Personal Effects, March 11

By JERRY SAMPSON

Contributing writer

Question: Mr. Sampson, this little tape measure has been in my mother’s sewing basket for as long as I can remember, and I’m an old lady. It’s a woman’s head and the tape part comes out from under her chin. It measures about two inches long. The tape is real fragile and she put a safety pin in it years ago. There is something written on the bottom but I can’t read it. There is no other damage like chips or missing parts. Is it hand painted? Thank you for your help and your interesting articles.

Answer: What a charming piece. The stamp on the bottom says Germany. I admit that I had to look at it more than once to read it myself.

Look at that lady’s bobbed and coiffed hair, her turned up nose and those rosy cheeks. I’d say that she is certainly a flapper and dates to the 1920s.

These novelty porcelain pieces were created by the truck load in Germany. Remember these porcelain manufacturers were power houses in Germany. Many had been operating for more than 200 years, when this tape measure was made.

I’ve seen perfume bottles, pin cushions, pen wipers, glue pots, bathing beauties, but this is the first tape measure I’ve ever seen. She’s made of porcelain and yes, she is hand painted and painted very well too.

Though these items were inexpensive, they had rigid quality standards.

Don’t worry about the tape being held in place by a safety pin. I’m surprised that it’s there at all and that it still works. These would have been found in five and dime stores all over the country.

She likely sold for 50 cents originally. Today, in a nice antiques store, I’d think that you’d see her priced at $40. Thanks for sharing it.