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.


Danesby Ware Mark

Q: I found a lovely old vase with Danesby Ware marked on the bottom. What can you tell me about it?

A: Danesby Ware was made by Joseph Bourne & Son Ltd. of Denby, Derbyshire, England. Bourne began making salt-glazed pottery at Denby in 1809 and is still in business. At first the company operated under Bourne's name, but it is now known as The Denby Pottery Company. In the 1920s Denby began making decorative and giftware lines they called Danesby Ware.


Ralph and his Hot Sauce

Ralph loved any kind of food with hot sauce. He even used the sauce to take the tarnish off silver.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


In Memoriam: Ralph Kovel
In Memoriam: Ralph Kovel

Ralph Kovel
, Terry's husband and business partner, died last Thursday after a short illness. He will be deeply missed by our readers and fans, by everyone in the world of antiques, and by all of us at Kovels. If you would like to send condolences, you are welcome to use our blog. We very much appreciate all of the kind notes already sent by so many of you.

Our website, all of our publications, and our love of antiques will carry on--with the help of Terry Kovel, Kim Kovel, Lee Kovel and the rest of the Kovel staff.


Asbury Park Plate

Q: Can you tell me the value of my old blue-gray souvenir plate picturing views of Asbury Park, New Jersey? The views show six different town landmarks. There are stars circling the plate's rim and at the top is the title, "Views of Asbury Park, N.J."

A: Many different potteries in England and the United States made American souvenir plates. The plates were immensely popular from the 1890s until World War I and show scenes from famous places like Niagara Falls and from small towns, too. Others picture historical events. The plates are often marked with the maker's name, the importer's name, or both. Rowland & Marsellus, a New York City importing company in business from about 1893 to 1937, sold at least three different Asbury Park plates. If yours was originally sold by Rowland and Marsellus, it should have a diamond-shaped mark on the back with "R&M Co." inside. Rowland & Marsellus imported plates, vases, cups, saucers, and other items from different potteries in the Staffordshire district of England, but the items were marked only with the Rowland & Marsellus mark. No matter which company made or imported your plate, it would sell for about $75 to $100.


American Indian Series made by the Erdmann Schlegelmilch Porcelain Factory ES Germany

Q: This has been in my family for years and no one knows what it is. Can you help identify this piece?

A: You have a small teacup or demitasse that is part of the American Indian Series made by the Erdmann Schlegelmilch Porcelain Factory. The factory was founded in Suhl, Germany, by Leonard Schlegelmilch and named after his father, Erdmann. It was in business from 1861 to 1937, making decorated and undecorated porcelain. The American Indian Series was decorated with decals of Indians. Your cup was probably made in the early twentieth century.


Value Hint

If the name "England" (or that of some other country) appears, the dish was probably made after 1891, but it may have been made as early as 1887. The words "made in England" (or some other country) indicate the piece was made after 1914.