figures became popular by the 19th century.

Owls have been used in art and decoration since ancient times. Their big bright eyes and ability to see at night make them a symbol of wisdom. Being nocturnal, not to mention their eerie calls, means they are also associated with darkness and bad luck. Of course, a sign of bad luck can be a good thing for some!
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Q: I found the strangest tea set in my father’s attic. It must be for children be-cause the pieces are small. The background is white with an old lady holding a baby, a jester, and a frog smoking a pipe printed in red. The border and flowers are red, too. Most pieces have Punch printed on the bottom. There are 16 pieces, and all are in great condition. Can you tell me anything about the set and its possible value?

A: The tea set is a children’s set made by Charles Allerton & Sons, Staffordshire, England, in the late 19th century. The figures you describe are the famous slapstick puppets, Punch And Judy and their baby. The Punch character originated in 16th-century Italy. A routine comedy performance usually ends with another puppet (often his wife, Judy) the target of a hit by

Punch’s slapstick. Slapstick also began in 16th-century Italy when two thin pieces of wood were slapped together to make a loud exaggerated slapping sound during comedy shows. The puppets have been popular for about 350 years. Tea sets like yours have recently sold for $110 to $160.