Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Lady HorBrooklyn Museum researchers decided to have CAT scans done on the mummies in their collection to learn more about ancient funeral practices and perhaps causes of death. Imagine their excitement when the scan of a mummy named Lady Hor proved "she" was a man. The mistake was made in 1937 because of the mummy's coffin. The coffin had no beard, and archeologists thought that meant the mummy was a woman. Museums have probably made other mistakes like this. The CAT scans revealed great details. One of the other mummies was found to have a 5-inch reed in his esophagus. Was it an ancient medical apparatus to help with breathing? Swallowing?


Eva Zeisel is known to collectors for her modern ceramic designs for Hall China, Red Wing, Sears Roebuck, the Museum of Modern Art, Hyalyn Pottery, Rosenthal and other potteries. She also designed metal chairs, crystal vases, lamps, plastic dinnerware, and interiors. This year she designed hand-knotted, hand-carved carpets. And she is 102 years old. What should we expect next year?


Kaufmann and StraussQ: I have an old Coca-Cola tin sign that is tacked to a wooden frame. On the left side are the words "Relieves Mental & Physical Exhaustion." In the upper right it says "Delightful Summer and Winter Beverage." On the back it says "Kaufmann & Strauss Company NY." Any idea of its date, history and value?

A: Kaufmann & Strauss was a company that made tin signs and advertising trays from 1890 to the early 1930s. It is unusual to find the printed name of a company on the back of a sign; usually the printing is only on one side. Coca-Cola used the picture of a girl in a blue dress sitting at a table on its 1898 calendar and other advertising items. A 20-by-28-inch tin sign is pictured in Petretti's Coca-Cola Collectibles Price Guide, 10th ed., with a value of $15,000. In 1886 John S. Pemberton, a pharmacist in Atlanta, developed Coca-Cola syrup as a patent medicine that was advertised as a cure for headache or "tired feeling." By 1900 it was usually advertised as a soda fountain drink and not as a headache medicine. Your sign, even bent, rusted, and filled with holes, could sell for a few thousand dollars if it's original. Beware. The frame is new and the sign has a surprising number of holes; it's possible it's a copy. The actual sign, not a picture of it, should be seen by an expert to determine the value.

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Royal Doulton Q: I have a Royal Doulton vase with these marks on the bottom. Can you tell me what they all mean and how old the vase is?

A: The Royal Doulton mark on your vase was used beginning in 1932. F. Allen (probably Fred Allen) was an artist at Royal Doulton. "Sung" is the name of a flambe glaze developed by Charles John Noke, the art director at Royal Doulton from 1914 to 1936. Flambe was made by adding copper oxide and other chemicals to the glaze and then reducing the flow of oxygen to the kiln, producing a mottled effect. Sung was made from 1920 to the early 1940s. Your vase was made between 1932 and 1936. The size of the vase helps determine the price. A 6-inch vase is worth about $450; bigger vases bring higher prices.


Don't store old fireworks, and watch out for antiques that have been stored a long time but could explode. Guns, shells, powder cans, nitrate movie film, and some chemicals left in old bottles or cans are dangerous. It you aren't sure what you're dealing with, contact your local police or fire department for help. Some explosives, like dynamite sticks or even World War II hand grenades, are unstable and could explode if moved.

Kovel.com Item of the Week

A lucky collector bought this Michael Jackson-signed Galveston guitar for $597 from a Heritage auction about two weeks ago. That was a buy. All Michael Jackson memorabilia will go up in value.

Find more Michael Jackson Memorabilia ...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Nippon porcelain vaseOrientalism, the design tradition of the 19th century that pictured scenes from Egypt, Morocco, and other glamorous Middle Eastern spots, is gaining new respect. The paintings of harems and market scenes have gone up in price. The jewelry, ceramics and furniture inspired by the art are also selling for much more now than they did ten years ago.


The Ice House CoverA reader, S.C., emailed to ask who gets the money for the stolen Lincoln stamp mentioned last week. The "Ice House" cover (envelope) that bore the stamp was stolen in 1967. Aetna Insurance paid the owner, J. David Baker, $86,000 to cover the loss of the Ice House cover and about 250 other covers that were stolen at the same time. Most of the stolen covers were found and returned in 1978. In 2006 a couple claimed to have found the cover while they were sorting through a dead friends' estate. Another source says the couple claimed they bought the cover at a flea market. The couple took the envelope to a stamp shop in Chicago where it was identified and the police were contacted. The statute of limitations had expired on the 1967 theft, so the case went to court. Who owned the stamp -- the finders, the original owners, the insurance company, or another collector who had offered to buy it when it surfaced? The insurance company had been involved in several mergers and the judge ruled it was no longer the same company that had insured the stamp. The collector had no proof he had purchased the rights to buy the stamp because those involved were dead. The ownership was finally awarded to the Baker estate in 2008. So the money, $431,250, went to the Baker heirs.

But the whole story is even more complicated. It is part of a real life detective drama involving a fine arts thief, the Chicago mob, a porn shop owner, a murder, a blackmail demand for the return of the stamp, and the suicide of a man who was accused of selling bogus collectibles. To this day no one admits to knowing where the stamp has been all these years.


Dick Tracy Puzzle
Q: I have a Dick Tracy "Crime Does Not Pay Club" puzzle. I would like to know the value.

A: Your puzzle was made c.1946 by Jaymar Specialty Company of Brooklyn, New York. The company was founded in the late 1920s by Jacob Marx, his son, David, and daughter, Rose. Jacob was the father of Louis Marx, who founded his own toy company before Jaymar was established. Jaymar made jointed wood toys, specializing in comic character figures. The company began making puzzles after World War II. Jaymar Specialty Company went out of business in 1990. A puzzle like yours sold at auction for $74 a few months ago.


Sampson Bridgwood and Son
Q: Can you tell me the something about the maker and age of my dish? It has this anchor mark on the bottom.

A: Your dish was made by Sampson Bridgwood and Son, which was established in Longton, Staffordshire, England, in 1805. The pottery made earthenware and porcelain. Bridgwood began operating Anchor Pottery in Longton in 1853. Porcelain was not made after 1877. Several different anchor marks were used. Sampson Bridgwood is now part of Churchill China, which makes tableware for restaurants and catering businesses. Your mark is similar to a mark Sampson Bridgwood used in the 1950s. "Ye Olde Indian Tree" is the pattern name. Indian Tree was a popular china pattern made by several manufacturers in the nineteenth century. Value for a dinner plate, under $30.


If you collect printed tablecloths from the sixties, be careful washing them. They will fade. The vintage cloths were usually 50 by 54 inches; repros are often 60 by 60 inches.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


The Ice House CoverA rare 90-cent Lincoln stamp that was stolen and missing for 39 years, auctioned last Saturday for $431,250. The stamp had been in a collector's safe in Indianapolis when it vanished in 1967. It resurfaced at a house in Chicago in 2006 and the police were notified. The stamp was on an envelope referred to as "The Ice House Cover" that was mailed from Boston to the Ice House in Calcutta, India in 1873. The seller was Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries, Inc. of New York City.


Barberton OhioWe track down rumors in the world of antiques every month. A few weeks ago we heard that a 4 1/2-inch stoneware bank, made in Ohio early in the twentieth century, was bought on eBay for $500, then sold at a regular auction for $40,000. Wrong. Garth's Auctions sold the eBay stoneware bank for $5,875. Still not a bad profit. The bank had a cobalt blue "folksy" design of flowers and a bird and "Barberton Ohio" in the inscription, all price increasing features. Rumors often have a grain of truth that is exaggerated. Watch out also for suspicious provenance. Here are two popular claims being used right now: a container, a simple covered box or bowl, is advertised as a cocaine or an opium jar; an ordinary item, usually a tool or a quilt, is described as having been made by a slave. Neither is very likely. Don't be fooled into bidding extra because of the story.


Edgeworth pipe tobaccoQ: I found this figure many years ago when we cleaned out my father's house after he died. The figure is 12 inches tall and the only mark on it is the word "Father" painted on the base. Is it worth anything or is it just a dust collector?

A: This figure was an advertisement for Edgeworth pipe tobacco, a company in business from 1877 to 1874. Your figure was made c.1930 and was probably based on Jiggs, the father in "Bringing Up Father," a comic strip that ran in newspapers from 1913 to 2000. Jiggs was an Irish-American bricklayer who became rich when he won the sweepstakes. He preferred his old friends and the local tavern to socializing with the wealthy. His wife, Maggie, wanted to be part of high society and continually tried to "bring him up." Your figure may have been repainted and the facial features "touched up." The figure usually has a cigar in his mouth, wears white spats and a white vest, and has the words "I Smoke Edgeworth Tobacco" printed on the front of his shirt. The original figure, complete with cigar and wording, would be worth $300 if not repainted.


1893 Columbian Exposition
Q: I found a brick from the Chicago World's Fair of 1893. It is 9 inches by 5 inches, and has two circles with a man's image and another image I cannot identify. The letters R R and C C are in the corners. Do you know if this brick has any value or historical significance?

A: Your brick commemorates the 1893 Columbian Exposition, also known as the Chicago World's Fair. It was made by the Robinson Clay Products Co. of Akron, Ohio. R C P C are the raised letters in the corners. The conjoined circles bear two images: Columbus stepping into the "New World" on the left, and on the right, an imprint of the medal awarded to Robinson Clay Co. for having the best brick at the fair. These bricks were used as spacers between bricks for street surfacing and have sold for around $150.


We like this dealer's idea. He is "repurposing antiques" by making antique architectural pieces into lamps. There is a lot of repurposing going on now at flea markets. A unique garden stake was priced $15 at a show. It was a long copper pipe, topped by a cup and saucer held together by epoxy.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


The American FlagThe Star Spangled Banner flag has been repaired and restored and is now on display at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

We all learned about flags in school, so see what you remember.

1) Describe the Smithsonian's flag or, better yet, make a quick sketch of it--stars, stripes, and damage. 2) Who made the first American flag? 3) How many points on the flag's stars? 4) When were official rules first established for the appearance of the flag?

1) The tattered Smithsonian flag has 15 stars and 15 stripes (count them in the picture). One of the original stars is missing, possibly lost in the 1814 battle that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem that became our national anthem. Our first flag had 13 stripes, red and white, and 13 white stars on a blue field. In 1791 and 1792, stars and stripes were added for the new states of Vermont and Kentucky. So the flag had 15 stars and 15 stripes until 1818. The rules changed after that. As more states joined the union, each flag had only 13 stripes but an added star for each new state. Since the Smithsonian flag was flown at the Battle of Baltimore during the War of 1812, it has 15 stripes and 15 stars.

2) No one has proof. Betsy Ross was a real person, a flag-maker born in Philadelphia in 1752, but no one can prove she made the first American flag. The story was publicized in 1870 by her grandson, who told it as part of his family history.

3) Five. The rule now is five points, but early flag-makers used five-pointed, six-pointed or even seven- or eight-pointed stars.

4) There were no official rules until 1912, when President William Howard Taft signed an executive order that described the size and shape and the arrangement of the stars on an official U.S. flag.


The weather was perfect this weekend, so I went to a large and well-known Ohio flea market. The good news--and we've heard similar reports from around the country--was that dealers were selling lots of merchandise. They weren't getting the high prices they got a couple of years ago, but they're buying for less so they're making a profitand collectors are happy. I bought a two-story birdhouse with shutters and a "brick" chimney for a bargain $13. But can anyone explain why at least six dealers told me they finally sold a set of dark green glassware they had been unable to sell at many previous shows? Is green this year's favorite color--perhaps a nod to the "green" environmental movement?


Loose-Wiles Biscuit Company
Q:  I have a Loose-Wiles biscuit tin with a picture of George Washington on the lid. What can you tell me about it?

A: Loose-Wiles Biscuit Company was founded in Kansas City 1902 by John A. Wiles and brothers Jacob Leander Loose and Joseph Schull Loose. The company called its crackers and cookies Sunshine Biscuits. In 1946 the company changed its name to Sunshine Biscuits, Inc. It is now a subsidiary of Keebler. Your biscuit tin was first made in 1939, 150 years after George Washington was inaugurated as the first president of the United States. Most modern decorative tin boxes sell for under $30.


TeplitzQ: I have an ornate Teplitz compote with this mark on it. I've heard that if a piece is marked "Austria," it was made after 1892. Is this true? Can you tell me who made it and how old it is?

A: Teplitz is not the maker of your compote but a town in Bohemia (part of Czechoslovakia since 1948). Several potteries were located in the area around Teplitz. The country of origin was marked on goods imported into the United States after 1891. The words "Made in" were usually used after 1915. This flower mark was used by the Ernst Wahliss pottery in Turn-Teplitz, Bohemia, from c.1894-c.1921. After Ernst died in 1900, his sons took over the pottery. The name of the pottery was changed to Alexandra Porcelain Works Ernst Wahliss in 1905. The Ernst Wahliss pottery made reproductions of Vienna porcelain figurines beginning in 1902 using molds from the Imperial and Royal Porcelain Manufactory in Vienna, which was out of business. Since your figurine is marked "Wien," the German name for "Vienna," you probably have one of the reproduction figurines made between 1902 and c.1921.


Remove jewelry before taking a bath or shower. Soap can form a dulling film. And rhinestones, pearls, opals and any beads strung on silk cord may be damaged if immersed in water.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


Audrey HepburnA rare German postage stamp picturing movie star Audrey Hepburn with a cigarette holder dangling from her mouth auctioned in Germany last week for $93,800. Millions of the stamps were printed in 2001, but the run was destroyed when one of Hepburn's sons objected to the photo of his mother smoking. Only five of the stamps are known to exist, but there could be more out there (an unknown post office employee pocketed 30 advance proofs, but probably used most of them to mail letters). The photo on the stamp was an image from Hepburn's 1961 movie, "Breakfast at Tiffany's."


Rarity, quality, and demand (not necessarily age) create value in the collector marketplace. The 1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa, a successful race car, has always been expensive, but bidders in Italy were amazed when one sold last month for a world record $12.1 million. Only 22 of the models were made. The price topped the previous Ferrari record of $10.9 million, set last year for a 1961 250 GT SWB California Spider.


An AP release from New Zealand tells the story of a mother who was bidding on toys in an online auction when she took a nap. Her 3-year-old daughter clicked a few times and bought a full-size (not a toy) Kobelco earth-moving digger for $12,300. When Mom saw an email from the auction telling her she had won, another email from the seller, and the price she was to pay, she called both the auction and the seller to explain what had happened. The understanding people at the auction site reimbursed the seller's costs for the auction and relisted the digger.


HumidorQ: I would like to know what this was used for. The lid has a rubber seal and the finial seems to be brass. The whole thing is heavy. Can you explain the stampings on the bottom of it?

A: You have a humidor used to keep cigars fresh. The scene on the side is from the comic operetta "Les Cloches de Corneville" ("The Bells of Corneville"), which was first produced in Paris in 1877. Later it was made into a silent movie. The operetta was called "The Chimes of Normandy" when it opened in London and New York. It is one of the most popular French operettas and is still performed occasionally. We did a lot of research on the mark on your humidor and found a humidor like yours with a similar mark plus an additional mark that identifies the maker as Taylor, Tunnicliff & Co. The company was founded in 1867 by Thomas Taylor and William Tunnicliff in Hanley, Staffordshire, England. The pottery made humidors, biscuit jars, fairy lamp bases, and other items from 1868 to 1898. After 1898 the company specialized in making ceramics for the electrical industry. The company is now called Taylor Tunnicliff Ltd. and is located in Longton, Stoke-on-Trent. The A.F.C mark on your humidor is a mystery. It may be the artist's mark. Your humidor is worth about $150.


T. Barnard and an anchor Q: I have a teaspoon with the name T. Barnard and an anchor, a profile of what looks like Ben Franklin and a star marked on the back. There is also the name "Franklin" in script written above the marks. Can you give me any information about this?

A: American silver is usually marked only with the maker's mark, but English silver is marked with a series of hallmarks including the quality mark, town mark, maker's mark and sovereign's head. On English silver, the anchor mark is the town mark for Birmingham. Some American makers used a series of "pseudo hallmarks," imitating the way English silver was marked. The anchor, star and head in profile marks were used by several American companies that made coin silver c.1825-1835.


I just got a new plastic storm door and was told not to clean it with Windex because ammonia will eventually cause the plastic to become cloudy. Not all plastic reacts the same way, but just to be sure don't use ammonia or ammonia-based cleaners on any form of old plastic, especially plastic purses and jewelry.