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.