Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Top 10 stories in Kovels Komments in 2008
These were the Top 10 stories in Kovels Komments in 2008, based on interest from our readers:

1. In Memoriam: Ralph Kovel
We were touched by the many notes from fans of our books, newsletters, and TV shows telling us how much Ralph would be missed. This week USA Today listed "those who died in 2008 [and] left an indelible mark." The list included Ralph as coauthor of "the popular Kovels' antiques and collectibles price guides that became a bible for antique shop and flea market treasure hunters." He would be pleased to know he is remembered and that his passion--collecting--is finally on a par with art.

2. Record-setting price for a Monopoly game
The very early $47,600 set was stored for 30 years, proving you should be careful not to throw away unusual old games.

3. Gibson Girl plate
The Charles Dana Gibson drawings of the Gibson Girls are still popular, but few know the history of the set of blue and white plates. The plates sell for about $85 each.

4. Eisenberg fur clip
To think shoplifting was the start of Eisenberg rhinestone jewelry! Eisenberg fur clips and other jewelry are now popular collectibles. And few collectors today realize the clips were originally worn on fur coat collars.

5. Georges Hoentschel vase
A plain tan vase with a GH cipher on the base turned out to be by a French potter--and worth as much as $3,000. It pays to do the research.

6. eBay tricks
Anytime we mention problems with eBay, our readers are interested.

7. Knitting for bottles, chairs and trees
What a novel idea--knitting covers for chairs or trees.

8. Nasty Valentines
Comic valentines, very popular in the 1840s, are more subtle now. And a 1930s "penny dreadful" is a popular collectible.

9. Modernist jewelry
2008 was the year for modernist jewelry exhibits at museums. Prices are rising because the maker's names and talents are becoming known.

10. eBay fees
It got more expensive to sell on eBay this year when fees went up.


Duchess Dolls Corp. Dress-A-Doll
Q: Can you tell me anything about this doll? I bought her at an auction and wonder what her original clothes were like.

A: Duchess Dolls Corp. of Jackson Heights, N.Y., made small dolls in the late 1940s and 1950s. It specialized in dressed character and souvenir dolls meant for display. The 7 1/2-inch dolls are made of hard plastic and have moving heads, eyes, and arms and fixed legs. They have molded and painted shoes with bows. Their clothes were stapled on. The two most popular series were "Dolls of All Nations" and Disney character dolls, such as Cinderella, Peter Pan, and Tinkerbell. Duchess also sold similar dolls undressed for sewing projects. Some have painted eyes, some moving eyes. Some came with fabric bras and panties and some were completely undressed. They were sold at sewing and dime stores.

The staple marks on your doll's torso indicate that she was probably bought dressed. But it looks like whoever owned your doll had a set of "Dress-a-Doll Disks," made by Johnson & Johnson in the mid-1950s. The disks came in six different colors and could be folded, sewn, or pinned on to make doll clothes. A Duchess dress-me doll with its original box is worth $35 to $40; a doll without its box is worth half that.

WH & CO.

Whittaker, Heath & Co. Q: This mark is on a pitcher and bowl set given to me by my mother's family. I tried looking everywhere and can't find the mark. Can you identify the maker?

A: Yes, this mark was used by Whittaker, Heath & Co. from 1892 to 1898. The company made earthenware at Hallfield Pottery in Hanley, England. The pottery was built in 1882 and was operated by Whittaker, Edge & Co. until 1886, and by Whittaker & Co. from 1886 to 1892. So your set was made in the 19th century.


Red wine spilled on the tablecloth? Sprinkle the fabric with salt to absorb the wine. Then wash the tablecloth in the washing machine according to the directions.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Scarlett Johansson was talking on the Jay Leno show on Dec.17 when she used a tissue for the cold she caught from Samuel Jackson in a movie scene. She kept the used tissue to sell online, the money to go to a charity. The tissue, sealed in a plastic bag autographed by Johansson, sold for $5,300.


Jewelry dealers should watch their rubies. The United States is trying to enforce a ban on Burmese rubies because of Washington's sanctions against the ruling military junta. It is similar to the ban on "blood diamonds" from Africa. Many U.S. companies are not dealing with Burma, but gems are still sold by auction houses and retailers in private, according to the Financial Times. The ban may make the price of top-quality Burmese rubies go up and vintage jewelry with good rubies will become more expensive.


Luke Skywalker's light saber auctioned for $240,000 at a Profiles in History auction in Los Angeles on Dec. 12. It's the prop Mark Hamill used in the first two "Star Wars" movies. We can't all own the original, but toy versions can be found online and at toy stores for $30--or $360 for "authentic replicas."


Larkin Co.
Q: My story begins like most others--with a box discovered in Mom's attic. While unpacking a carton, I found a Buffalo Pottery canister with the word "Oatmeal" on it. The bottom is stamped 1906. Not only did I find eight more canisters, but there were covers for each of them. Others were marked "Currants," "Prunes,"Raisins," "Rice," "Coffee," "Tea" and two that say "Sugar." Tell me about my treasures.

A: Your canisters are part of a "soap opera." The Larkin Co. was founded in Buffalo, N.Y., in 1875 by John D. Larkin. The company manufactured soap. One of Larkin's innovative marketing ideas was to eliminate the "middleman" and sell directly to customers. He offered merchandise premiums to encourage customers to buy more soap. As the premium business grew, Larkin made the pottery, glassware, leather, textiles, and furniture that were premiums. In 1901 the Larkin Co. founded the Buffalo Pottery Co. to make dishes and other ceramics to use as premiums and to sell in retail showrooms. In the 1920s and '30s, the pottery shifted to the manufacture of hotel and institutional ware. Larkin Soap Co. went out of business in the mid 1940s. The Buffalo Pottery trademark is still in use.
Your canister set was made in 1906, but was never listed in a Larkin catalog. There was probably also a canister marked "Flour."


James Kent Old Foley James Kent Old Foley

Q: I have a collection of James Kent Old Foley china in the Chinese Rose pattern. I'm trying to figure out how old the pieces are but I'm confused by the different marks. Can you tell me when these marks were used?

A: James Kent (Ltd.), Old Foley Pottery was established at Longton, Staffordshire, England in 1897 and was in business until c.1989. The name is now being used by another company in Fenton, Stoke-on-Trent. The clues we found indicate that "Ltd." was added to the company name in the mark in 1913. The words "Old Foley Pottery" were used after 1955 (first mark). The first and third marks shown here were used after 1955. The second mark was probably used between 1913 and 1918. The third mark with the word "Ltd." was probably used from 1950 to 1989. Chinese Rose pattern was made c.1897-1989.


Decorate your holiday table with your vintage textiles. Use mismatched Vera or other napkins with a one-color tablecloth. Or use vintage lace over a colored cloth, or a multicolor printed tablecloth from the 1940s-60s. Or several small cloths can be used to cover the table. If you don't have a collection that would help you decorate in any of these ways, start looking for usable linens in 2009

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


The Wittelsbach Diamond: An historic 17th Century cushion-shaped deep grayish blue, diamond.
High price of the week: A 35.56-carat blue diamond that belonged to German royalty sold for $24.3 million in London. That is the most ever paid for a diamond at auction.


A Joseon Dynasty (c.1800) Korean blue and white porcelain jar
A Joseon Dynasty (c.1800) Korean blue and white porcelain jar set a world record at auction at Bonhams & Butterfields in San Francisco when it sold for $4.18 million.


Beardsley, Aubrey (1872-1898) and Wilde, Oscar (1854-1900), The Climax, Important original illustration for Salome: A Tragedy in One Act, published in 1894, auctioned for $213,300A pen and ink drawing recognized by an appraiser when he saw it hanging on a bathroom wall in a Boston-area home auctioned at Skinner for $213,300, a world record for an illustration by Aubrey Beardsley (1872-1898). A second Beardsley illustration sold at the same Boston auction for $142,200. The whereabouts of the two drawings, from a set of 13 illustrations for Oscar Wilde's play, "Salome: A Tragedy in One Act," had been unknown for more than 80 years. The consignor inherited them from his grandfather, but didn't realize their importance.


The biggest money news this week is the $50 billion loss that resulted from a Ponzi scheme run by Bernard Madoff, a trusted New York money manager. This time mainly millionaires, not average Joes, lost their millions when Madoff announced all the money was gone. Friends, his own son, charitable organizations, college endowment funds, foreign banks, union retirement funds and individuals who were retired or planning to retire were wiped out. We talked to a friend of a friend of a friend who had $200 million invested with his old buddy Madoff. It is probably all gone. He says he will survive because he has several houses that can be sold and a huge, multimillion-dollar modern art collection.

The moral of the story is, as always: diversify your investments. We have known many collectors who were able to pull through a financial crisis by selling their collections. Your collections and the other contents of your house may actually be a kind of savings account.

We checked to see where the term "Ponzi scheme" originated. It's named for Charles Ponzi (1882-1949), who emigrated from Italy to the United States in 1903. The idea is simple. Ponzi took money from investors and promised a high return. The money he used to pay off the first investors came from later investors. He never had a money-making business. When he ran out of new investors, the scheme collapsed and investors lost all their money.


Lone Ranger Bowl Q: I have a white glass bowl with a red picture of the Lone Ranger on it. I can't find out anything about it. Can you help?

A: The first radio program featuring the Lone Ranger was broadcast on January 30, 1933, in Detroit. By summer the show was a huge hit. Several times a year the program would make special premium offers of Lone Ranger items. They cost only 10 or 15 cents, plus a box top from cereal boxes. Your bowl was part of a set offered as one of those premiums. It was probably made by Hazel-Atlas Glass Co. (1902-1964) of Wheeling, West Virginia. Hazel-Atlas made jars, tumblers, and tableware made-to-order for companies as advertising premiums. The Lone Ranger set also had a plate, cup, and saucer. They are worth $15 to $25 each.


Smith Premier Table
Q: I bought this desk in 1967 and was told it is a lady's typewriter desk. The name of the company is marked on the top of the desk. How old is it?

A: The Smith Premier Typewriter Company was founded in Syracuse, New York, in 1886 by brothers Hurlburt, Lyman, Monroe, and Wilbert Smith. The Smiths were gun manufacturers who began making typewriters after one of their engineers came up with a new design for a typewriter. Typewriters were displayed at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, but the keyboard and works were not standardized until several years later. Smith Premier merged with other manufacturers to form the Union Typewriter Company of America in 1893. The brothers left Union in 1903 and founded L.C. Smith & Brothers Typewriter Company. The Smith Premier brand name was used until at least 1939. Your typewriter table was probably made around 1900.


More woodworm information from L.Z., a reader:

"There are two inexpensive materials that kill rot and insects--borates (borax-boric acid mixture) and glycol, available as auto antifreeze/coolant (use propylene glycol, not ethylene glycol, which is a dangerous chemical that causes damage to the heart, liver and kidneys). Borates and glycol are water soluble, so brush the chemical on the affected area and let it soak in, or if you can, immerse the item in a bucket of the solution for a few minutes."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Bavaria by Studio Job presented by Moss Gallery of Art and Design

Art Basel Miami 2008

Just back from Art Basel and Art Design in Miami, one of the largest art and design shows in the world. ("Art" includes paintings, drawings, photographs, things that hang on the wall or stand on the floor or table and look good. "Design" includes chairs, tables, dinnerware and things that look good and are useful.) I see things through the eyes of a "collector of the past," so my views are biased. I noticed things at the shows that had borrowed from the past.

Moss Gallery of New York City is known for selling the latest modern pieces, so I was surprised to see a set of Bavarian furniture made by Studio Job of the Netherlands. There were six different Indian rosewood pieces with colorful laser-cut inlay of animals, birds and trees. Seventeen different colored dyes and many types of wood were used. It looked like a child's drawing of a farm. Very different from the other furniture at the show--a LOT more color--but at $70,000 to $125,000 for one piece, it seemed too playful and different to sell

well. Shows what I know about the buyers of the ultra-modern. I heard three of the six-piece sets sold in the first two days.

The good news about the show is that the economy did not ruin the show--although the early newspaper reports said it did. The crowds were a little smaller and buying carefully. Last year it was "Grab it as soon as you see it." This year it was "Take your time, check to see if the price could be lower, and buy carefully." There have been many doom-and-gloom articles about the collecting world, but we have seen that "good" will sell, "great" will still sell for high prices, and "ordinary" has problems unless it's useful (like a chair or kitchen bowls). But all require extra effort in marketing and display. (A longer report, "Everything That's Old Is New Again," will be in our February "Kovels on Antiques and Collectibles" newsletter.)


The maker of Bratz dolls lost a lawsuit with Mattel about copyright infringement. Barbie should be happy. If there are no more Bratz dolls, Barbie will be selling better than ever.

AntiqueWeek is not being sold. It's "business as usual," because the buyer backed out after the economy went down.


Darby and Joan Teapot

Darby and Joan

Q: I have had this teapot for many years. There is an old woman on one side and an old man on the other. There is a mark on the bottom and the words "Darby & Joan" and "Tony Wood." Who were Darby and Joan?

A: It was common for women in the 17th century to call their husband by his last name rather than his first name. Darby and Joan were John Darby, probably a printer, and his wife, Joan, who lived in Bartholomew Close, an area of London, about 1700. They became famous when a ballad was written about them about 1756. They were also mentioned in writings, plays, and a ballet during the early 1800s. The characters are well-known in England and their names are used to describe an old, happily married couple of modest means. There are even Darby and Joan Clubs in The United Kingdom that hold dances and other social events for senior citizens. Tony Wood, a descendant of the 18th-century English potter Ralph Wood, operated a pottery in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England, from 1980 to the mid 1990s. He made novelty teapots, toby mugs, and other ceramic items. The novelty teapots usually sell for under $20.


C. Tielsch Porcelain Factory CT Mark

Q: My grandmother always made a big deal about this dish. I am just pleased to display it in my sideboard. Hopefully you can help me settle a long-running family dispute. Is it valuable?

A: Your lobster dish was made by C. Tielsch Porcelain Factory, founded in Altwasser, Silesia, Germany (now Walbrzych, Poland), in 1845. The company merged with C.M. Hutschenreuther in Hohenberg, Germany, in 1918 but the name "C. Tielsch" continued to be used. This mark was used c.1887-c.1934. The double dish with a lobster handle was a popular shape from the 1880s to the 1930s and was used to serve lobster. Value is about $100-$150.


Decorate your Christmas tree with collectibles. Salt and pepper sets, miniatures of any kind, postcards, silver spoons, dollhouse furniture, metal "teabags," and of course old Christmas ornaments and lights. Most things can be tied on with fishing line. But be careful about safety--no lit candles, no frayed light cords, no cords under a carpet or rug.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Lenox made the Belvidere pattern (shown here) from 1941 until 1978 Lenox Group, Inc., which makes dinnerware, gifts and collectibles, filed for bankruptcy protection last week. For now, you will still be able to fill in your set of Lenox dishes. But watch for news about what's happening to the company.


We received dozens of emails in response to our story about our friend's woodworm problems. Here are a few of the suggestions.

From K.B.: We had bugs in our front door. The local exterminator put the door in a gas fumigation chamber overnight to kill the bugs. It cost $40 ten years go. Also, I worked on a project in Key West. The building owners rented a freezer truck to freeze/kill any possible termites in their furniture before moving to the new building.

From M.P.: Some years ago I purchased a butter mold and treen paddle. After a month or so I spotted sawdust. I dampened the items and microwaved them. Never have seen any more sawdust. I know it's hard to get a table in a microwave, but I think it would cure the problem.

From K.H.: A quick holiday word to the wise: I have many early American primitive pieces (some 18th-century). A few years ago I set my Christmas tree up on a Sunday afternoon. On Monday morning I was watering underneath the tree when I heard tiny little clicky-type noises. Never having dealt with the woodworm issue, I wasn't sure what it was. One of my sons insisted it was the tree "sucking in the water." I decided to call the California Dept. of Agriculture. The person I spoke to informed me, "That sounds like wood-boring beetles, Ma'am, and you should get that tree out of your house ASAP--they can spread out around the house and bore into anything wooden." Needless to say--I did.

From L.H.: Seriously, spray every month for two years? Call an exterminator as a last resort? Wouldn't it be a lot easier to call that exterminator first and be done with it? Treating every month for two years seems to be exposing yourself to a lot of bug spray, not to mention the cost of the bug spray every month for two years.

Note: The exterminator wanted $140 here.


Aunt Jemima and Uncle Mose Kitchen Set Aunt Jemima & Uncle Mose Kitchen Set

Q: When I was a child, we had a set of Aunt Jemima and Uncle Mose plastic salt and pepper shakers in our china closet. I have no idea what happened to them, but I found a set a few years ago and the rest is history. I now have two sizes of salt and pepper shakers, a 6-piece spice set, a syrup pitcher, and a sugar and creamer. What is the history of Aunt Jemima and Uncle Mose? What other pieces were made by the F & F Mold & Die Works?

A: Aunt Jemima and Uncle Mose shakers and other items were Quaker Oats premiums made by the F & F Mold & Die Works of Dayton, Ohio, in the late 1940s, but the characters have a long history. Aunt Jemima pancake mix was first made in 1889 by Pearl Milling Company. It was the first pancake mix. The name "Aunt Jemima" was based on a song performed in vaudeville. Pearl Milling Company was sold to R.T. Davis Mill and Manufacturing Company in 1890 and Nancy Green, a former slave, was hired to represent Aunt Jemima. The company name became the Aunt Jemima Mills Company in 1914. Quaker Oats bought the company in 1926. Uncle Mose is a character based on the song "Old Man Mose" written by Louis Armstrong and Zilner Randolph in 1935. You are missing the Aunt Jemima cookie jar. Your 13-piece set retails for about $250. Beware many reproductions have been made.


Sterling Silver Circle
Q: I would like to know what this is. It is a sterling silver circle, 1 1/4 in. in diameter, with an engraved owl in a hole in a tree. It has a hinge and a safety catch so it can be opened. It is marked inside with an arrow through a W. I was told that it could be a child's bracelet or a napkin ring, but these don't seem to be correct.

A: After doing the arithmetic (circumference equals diameter times pi), we figured out the circumference of your piece is about 4 inches. It is probably a baby bracelet made in the early 1900s. The owl in the tree may be from the nursery rhyme, "A wise old owl sat upon an oak, The more he saw the less he spoke." This mark was used by Webster Company of North Attleboro, Massachusetts. The company was founded in 1869 by George K. Webster and his partners. It was originally called G.K. Webster and Company. George died in 1894 and the name was changed to Webster Company. The company made napkin rings, baby items, picture frames, cigarette holders, candlesticks and other items. Most were sterling silver, but Webster also made some silver plate. The company became part of Reed & Barton in 1950.


To remove coffee or tea stains from cups, put some salt on a piece of orange or lemon rind and rub the marks. Then wash the usual way.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Has the celebration of Thanksgiving always been on the fourth Thursday in November? The answer is No. The date was changed to make a longer shopping period between Thanksgiving and Christmas. In 1863 President Lincoln set the date as the last Thursday in November. In 1939 it was moved to the second-to-last Thursday. Then in 1941 it was moved to the fourth Thursday.

There are many myths and historical oddities connected with Thanksgiving. Did you know the Mayflower was headed for Virginia but, oops, it ended up in Massachusetts?

And Indians were not invited to the celebration. A large group of men just showed up--the 17th-century version of party crashers. There were probably twice as many Indians as Pilgrims, so it seems unlikely the Pilgrims would have asked them to leave. Unfortunately, no one is sure why they came. Perhaps they heard the musket shots and were curious. But they did bring deer to eat. No popcorn, though. It wasn't even grown in New England then. But Indian corn was, and it was probably dried, pounded and cooked into a porridge. They probably ate waterfowl and turkeys, too, all living in the wild. Also available were fish, squash, cabbage, carrots, turnips, spinach and onions. No potatoes--they were still grown only in South America. Although cranberries were growing nearby, no records show they were cooked and eaten until the 1670s.

Forget the black clothes, too. Pilgrim women wore green, blue and purple. Men liked red linings in their cloaks. And they didn't have buckles on their shoes and hats. Buckles were not in style till years later. Next time you see a painting of the first Thanksgiving, look carefully. An iron cooking pot was really used; it may even be the one that survives in a museum. But there were no log cabins. They were built by Swedes who came 18 years later.


Porcelain Birdcage

Q: I have had this object for a few years and would love to know what it is.

A: It looks like a porcelain birdcage. We've seen similar cages, some with bars over the larger holes and some with porcelain birds inside. Your cage was probably made as a decorative object and may not be very old. Can anyone tell us if we are right? The Egyptians kept pet birds over 4,000 years ago. In medieval Europe, birds were kept by the wealthy. Canaries were used to detect carbon monoxide in mines beginning in the 1800s and special cages were made to carry the birds into the mines. Electronic detectors replaced the canaries in the mines in the twentieth century, but in 1995 Japan used canaries to detect poison gas in the subways after a terrorist attack.


Chairs made by Jacob Kohn (1791-1868) and his son, Josef (1814-1884)

Q: We found six old chairs in a 100-year-old farmhouse that we are restoring. This label is on the bottom of the seat of the chairs. How old are they and what are they worth?

A: Your chairs were made by Jacob Kohn (1791-1868) and his son, Josef (1814-1884), of Vienna, Austria. They may have started out in the lumber industry in 1850 but were making furniture by 1867. Their chairs were similar to the bentwood chairs Thonet made. In 1914 the company merged with Mundus, a holding company in Vienna, and became Kohn-Mundus. Kohn-Mundus merged with Thonet in 1922. The motto in the mark, "Semper Sursum," means "Always Rising." Your chairs were made in the early 1900s, before 1914. Value: about $100 each.


Be careful where you put a fresh pumpkin or gourd on Thanksgiving. Put a plastic liner underneath them. A rotting pumpkin will permanently stain wood or marble.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Furniture Beetle Larva
"The table in our dining room has white powder on top of some tiny holes," said a friend who called a few days ago. "Last week I wiped the table thinking the white stuff was oatmeal splatter from the kids." My response: "Take the table out to the garage. You have woodworms and they're contagious."

In the over 50 years I have been looking at antiques, I have never seen live, active woodworms--just the holes left behind. Woodworms are a major problem. They can live in a table for eight years before they hatch. This particular table was brought over from France two years ago. Any wooden antique you bring into your house could eventually be a source of woodworms.
I rushed to my friend's house. With fresh new sawdust on the table, I reasoned there must be fresh new worms nearby. I crawled under the table and found a 1/4-inch white worm inching its way across the floor--a furniture beetle larva. My friend's kids thought this was a great game and found their mother 10 more wiggly worms.

There are four kinds of beetles that leave sawdust mounds. All are very destructive. They eat furniture, floors, books, and papier-mache. Their favorite is wicker, including wicker baskets. Look for powdery sawdust on the floor, inside drawers, or (as in our friend's case) sticking to table legs. The cure is difficult. Use a bug spray made to be used for wood-boring insects. Follow instructions, but first check in an inconspicuous spot because sprays may discolor wood. Repeat the treatment monthly for two years. As a last resort, call an exterminator.


Thanks to all of you who have emailed or written that you trust us and would like us to start an online site for buying and selling because you're upset with eBay. No thanks. Our plate is full enough right now. But we are making a list of places to sell online that are similar to eBay. Please send us your suggestions and we will post the complete list soon.


Car Bug Vase

Q: I have two hollow glass "cones" that have a flower design on all four sides. They are 6 1/2 inches tall. I've been told they may be car vases or wall vases for the home.

A: You have a pair of vaseline glass bud vases that were meant to be attached to the inside of a car. They were often found in electric cars made from c.1903-1920. Electric cars were thought to be more suitable for women and usually had fancier interiors. Also they were cleaner and easier to operate because they didn't require cranking to get them started. Bud vases were also available as accessories for gasoline-powered cars in the 1920s. Volkswagen offered bud vases ("blumenvasen") as optional accessories during the 1950s and '60s. A plastic bud vase with an artificial flower was an optional accessory in the 1998 Beetle. You can buy bud vases today that are held onto the dashboard by a suction cup or that attach to a vent on the dashboard. A pair of old car bud vases like yours are worth about $150-$200.


Dresden and CrownDresden and Crown

Q: My husband's grandparents owned these porcelain ewers and gave them to him about 40 years ago. The ewers are 22 1/4 inches tall and are marked with a crown and the word "Dresden." Can you tell me who made them and how old they are?

A: Over 40 porcelain decorating studios operated in Dresden in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The Meissen Royal Manufactory made most of the porcelain. The crown Dresden mark was registered by four different companies in 1883: Donath & Co. (1872-1916), Adolf Hamann (1866-c.1949), Richard Klemm (1869-1916), and Oswald Lorenz (c.1880-). There were only slight variations in the marks. This mark looks like one used by Adolph Hamann c.1905-c.1949 or by Richard Klemm c.1893-1916. Your ewers appear from the picture to be partially decorated with decals. They were probably made in the twentieth century.


Remember this next week. To remove candle wax that has dripped on your Thanksgiving tablecloth, first harden the wax by putting a plastic sandwich bag filled with ice on it. Next, scrape off as much as possible with a dull knife or a credit card. Put the tablecloth between two pieces of paper from a brown paper bag and iron the "sandwich" on low heat until the remaining wax melts into the paper. Wash the tablecloth with a detergent.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


The Plain Dealer and The New York Times, November 5th, 2008 Covers

Did you save your newspaper from Wednesday, November 5, 2008?

That's the issue announcing Obama's win. The very next day, sellers were offering hundreds of newspapers on eBay for prices ranging from $180 for the New York Times to 75 cents for extra copies of the Cleveland Plain Dealer printed because of high demand. Prices on eBay fell quickly, though. The Times is now selling for as low as 99 cents. Many regional papers are being sold for under $10.

Historic papers are often saved, but because newsprint is so acidic it often deteriorates. To preserve old newspapers, store them in archival albums or boxes (available at art supply stores) or frame them with acid-free matting. Use acrylic, not glass, in the frames and keep them away from direct sunlight. You can also deacidify newspapers so they won't crumble or discolor. Treat them with Bookkeeper or Wei T'o solution. Both of these products are sold at art supply stores or online. But be careful. Soaking the paper in a solution may cause wrinkles.


Canadian $500 bill featuring a picture of Queen Mary Cleaning up at Grandma's house or rummaging at a house sale? Shake old books to be sure nothing is hidden between the pages. A rare 1911 Canadian $500 bill featuring a picture of Queen Mary, wife of King George V, one of three known to exist, was rescued from a pile of old books headed for a shredder. It set a record when it sold at a Heritage Auction Galleries auction in September for $322,000.


We mentioned Mt. Clemens Pottery in our Mystery Mark last week. It was located in Mt. Clemens, Mich., not Chicago. Thanks to one of our readers for pointing this out.


Au Revoir But Not Good-Bye

Q: A friend found this handkerchief in a box she bought at an auction. It has a patriotic border and a soldier in old-fashioned dress. The flag behind them has 17 stars on it. How old is it?

A: The phrase on the banner above the flag, "Say Au Revoir But Not Good-Bye," is the title of music written by Harry Kennedy in 1893. It was revised by E.T. Paull in 1918 during World War I. The handkerchief was a souvenir made about 1917 to 1919. The official American flag had 48 stars on it at that time. The 17 stars on the flag in the background may have been a design decision. Souvenir handkerchiefs sell for $20 to $25.


Vernon Grant (1902-1990)
Q: I have five nursery rhyme prints and can't find any information about them. They are marked "Vernon Grant" in the corner. Who was he?

A: Vernon Grant (1902-1990) was an artist who did illustrations for magazine covers, wrote and illustrated children's books, and did advertisements. He was born in South Dakota and moved to California as a teenager. Grant did "chalk talks" on the vaudeville circuit to pay for his education at the University of Southern California and the Chicago Art Institute. After graduation he worked in Los Angeles as a commercial artist and taught art. He moved to New York in 1932. In 1933 he created the characters "Snap!" "Crackle!" and "Pop!" for Kellogg's Rice Krispies. Prints like yours featuring Snap! Crackle! and Pop! were offered as Kellogg's premiums for 49 cents and proof of purchase in 1938. There were six nursery rhymes illustrated--Humpty Dumpty, Jack and Jill, Jack Be Nimble, Little Jack Horner, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater. A single print sells for about $10. A set of six framed prints sold recently for $75.


If you don't find any valuable papers or money in Grandma's books, try slitting the paper dustcover on the back of the paintings and prints hanging on the wall. The elderly will often hide money in places like that. Also look for money taped to the bottom of bureau drawers. Hiding valuables under the mattress seems to have gone out of style.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Because of the credit crunch an auction house in England has reduced the Buyer's Premium to 5 percent. We wonder if it reflects the name of the company, Haltemprice Auctions. (That really is their name, we checked.)

There may be problems with the economy but some collectors still can pay. A Babe Ruth game-worn hat from the Bustin' Babes barnstorming team auctioned at Heritage Auction Galleries, Oct. 17 for $131,450. Very little memorabilia exists from the 1920s barnstorming tour. The cap has Babe Ruth embroidered on the interior leather headband.


EBay's changing rules created more trouble the week of October 19 and after. They recently banned payments by check or money order. That means PayPal, owned by eBay, is in total control of non-credit card payments. A buyer sends the money to PayPal, then the money is sent on to the seller via an eCheck. Most sellers want to be sure they are paid before they ship the merchandise. But PayPal had a glitch with the eCheck payments. The mix-up, required claims etc., meant the sellers did not get the money quickly. If they don't ship in a timely manner the buyers are upset and it reflects on the reputation of the sellers. What is even more upsetting is that PayPal and eBay have not been responding to inquiries about problems and PayPal is able to hold the money much longer than usual. Have they ever heard of customer service emails or phone calls?


World War I doughboy Ideal Liberty Boy Doll

Q: I have a soldier doll from World War I. It is 12 inches tall and marked "Ideal" in a diamond. Can you give me any information about my doll?

A: Your doll is dressed as a World War I doughboy and is called "Liberty Boy." It was designed in 1917 by Morris Michtom, one of the founders of the Ideal Novelty Co. of Brooklyn, N.Y. It has a jointed composition body and socket head. Its khaki Army uniform is molded and painted and it was sold with the brown felt hat decorated with a gold cord. Liberty Boy was used in the sale of war bonds during the war and was very popular because boy dolls were unusual. Since you have his hat, your doll is worth $150 to $250.


Thunderbird MarkThunderbird Mark

Q: I am hoping you can identify this mark It is on a set of dishes I bought that look to be from the 1950s.

A: Your mark with the bird was used on dinnerware made by the Stetson China Co. (c.1919-1965). Stetson's dinnerware was sold under the name of Marcrest in the 1950s and 1960s. The phrase "detergent proof" was not used as part of a mark until around 1944. Marcrest dishes were distributed by the Marshall Burns Co. of Chicago. Marshall Burns contracted with many different pottery companies to create pieces that were used as premium items for service stations, grocery stores, and movie theaters in the 1950s.

Louis Stetson started his company in Lincoln, IL, around 1919 by buying whiteware from the Mt. Clemens Pottery in Chicago and the Illinois China Co. in Lincoln. Stetson's company decorated the dishes, then resold them. His son took over the company after his death and in 1946 he bought the Illinois China Co. Stetson used decals for decorations, but for two or three years he hired decorators from Red Wing and Southern Potteries and pieces were handpainted. Stetson then went back to using decals.

Nearly all of Stetson's later ware was sold to Marshall Burns to be used as premiums. The Stetson China Co. went out of business in 1965. Stetson also had a plastics plant that made melamine ware.


crossed swords (Meissen), Crown and N (Capo-di-Monte), and the Sevres stylized L'sConfusing Pottery Marks

A reader added to our mark information in the last Kovels Komments. Not all pieces of porcelain and pottery marked with the initials NC are Newcomb. There was also a company in Germany that used this mark and another in Japan.

We know marks are often copied. It should be viewed as helpful information, not as a perfect way to identify the maker of an item. Most faked marks: crossed swords (Meissen), Crown and N (Capo-di-Monte), and the Sevres stylized L's.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


This witch moves up and down in the pumpkin Savings Halloween Decorations

Save the Halloween decorations you get this year. This witch moves up and down in the pumpkin. The 36-inch-tall toy sold at a Showtime auction this month for $770. It was part of the collection of Sandy Rosnick, who was best known for his collection of tobacco tins.


c.1800 vampire-killing kit

Vampires Beware

Watch out, Dracula--a collector paid $14,850 for a c.1800 vampire-killing kit at a Mississippi auction earlier this month. The kit is complete with stakes, mirrors, a gun with silver bullets, crosses, a Bible, holy water and, of course, garlic, all neatly arranged in an American walnut case. It sold at a Stevens Auction Company sale.


Collectible political memorabilia is everywhere this week, but we just read an AP story about a unique buy from the 2000 election. Remember hanging chads? When the 1,200 Votomatic III voting machines used that year in Palm Beach County were junked and sold, Florida political consultant Jim Dobyns bought a warehouse-full offered on eBay for $12,000. The machines are collapsible and can fold to briefcase-size, so he's selling them online and through his website (JimDobyns.com) for $75 each plus shipping. Presidential libraries, politicians (mostly Democrats), teachers, and of course political memorabilia collectors bought them.

Each machine is a piece of history. Dobyns has only about 60 left, but six months ago he thought about the chads still inside each machine. He and his wife are now selling the chads on eBay. For $20, you can buy 10 chads in a little plastic bag. You'll also get a certificate of authenticity.
So wait till Nov. 4 and see if there is a "hanging chad of 2008" that could be sold in a few years. And save your signs, pins, and other political stuff for future collectors.

We were doing our television show when Richard Nixon was president. Cesar Chavez was boycotting lettuce growers in California, trying to get his United Farm Workers Union rather than the Teamsters recognized as leading the fight to get rights for migrant workers. It was an issue at the 1972 Democratic convention. An angry lettuce grower had special boxes made to support Nixon and the Republicans in the election and to protest Chavez's boycott. We got one of those boxes and showed it on our program as an example of a rare political collectible. We have no idea what this mint box would be worth today--we have never seen one sold. But who knew hanging chads would be worth $2 each?


Donald Duck Rocker

Q: We have a Donald Duck rocker that has been in my wife's family for many generations. The outside is marked "Walt Disney Enterprises." The inside is marked "Mengel Playthings." Can you tell me when it was made and how much it is worth?

A: Donald Duck appeared in his first Walt Disney "short" in 1934. Mengel Playthings was a line of wooden toys made by C.C. Mengel & Brothers Co. of Louisville, Kentucky. They made several different types of rockers featuring Disney characters. The company was founded by C. Mengel in the late 1800s and taken over by C.C. Mengel Jr. and C.R. Mengel c.1900. Furniture, boxes, toys, and other wooden items were made in the early years, and doors, windows, and wooden subassemblies used by car manufacturers were made later. The company was bought by Kroehler Manufacturing Co. in 1956. Your rocker was probably made in the late 1930s or 1940s and is worth $200-$300 in good condition.


N in C Mark N in C Mark

Q: I have a vase with this N in C mark as well as several other letters and numbers stamped or inscribed on it. Who made it and how old is it?

A: This N in C mark was used by Newcomb Pottery, founded in 1895 at Sophie Newcomb College, a women's college in New Orleans. The pottery continued through the 1940s. Students at the college decorated pottery formed by men. Throwing pots was not considered a suitable occupation for women.

Several other marks can be found on pieces of Newcomb Pottery. Initials of the decorator and potter were incised on the bottom of the piece. A date letter code was used from 1901 to 1942. The year was indicated by one or two letters. Single letters A through Z were used until sometime in 1903, when double letters AA, BB, etc., were used. In 1904 the double letter system changed to AA, AB, AC, etc., until the last date letter code, ZY, was used in 1941.

Each piece of Newcomb Pottery was unique. The number after the date letters indicates the number of the piece. There were 100 numbered pieces for each letter or letter combination.


If your stuffed animals have moth holes or other signs of insect damage, just put them in a bag in the freezer for 72 hours. That will kill all sorts of eggs, larva, insects, even mold. Felt is very popular with moths and carpet beetles, so watch out when you display your toys.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Titanic memorabilia continues to entice collectors. You'd think only a limited amount of collectibles survived the sinking of the ocean liner on April 14, 1912. In June a second-class passenger list from the White Star Line with a handwritten note, "Titanic, First Sailing," auctioned for $33,900 at a Philip Weiss auction in New York.

On October 18, there was another Titanic memorabilia auction in England of the belongings of Millvina Dean, a survivor of the sinking when she was 9 weeks old. She was put in a sack, lowered into a lifeboat and with her mother and brother was saved by the steamship Carpathia. Her father died. When the family arrived in New York, they were given a small wicker suitcase filled with donated clothes. Millvina's mother saved the suitcase, some rare prints of the Titanic, and letters she received from the Titanic Relief Fund. Now, at 96, Millvina needs money to pay her nursing home bills. The memorabilia saved her again when it sold for $53,906 (30,000 British pounds).


Nearly 1.6 million drop-side cribs made by Delta Enterprises between 1995 and 2005 have been recalled. Delta has set up a website for consumers: CribRecallCenter.com.

Don't buy an antique crib for your baby. Too many old cribs have bars too far apart, too much space between the mattress and crib sides, and poorly designed drop sides.


We hope you read the blogs from each week's ezine--like this one, an anonymous comment on last week's story about a rock crystal pitcher that sold for $5.58 million. We had wondered if it had been packed away in a little box. Here's what "Anonymous" wrote:

"I like the idea of its being packed away in a little box for 1,000 years. Now if they could find the little box, just THINK WHAT IT WOULD BE WORTH. We all know about items with original boxes!"

That cheerful comment should help soften the gloom found in the 21 comments on eBay's new policies. You can look up any of our back ezines and related blogs. Go to Kovels.com, select "Free Resources" from the top bar, select "Weekly Ezine," then select a date. The blog comments make great reading.


Head Vase

Q: I have a Jacqueline Kennedy head vase marked Inarco. I'm told it's valuable.

A: Head vases were made as early as the 1930s but were most popular in the 1950s and 1960s when they were used by florists. They usually are shaped like a woman or young girl from the shoulders up and are often "dressed" with a hat and jewelry. Most of the vases were made in the U.S. or Japan. Inarco is the name used by the International Art Ware Corporation, founded in 1960 in Cleveland, Ohio, by Irwin Garber. The company was bought by Napco, a Japanese giftware distributor, in 1986 and moved to Jacksonville, Florida. Napco is still in business and lists itself as an importer and distributor of products for the floral, gift, and decorative accessory industries. Your Jacqueline Kennedy head vase was made in 1964 and has sold for as much as $985, but prices are lower this year.



Q: I recently inherited Princess Anne Golden Dusk Ostrow China dated c.1930. Can you provide any historical information on this set?

A: The Ostrow China mark was used by Hopewell China Company of Hopewell, Virginia. The pottery was founded by Sol Ostrow c.1922. It became the James River Potteries c.1938 to 1940. Your china was made between c.1922 and c.1938.


Paper Collectibles

The Maltz Museum in Cleveland has an exhibition of comics and comic artists from the "Golden Age," 1938 to 1950. Museum curators were very careful in displaying the color covers--they fade in the light. A few of the covers shown are carefully done duplicates because of the fading problem. We once loaned a 75-year-old country fair sign for an outdoor display. In four weeks the printed date on the sign faded to blank, but the original printed fair sign, a generic type, kept its color.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Antique Papers Sold, eBay Cuts Jobs

The AntiqueWeek, AntiqueWest, and Auction Exchange newspapers have all been sold by their London owners, dmg World Media. Dmg also sold the London Antiques Trade Gazette. No word yet about who the buyer is. At least four antiques publications have been sold or discontinued this year, but online publications are popping up.

EBay has announced it will cut 1,600 jobs. EBay says it is not a reaction to the changing economy but part of a plan for future growth.


Good Economic News

The Scotland auto license "S1" just sold for 400,000 British pounds ($752,000). Now the city of Edinburgh, Scotland, wants the Lord Provost to sell his plate, "S0," worth perhaps 500,000 pounds ($940,000). He says it belongs to the city and he will not sell. Some in the city think money from the plate's sale could be used to improve city services; others think it is a symbol that should remain with the city and not be sold. Plates in Dubai and Hong Kong have sold for similar prices, but valid license plates are rarely sold by individuals in the United States.

A carved rock crystal pitcher at first thought to be a cheap French claret jug just sold for $5.58 million. It was made for Egyptian rulers about a thousand years ago. The ewer, carved from a large piece of flawless rock crystal, was at first thought to be glass. Estimated at less than $350 at a small-town auction awhile ago, it sold for $383,692. It was resold for the record price at a later auction. We always wonder how expensive antiques like this hide for so many years without being noticed. It couldn't have been packed away in a little box all these years.


Q: I'm trying to find any information I can on the value and demand for this Coca-Cola Spearmint Gum wrapper.

A: Coca-Cola gum was made from c.1903 to c.1920. The gum was not made by the Coca-Cola beverage company but by another Atlanta company, the Coca-Cola Gum Company, which used both the Coca-Cola name and the logo. The Coca-Cola Gum Company was bought by Franklin Manufacturing (later called Franklin-Caro Co.) and moved to Richmond, Virginia, in the early 1900s. The beverage company did not like this use of their trademark and bought out the gum company by 1924. Your "wrapper" looks like it might be a label used on a box or glass jar. Coca-Cola Gum items are rare and usually bring high prices. Coca-Cola Gum glass jars have sold for several hundred to over a thousand dollars, and several years ago a wrapped stick of the gum reportedly sold at auction for $8,000.


Stickley Table

Q: We purchased an unusual table a few years ago. It's a drop-leaf square table that actually "drops" on the diagonal. The joints all have pegs. Can you tell us how old it is?

A: The table was made by L. & J.G. Stickley in Fayetteville, New York. The company was founded c.1902 by Leopold and John George Stickley, younger brothers of the more famous Gustav Stickley. Early designs were similar to those of Gustav, but veneers and laminated wood were used as well as solid fumed oak. Leonard and John George bought Gustav's business when he retired in 1918. A line of colonial reproduction furniture, the Cherry Valley Collection, was introduced in 1922. Pieces in this line were branded "Stickley Fayetteville Syracuse." After John George died in 1921 and Leonard in 1958, Leonard's wife took over the business. In 1974 the company was sold to Alfred and Aminy Audi. Some of the old Mission furniture designs were reintroduced. Alfred died in 2007 and the company is now run by his wife and son. Company headquarters are in Manlius, New York. The company historian may be able to help identify your Stickley furniture. Send photos to Historian, Stickley Furniture Co., One Stickley Dr., Manlius, NY 13104; or send digital images to History@Stickley.com.


Tip from a reader in Halifax, Nova Scotia

Regarding corrosion, when salt is left in a saltshaker and there is a reaction between the salt and the silver top, you may find that immersing it in warm vinegar will help dissolve the corrosion and will allow the top to loosen. Wash thoroughly in warm water with detergent afterwards.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Hummel figurine


Goebel Germany is stopping production of Hummel figurines on October 31, 2008. Demand has dropped to one third of expected sales. They will sell the figurines as long as they have supplies. We spoke to Carrie Kulak, the American media contact, and she said the 2008 International Club Convention in Germany October, 17th and 18th is cancelled. An announcement will be made in Germany at a special event on the 18th about the "solution" to the question "will there be more Hummels?" We are sure the rights to make the figurines will go to another manufacturer. Will prices for old Hummels go up or down? What do you think?


Queen Anne carved walnut Compass-Seat footstool Unpredictable Prices

Prices can be unpredictable but last week some were amazing. The Queen Anne carved walnut Compass-Seat footstool made in Philadelphia c. 1750 sold at Sotheby's with an estimate of $200,000 to $400,000. It auctioned for $5,234,500, the record price for a piece of seating furniture at auction.


The Czar of Luxury

Phillips de Pury & Co., better known to American collectors as Phillips Auction House, has been sold to a Russian company, the Mercury Group. That gives Phillips more money to operate their art auctions. Mercury has high-end boutiques, a luxury mall, and a department store chain. It has franchises with Fendi furs, Rolex, Prada, Brioni, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Bulgari, Patek Philippe, Maserati, Yves Saint Laurent, and other luxury brands. The CEO, Leonid Friedland, sometimes called the "Czar of Luxury," is 37 and we wonder if he collects modern art, a favored item in Phillips' auctions. He started his career selling folk art to tourists in 1992.


Howdy Doody Uke

Q: I bought this Howdy Doody Uke for 50 cents at our church rummage sale back in 1972. It's in wonderful condition. Can you place a value on it?

A: The Howdy Doody Uke, made by Emenee in the 1950s, came in various colors. The box was designed to be a carrying case for the instrument. Emenee was a manufacturer of plastic musical toys for children. It was located in Flushing, New York, from 1955 to 1968. Ohio Art Company, a toy company in Bryan, Ohio, bought Emenee in 1968. Howdy Doody was a marionette that starred in "The Howdy Doody Show," a children's television show that ran from 1947 to 1960. A Howdy Doody Uke like yours, with an instruction and song sheet, sold at auction last year for $158. A corner of the box was split and the box was missing the handle. If your box is in perfect condition and you have the instruction and song sheet, it is worth more.


La Francais La Francais

Q: I have an old platter that belonged to my mother. It has this mark on it. I would like to know who made it and how old it is.

A: La Francais is a pattern made by the French China Company in Sebring, Ohio. The pottery was founded c.1900. It became part of the Sebring Manufacturing Company in 1916. Since your platter also has a 1910 patent date mark, it must have been made between 1910 and 1916.


Taking Care of Prints, Pictures and More...

Recycled paper, paper boxes and cardboard will discolor and damage prints, pictures and documents in or near them. They are high-acid papers and the fumes can travel through the air. If you buy a ready-made picture frame be sure to replace the heavy paper backing that keeps the picture in place.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Collectors vs. The Economy

Collectors should be able to survive a bad economy better than most. We are used to buying "used" things. Antiques and collectibles are all recycled parts of the best of the past. Buying good "used" furniture from consignment shops or a Salvation Army store is a challenge, but a knowing collector can search and find a worthwhile antique. Vintage clothing is praised by our friends and we brag about shopping at secondhand stores. We are trained to barter and negotiate prices by our years of buying at flea markets. Now it is acceptable to use the same money-saving techniques at local department stores. And of course we understand the financial gains from a garage sale, cashing in old gold and silver, and redecorating by refinishing, painting, and reworking some inexpensive "finds." We learned to repair our antiques, so we have always balked at buying a new blender when an old one can be made to work. We already like to cook from scratch, so let's do everything the old-fashioned way. Let's "waste not--want not." And don’t forget to clip grocery coupons and make the kids turn off the lights when they leave a room.


'Sylvan' pattern by Trent Pottery in Eastwood, Staffordshire, England.

Q: This wash bowl and pitcher set has been in our family for over 100 years. For the past 50 years, I have been wondering where the set was made and what it's worth. The printed mark is on the bottom of both the bowl and pitcher. What can you tell us?

A: Your wash bowl and pitcher were made at the Trent Pottery in Eastwood, Staffordshire, England. John Heath Davis (the J.H. Davis in the mark) operated the pottery from 1881 to 1891. "Sylvan" is the name of the Davis pattern used on your set. It's blue with gold highlights and pink outlining. Not all pieces in the pattern were done with highlighting and outlining. There should also be an English registry mark on the bottom of your bowl and pitcher. If the pieces were made before 1884, the mark is diamond-shaped. If they were made between 1884 and 1891, the mark is a number following the abbreviation "Rd. No." Either mark indicates the year Davis registered the dishes' designs, but not necessarily the year the dishes were made. Bowl and pitcher sets the age of yours sell for $250 to $600.


Crown Milano glass made by the Mt. Washington Glass Co. of New Bedford, Massachusetts

Q: I have a glass vase with the mark CM with a crown over the letters. Can you tell me what company made the vase?

A: This mark was used on Crown Milano glass made by the Mt. Washington Glass Co. of New Bedford, Massachusetts. When it was first made, Mt. Washington called it Albertine and pieces were marked with a paper label. In 1893 Mt. Washington patented the name Crown Milano and the CM mark was introduced. The opaque white glass has a satin finish and is often decorated with flowers and large gold scrolls. Some designs are raised or beaded. Vases, bowls, cracker jars, perfume atomizers, pickle castors, pitchers, shakers, sugar and creamers, toothpick holders, and many other pieces of Crown Milano glass were made. Mt. Washington Glass Co. merged with Pairpoint Manufacturing Co. in 1894.


Cleaning Siver

From an email: "How can I get the tops off sterling silver salt and pepper shakers? They still have some salt and pepper in them."

We suggest soaking them in hot water to see if it disolves the dried salt or pepper. Of course twist the tops with as much force as you can. But we doubt if that will work because the top is probably held on by corrosion, not dried salt. Anyone have a tip that solves this problem?

We can give other silver cleaning tips: never store silver by wrapping it in plastic cling wrap. It causes discolorations and tarnish. Take off your rings before you start to clean. Jewelry may scratch the silver.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


The economy is the big news, and for collectors it is both good and bad. Bad for dealers, because customers at shows are spending less and prices are down for many items. Good because while the best-of-the-best is selling at higher prices, collectors of good-but-not-great items in the "under $1,000" range can get buys. But the best news is that your collection didn't become worthless like Lehman Brothers stock. You still have an asset you can sell if you need money soon. Your collection is like a savings account. You put money into it instead of into a golf game, a fancy dinner, or clothes. It is still there and can be sold--if not for a profit, at least for something. It is an emergency fund. We know of collections that have sent kids to college, paid the mortgage, financed a stay in a nursing home, or repaired a car. And someday you can buy other antiques to fill the empty space.


For those who are still puzzled by our math problem in the Sep. 17 ezine, the answer is NOT $5,000. We offer this solution posted on our blog by "anonymous":

For all the people still stuck on $5,000 instead of the correct $4,100--you "probably" are "thinking" that $40+$30+$20+$10 = $1,000 because of the way those smaller numbers are spaced between the $1000 figures--but those four smaller numbers add up to only $100.

4 X $1000 = $4000
$4000 + $100 = $4100

Or you can add the numbers in sequence:

$1000 + $40 = $1040

$1040 + $1000 = $2040

$2040 + $30 = $2070

$2070 + $1000 = $3070

$3070 + $20 = $3090

$3090 + $1000 = $4090

$4090 + $10 = $4,100


Gefle is an old name for the Swedish city Gävle

Q: We inherited this blue and white pitcher from my mother-in-law. The words Gefle, Mullbar, and upsala-ekeby are on the bottom. We would love to know who made it.

A: Gefle is an old name for the Swedish city Gavle. The Gefle porcelain factory was founded c.1910. It was bought by Upsala-Ekeby-koncern in 1936 and was closed in the 1970s. Mullbar is the pattern name. We've seen a pitcher like yours offered for sale for $200.


Q: When I was a child I watched my grandmother use this little pitcher, so I know it is at least 75 years old. Can you give me any information about the company that made it?

A: The initials "SMF" in a shield were used by the Schramberger Majolica Factory in Schramberg, Wurttemberg, Germany, beginning in 1918. The pottery was founded by Isidore Faist in 1820 as a stone goods factory and was originally located in an empty castle. It operated under various names and owners until 1912 when it was bought by Moritz and Leopold Meyer and renamed Schramberger Majolikafabrik (Schramberger Majolica Factory). The pottery made majolica, stoneware, and porcelain. The pottery closed in 1989.


Sometimes old quilts, pillows, and upholstered pieces bring unwanted visitors to your home--bedbugs. Once inside your house, they will nest in walls, in cracks in wooden furniture and floors, and even in light fixtures. There is a worldwide epidemic. If your house is invaded, hire an exterminator to spray. Then wash all fabrics you can in hot water (over 120 degrees) and keep doing that for at least 20 weeks--since bedbugs keep laying eggs that keep hatching. In the early 1900s, there were many new ideas about health. One group suggested using iron, not wooden, beds to stay healthy. We wonder if they suspected it helped ward off bedbugs and fleas.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


The ins and outs of negotiating at an antiques auction

Collectors have to understand the ins and outs of negotiating and finance. So when this was sent to me last week, I did the puzzle.

You bought a lot of stuff at the antiques auction and want to pay the bill. As fast as you can, add this in your head (no pencils or calculators):

  1. Take $1,000 and add $40 to it. Add another $1,000.
  2. Add $30. Now add another $1,000. Then add $20.
  3. Add another $1,000. Add $10. What is the total?
Did you get $5,000? You overpaid. (See below)

Fast number calculations can be confusing. Ever hear an auctioneer say: "This ring is set with 20 diamonds that total 5 carats, and you know how valuable a 5-carat diamond is." Why the comparison? Small diamonds are worth much less than one big one. Or: "This is over 100 years old. It belonged to my grandmother and she died at 102." Yes, but did she buy it at birth? Or on her 90th birthday? Always listen carefully when money is involved and don't pay $5,000 for something that should cost you $4,100. Oh, did I mention that I gave a version of this puzzle to my 6th-grade math classes long ago when I was a math teacher?

Any other auctioneer sayings with numbers that you have heard?


Base of a butter dish that was originally part of an early American  pressed glass child's toy table set

Q: My partner and I found this glass bowl and we don't know what it is called or how it was used--I say porridge and she says pureed foods, like veggies. Can you help? And if you tell me I can get thousands of dollars for it, I would be very happy!

A: You have the base of a butter dish that was originally part of an early American pressed glass child's toy table set. A creamer, sugar with cover, and a spooner completed the set. The pattern is called "Acorn." The maker is unknown.

Toy and children's dishes were made by many pressed glass houses during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Your dish was made about 1890 to 1900, a time when butter came in rounds of about a pound, not in sticks as it does today. Acorn items are decorated with an acorn and oak leaves on their footed bases. Children and animals in the style of Kate Greenaway (1846-1901), a famous illustrator of children's books, are on the sides. The pattern was also made in frosted glass. Your butter dish is missing its bell-shaped cover, which lowers its value. The butter with its cover is worth $250 to $300.


The company made semi-porcelain dinnerware

Q: I have a plate marked HRWYLLIE. Who made it and how old is it?

A: H.R. Wyllie China Company was located in Huntington, West Virginia, from c.1910 until the late 1920s. The company made semi-porcelain dinnerware. Before Wyllie started his own pottery, he sold dinnerware. He established his pottery in Huntington after the city gave him the land, money for building, a tax abatement, and free gas.


Six-inch ruler

When you want to measure something at a flea market, reach in your pocket for a U.S. dollar bill. It is six inches long. You are always carrying a six-inch ruler. When you want to measure something at a flea market, reach in your pocket for a U.S. dollar bill. It is six inches long. You are always carrying a six-inch ruler.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


One of Ralph & Terry Kovel's first purchases: A lithographed tin Grape Nuts Sign.

A Note of Thanks from Terry Kovel

Thank you, collectors, dealers, curators, authors and the many others who are part of our community of "antiquers." Your hundreds of notes and calls have made the past two weeks a little easier.

Ralph and I were together in work and marriage for many years, yet there are many stories I had forgotten or perhaps never heard:

  • How he schemed with a dealer to make me think he was buying a 10-foot-tall airplane propeller for our living room, then told me about it in front of the camera during a TV taping.

  • How he sat for hours in an auction to buy a special antique for me for our anniversary. He got it with the best ploy I have ever seen at an auction. He noticed only two other bidders wanted the antique, so he tapped the one nearest to us on the shoulder and said, "Pardon me, I have waited all day for the next piece--don't you have to go to the bathroom?" The dealer laughed, left for a short time, and Ralph's bid won.

  • How he often gave a tie or cufflinks to someone who admired them.

  • How he gave information and advice to anyone who asked, including one bottle collector from Alaska who called at 2 in the morning.
The house is filled with Ralph. Every piece of furniture, every vase, and of course our country store collection are all reminders of a wonderful husband and our years of collecting fun. The personal stories from you, especially the ones that tell of a chance encounter at a show or of the importance of his work, have kept me going. I keep thinking that, as one blogger said, "He's probably poking around in God's cupboards" looking for that next treasure.



Q: I have a pitcher that I think is at least 70 years old. It is 5 1/2 inches high. The bottom is marked "Erphila Germany" and "Dutchy Jugs." I would appreciate any information you can provide.

A: Ebeling & Reuss is a company founded in Philadelphia in 1886. The company imported and sold porcelain figures, animals, teapots, pitchers and creamers, platters, and other giftwares from many factories, mostly in Germany and Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic). Their ceramics are marked "Erphila"--for Ebeling, Reuss and Philadelphia. Occasionally a manufacturer's mark is also used. The firm is still in business in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and sells silverware, crystal, and home decorating items from many countries. Your pitcher is one of many whimsical figural pitchers imported by Ebeling & Reuss about 1930. It would sell for $50 to $65.