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posted: 8/3/2013 5:00 AM

Watch fob's time has come and gone

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  • The image on this fob is very Art Deco.

    The image on this fob is very Art Deco.

By Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson

Q. I have an item that was handed down to me after my parents' passing. I have seen nothing like it before. On the hideaway nail file is engraved "Robeson Shuredge" and on the back of the fob is the name "Airco." Can you help me?

A. Many men collect pocket watches, but few actually wear them these days with the chains and the dangling ornaments that went along with them.

Starting around World War I, the wristwatch came into vogue. By World War II, the pocket watch was largely a sartorial and horological (i.e., the art and science of measuring time) memory. Now all but a scattered and tiny minority of men wear wristwatches, if they wear a timepiece at all in the age of smartphones.

We believe the item in today's question was designed to be a watch fob. Actually, the fob is the short chain or ribbon that was attached to the watch to make it easier to retrieve from the narrow vest pocket where it was typically stored. But the term "watch fob" can also refer to an ornament suspended from the chain.

Today's object appears to be an advertising watch fob that was probably worn by an Airco Gas Co. dealer (as far as we can determine, this company made gases for use by welders), an Airco employee or perhaps someone connected with the Robeson Cutlery Co. of Rochester, N.Y.

The image of what appears to be three whippets on leashes suggests that this fob is at least inspired by the Art Deco movement.

This fob is certainly "old" -- a fact that is eloquently attested to by the extensive wear to the gilded finish. There is abundant scratching and pitting, and we feel that this piece is certainly from the second quarter of the 20th century -- probably circa 1935. But it could be a tad later.

As for monetary value, the design is much in its favor, but its condition is more than a bit rough. Watch fobs are generally not valuable unless they are made from gold and mounted with jewels. We value this piece at around $25.

• Contact Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson at Treasures in Your Attic, P.O. Box 18350, Knoxville, TN 37928.

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