Wednesday, August 27, 2008 Item of the Week: Democratic National Party 1896 Convention Badge Item of the Week: Democratic National Party

Delegates at this week’s Democratic National Convention will no doubt go home with handfuls of future political collectibles. An alternate delegate saved this ribbon badge from the 1896 Chicago Democratic convention, where William Jennings Bryan was nominated. The 9-inch-long badge sold this summer for $358 at auction.

There are several similarities between the 1896 and 2008 conventions—mainly the youthfulness of candidates William Jennings Bryan and Barack Obama. Bryan, who was 36 years old in 1896, is the youngest nominee in presidential history. At 47, Obama is younger than most presidential candidates (the average age is 54.8 years). And like the 2000s, the 1890s were troubled financial times in the United States. Bryan’s famous “Cross of Gold” convention address called for reforms in the American monetary system to offer relief from the effects of the Panic of 1893.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008


This Martinware bird sold for $36,000 at a March 2008 auction. What is Rich?

Have you heard the comments by the presidential candidates on the "What is rich?" question? We used to argue about this for fun with friends when we were first married. We never thought about several houses, nannies, or extra cars--just a comfortable life with some backup cash for emergencies. But our dreams as collectors were there:

-"Rich is being able to hire a full time handyman to fix broken chair legs, move the antique iron garden urns inside for the winter, and hang pictures."

-"Rich is having someone who will go to the post office and return the broken antiques."

-"Rich is flying in our own plane to the extravaganza flea markets and shows in other parts of the country."

And we also added a few universal wishes--like "I will have someone wash the dishes and empty the dishwasher, dump the trash, and shovel the walks." We never wanted huge amounts of money to buy quantities of antiques because that would take the fun out of the process. We like to shop, study, and buy the unique and wonderful in our price range. It wouldn't be a challenge to buy a long-wanted Martinware bird for $36,000, the March auction price for the one pictured here. We want to find one at a house sale.

Years ago while doing our television shows, we met Malcom Forbes, a multimillionaire collector of collections. We asked him how he bought everything from toy soldiers to inscribed presentation silver to Faberge. He had one personal helper, a secretary who read all of the auction catalogs and marked the pieces he might like. Then he went to the auctions to bid for his choices. He enjoyed the chase and the competition of the bidding, and he had a price limit.

That's the great part about collecting. You can be as successful a collector as a millionaire--you just have to collect different things. Forbes was able to restore a Victorian home in London and furnish it with the best period furniture and paintings. And he used his former residence in Morocco as a special museum for his toy soldier collection. We don't know how many other houses he had, but these two became homes for his collections.

Of course, it would be fun to have lots of big houses. Then there would be room to hang more store signs and display more figurines and find a spot for that strange chair that won't fit in the crowded library. But we like living in one house, even if our collections and our library books are complaining that they need more space.


Q: I turned up an Ingraham pocket watch engraved with an airplane, a globe with (Admiral Richard E.) Byrd's image on it, and the phrase, "Trail Blazer, commemorating Byrd's Antarctic Expedition." The paper face has a picture of an airplane and an Antarctic scene on it.

A: E. Ingraham & Co., founder Elias Ingraham's fourth clock-making venture, made clocks and watches from 1860 to 1967 in Bristol, England. The company was sold to McGraw-Edison, and electric clocks with the Ingraham trademark are still made in Laurinburg, North Carolina. Ingraham was one of five companies that sold a one-dollar pocket watch, lowering the price by using a pin instead of a jewel for a bearing. From 1913 until the mid-1960s, the company manufactured about 65 million pocket watches. Your pocket watch dates from about 1929, the year Rear Admiral Richard Evelyn Byrd flew over the South Pole and back. Ingraham made other watches commemorating historic flights, including Charles Lindbergh's 1927 transatlantic flight. One of those sold online recently for $130.

A reader emailed: "Thank you very much for the free Kovels Komments online newsletter--I look forward to it regularly. In your August 27, 2008, issue you noted that the E. Ingraham Co. (clockmakers) were located in Bristol, England. They were located in Bristol, Connecticut. There is a wonderful museum located in Bristol with one full wing dedicated to Edward Ingraham alone. It's the American Clock & Watch Museum in the Miles Lewis House, 100 Maple St., Bristol, CT 06010 (860-583-6070 or This museum is a treasure trove of clocks & watches (three floors!) along with an extensive research library."


Cunard Cube

Q: This little pitcher is 4 1/2 in. high and is marked "The Cube." What was it used for?

A: Robert C. Johnson designed the cube teapot in 1916 but the first cube teapots were not made until 1920. The cube design was popular until the early 1950s. The cube-shaped pot was dripless and easy to store. Several companies made cube teapots in different colors and designs. Large and small teapots, creamers, cube sugars, and souvenir sets were made. Cube teapots were used on Cunard oceanliners beginning in the 1920s. Large cube teapots were used in the dining rooms and smaller sets were made for staterooms. The plain white teapots made for Cunard's liners are the most easily found today. George Clews & Co., in business from 1906 to 1961, probably made your small cube teapot for Cunard's ship Queen Mary.

Monday, August 25, 2008


Jigsaw Puzzle Reproduction

To make a reproduction box for a jigsaw puzzle, assemble the puzzle, scan it into a computer or copy it on a color copier, then paste it on a suitable box. You can copy parts of a puzzle and enlarge them to make a substitute for a missing piece.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Campaign Button: Item of the Week August 20, 2008

Presidential Campaign Button

Presidential candidates, reporters and observers are gearing up for the Democratic and Republican conventions. Everyone's talking about change—we're talking about political collectibles.

Back in 1952, after 20 years of Democratic governance, the Republicans campaigned for Dwight D. Eisenhower with the rallying cry, "It's time for a change," and the catchier jingle, "I like Ike." This 1 1/4-inch celluloid campaign button, sold at a summer Heritage auction for $168, and cleverly expresses both slogans.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Cleaning out collectibles that have lost their charm

Last Friday night I came home, opened the refrigerator to get a snack and noticed the light didn't turn on. Burnt-out bulb? So I looked in the freezer. No light. So at 9 p.m., I called an 800 number and booked a repair for Monday. Why do appliances always die on Fridays? Are the poltergeists of the world hard at work? I decided to clean our garage freezer, put the good stuff from our kitchen freezer there, and throw out lots of things that were old or not among our favorites. Two trash cans later, we had plenty of space to store the frozen food, and the perishables from the fridge were in coolers. We also found some great desserts, a few homemade meals, and a container of our favorite homemade orange and cranberry Thanksgiving relish. (In between times, I kept running to see the Olympics on television so I wouldn't miss Michael Phelps' gold medals.)

All of this led us to wonder what it would take to clean out the shelves and boxes of our collectibles that have lost their charm. So that job is on our list. We are going to start with the garage storage cabinets and sort everything into three main categories: "save," "donate" and "dump." In the process, we will certainly find forgotten treasures. Then, just as we did with the contents of our freezer (ice cream here, meat there), we will sort our collectibles into more specific categories.

Bookends and Depression glass, lady head planters and vinegar cruets will at last each have a single spot on a shelf. We can get a real inventory and stop searching every shelf when we want something. Schedule a cleaning. You may be surprised to find that many of the things at the back of your shelves are now much more popular--and might even make it into the living room.


Moorcroft Pottery

Moorcroft pottery is often sold at Waddington auction sales in Toronto, so we were pleased to hear from Bill Klime, Waddington's Decorative Arts expert.

He emailed: "The extraordinary Moorcroft Spanish pattern vase (big enough to function as an umbrella stand) featured in Komments August 13... That vase, assuming it's 16-18 inches or so high and in good condition, is worth more like $15,000 at auction these days, even more than that if it's bigger."

Spanish is among the most desirable of Moorcroft's designs and that one looks to be especially well decorated. We have noticed that Moorcroft sells very well in Canada and England, but didn't realize Spanish pattern had gained in value that much in recent years. It just proves that the international market is important and the highest prices may be found far from home.


Q: This pitcher was in a collection of my grandmother's. We have been told that it is a majolica toby jug. The word "Sarreguemines" is written on the bottom. Any information you can give us as to age, history, value, etc.?

A: You have a Sarreguemines "Puck" face jug. The porcelain factory Utzschneider and Company made ceramics in Sarreguemines, Lorraine, France, beginning about 1775. The company made majolica after 1860. "Puck" is one of several different face jugs made in various sizes. "Puck" was also made with different decorations. Your jug was probably made between c.1890 and c.1925. Value of your jug is $100 to $250, depending on size.


Q: I inherited a set of dishes from Hungary from my parents. The pieces are painted with burnt orange flowers and gold trim. They are marked with "Herend, Hungary, Handpainted" in blue. and some numbers in orange. Can you tell me the name of the pattern and how old it is?

A: Herend Porcelain Manufactory was founded in 1826 in Herend, Hungary. It is still in business and is the world's largest porcelain factory. Herend started out making earthenware, but by the 1840s was producing porcelain tableware. Early Herend porcelain patterns are similar to Meissen and Sevres designs. Herend makes replacement pieces for any of its patterns by special order. Although the design and shape of your dishes look old, this Herend mark indicates they were not made before 1965. The four-digit number and letters FH identify the piece and the pattern name. Your dishes are Herend's Indian Basket Rust. Indian Basket was made in several colors. The two-digit number is the painter's number. For more information on Herend, including a timeline of history and marks, go to


Safe Way to Display Plates

If you use plate hangers to display your plates, be sure they are not too tight. The clips should be covered with a soft material. Otherwise, the ends of the clips may scratch or chip the plate.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008 Item of the Week: Olympics Poster

Olympics Poster









Enjoying the Games of the XXIX Olympiad in Beijing? The first poster to announce the games using the term "Olympiad" was this one, advertising the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. In the lower right of the poster is the slogan, "Call to the Games of the Xth Olympiad." This one sold for $60 at a recent auction.


Consignment Shops

Although a consignment shop does not get high prices for antiques and collectibles, it is useful as a way to sell other things when you move or have to clean out an estate. We picked up some great tips on what sells in a consignment shop from a brochure put out by a local store. This shop lowers the price 1 percent each day until an item is sold. After 100 days, the item is given away. Most items sell in 10 days.

Here are some tips from the brochure:

1. Make starting prices on the lower side.

2. You get 25 percent to 50 percent of the sale price; the store gets the rest. So don't compare prices to price book or auction prices.

3. Clean and perhaps even paint, stain or repair some expensive items.

4. Five percent to 10 percent of store items are antiques--they sell well.

5. Unique items like cash registers, saddles or wine presses sell quickly.

6. Knickknacks and accessories sell well--the "more unique, the better."

7. Large items like couches are priced low to move quickly because they take up so much space in the store.

8. Seasonality counts: bikes and patio furniture do not sell in the winter in cold climates. Holiday items drop way down in price immediately after the holiday.

9. Dining room sets sell best in the fall, when people are planning family dinners like Thanksgiving.

10. Table sets do best with four or more chairs.

11. Curio cabinets bring low prices; they are not necessities.

12. Modern end tables and those made of solid wood sell for $25 to $50. Particle-board tables or Early American-style tables sell for $5 to $15 or not at all.

13. Wooden-armed gold, orange or lime green chairs will not sell, even for $5.14. Children's items sell at very low prices.


Needlepoint, paint-by-numbers, hooked-rug pictures, draperies, mattress sets, Hollywood bed frames, waterbeds, books, records, tapes, decorative cookie tins, old sewing machines in traditional cabinets, used puzzles and games and anything worth less than $5.Think about these rules when you have a garage sale or try to sell online. And let us know about any other items you're sure will not sell even at a very low price.


Liberty & Co.

Q: I have an art nouveau style vase that my grandmother used as an umbrella stand. It has a floral design that feels like it's etched into the vase. The bottom is stamped "Made for Liberty & Co" and it looks like it is signed "W. Morris Jr." Can you tell me the age and value, if any?

A: Liberty & Co. is a famous department store in London, England. The signature on your vase is "W. Moorcroft." Moorcroft made pottery for several retailers. Liberty was the most important, financing the Moorcroft pottery until 1962 when the Moorcroft family bought them out. Pottery can be found with both Liberty and Moorcroft marks, some with just the Liberty mark and some with just the Moorcroft mark. Liberty sold some Moorcroft patterns under different pattern names. Your vase is the "Spanish" design, made in different color variations from 1910 to the 1930s. Pieces marked "Liberty" are very collectible. A large vase like an umbrella stand could sell for over $1500.


Q: I have a wall-hung, wood case clock with a pendulum and chimes. There is no maker's name on the clock face, but this mark is engraved on the clockworks. The clock belonged to my grandfather, who came from England to Canada in the early 1900s. Can you tell me who made it and how old it is?

A: This mark was used by Gustav Becker (1819-1885), who founded a clock factory in Freiburg, Silesia, Germany, c.1848. The mark includes his initials and an image of the Medaille d'Or (gold medal) that Becker won at the 1852 trade exposition in Silesia. Becker also marked his clocks with serial numbers, which indicate the year of manufacture. (The serial number in 1890 was 800,000.) Gustav Becker's clock company became part of Junghans in 1926, but the Becker name was used until 1936.


Taking care of outdoor stonework and statues

Outdoor stonework and statues, even if made of granite, can be damaged by acid rain, frost and plants like ivy. Put garden statues on raised stands to keep moisture from grass away from the statues. Wash the statues with a hose and a soft brush.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008 Top 20 Antiques & Collectibles in July 2008

This bride and groom pair sold for $4,032 at a recent Theriault's auction.
The Kovels' Top 20 list is based on the results of hundreds of thousands of searches that took place on its website during July, 2008. Occupied Japan remains on top of the list. But it's China that's all the buzz right now as the world focuses on the Olympic Games.

These dolls were made in Shanghai, China, at the Door of Hope Mission. The Door of Hope was founded to rescue "strayed, stolen, abandoned" children and women who were trying to escape from a life of prostitution. The dollmaking industry provided work for the residents and income for the mission from 1917 until about 1950, when the mission was closed. This bride and groom pair sold for $4,032 at a recent Theriault's auction.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Tune in to Terry Kovel
Turn on your radio and tune in to Terry Kovel when she does a live interview on Martha Stewart's "Living Today" show on Martha Stewart Living Radio.

Bakelite radio pictured above was made in the 1940s by the Fada Radio and Electric Company of New York.
When: Wednesday, August 6, 2008 at 1:30 PM EST

Where: Channel 112 on Sirius Satellite Radio


Does everyone have a doppelganger? Is this carved marble head that was the corner of a sarcophagus in Roman times proof that Elvis had a previous life? Some think Elvis is still alive today. The puzzling carving will sell at Bonhams in London on October 15, part of a $2 million sale of antiquities. Next thing you know, they may find the Latin words and music to his Roman hit songs, "Sandallium Caeruleum Alutum" (Blue Suede Shoes) and "Atroci No Existiti" (Don't Be Cruel).


Sometimes a piece you bought years ago for very little money turns out to be valuable today. New research and new interests can change values. The Civil War and Underground Railroad Museum of Philadelphia was going through documents in storage and found a document listed as a photo reproduction. It records the terms of Gen. Robert E. Lee's surrender. It's dated 1865 and has actual signatures. The museum thinks it was probably a souvenir copy signed at the time, not the official copy. But if it turns out to be the original Confederate copy, it would be worth over $500,000.


Warnings for Beer Collectors

Beer can collectors be warned. Original-formula Schlitz beer is back--but only in bottles. Schlitz sold in cans after the mid 1950s is a generally unpopular beer made from a revised formula that shortened the fermenting process and added a seaweed extract to make more foam. The original Schlitz brewery in Milwaukee closed by 1981, and the brand was sold. It now belongs to Pabst, and researchers there decided to go back to the original formula. You can drink the old-but-new beer from bottles in Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Chicago and western Florida. Schlitz in cans is not the revised formula.


Gem Safety Razor

Q: I need information on a Gem Safety Razor. It has all its pieces and comes in a cylindrical tin with a man holding a razor that says, "Be your own barber."

A: In 1898 Jerry Reichard started the Gem Cutlery Co. in New York and patented the company's first product, the Gem Safety Razor. The razor was so successful that the company changed its name to the Gem Safety Razor Co. in 1900. The company merged with Star and Ever-Ready to become the American Safety Razor Corp. in 1919. Gem razor tins featured a smiling man with his face lathered up who is ready to shave with the razor in his raised right hand. Unlike your tin, most Gem tins were rectangular and hinged and had the man's image on the back and the company name and slogan on the front. Your round tin is rare and probably early. With the tin and complete set, your razor could sell for $300 or more.


Q: I have a bowl with these marks on the bottom. Can you tell me what they mean?

A: The swastika inside a gear is the logo of Deutsche Arbeitsfront (DAF), the German Labor Front. The DAF was founded after Hitler came to power in 1933 and was the only legal trade union under the Third Reich. The words "Modell des Amtes Schnheit der Arbeit" roughly translate as "Approved Model of the Office of Beauty of Work." "Schoenheit der Arbeit" (Office of Beauty of Work) was an organization under the DAF concerned with improving conditions in the workplace and that, according to one source, also gave the seal of approval to good designs.

The Office of Beauty of Work existed from 1933 to c.1939. Bauscher Weiden was established in Weiden, Bavaria, in 1881. The company became part of Hutschenreuther AG in 1927 and is still in business as a subsidiary of BHS tabletop AG. Bauscher Weiden specializes in hotel tableware.

This Bauscher Weiden mark was used from c.1920 to c.1939. Nazi memorabilia was understandably unpopular for many years after the end of World War II, but more items are showing up for sale now and prices are rising. Some pieces were brought home by soldiers who fought in World War II. Nazi memorabilia is collected for its historical and collectible value, and not to make a political statement. Many who offer Nazi memorabilia for sale are careful to point out that they do not agree with the policies of the Nazi party and are not in any way affiliated with it.


Getting Rid of A Musty Odor

Tip from a reader in answer to a question about getting rid of a musty odor:

"In the past, I have wrapped needlework pieces in white cotton toweling and placed them in the freezer for several hours up to several weeks to remove odors of all kinds, from attic mustiness to smoke. I wonder if this would work for books."

It might be a good system for some textiles and even printed paper, but be very careful not to let any ice or water touch the piece. Perhaps using a sealable plastic bag would be safer.