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.