Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Michael JacksonAn Andy Warhol silk-screened image of Michael Jackson sold for $287,500 at Sotheby's on May 13 this year. The pop star died on June 25. Then on August 18, Vered Gallery in East Hampton, N.Y., sold the very same Warhol image for over $1 million, according to Forbes magazine. An expert on Warhol's work says the high price was due to Jackson's death, not to a spike in interest in works by Warhol. Of course.


Archie Comics started 67 years ago with issue No. 1, featuring Archie, Veronica the rich girl, and Betty the girl-next-door. In Archie Comics No. 600, out now, Archie has decided to propose to Veronica (the scene takes place "in the future"). One indignant Betty fan is cashing out. Dave Luebke, owner of a comic book store in Richmond, Va., sold his copy of Archie Comics No. 1 last week. It auctioned for $38,837 at Heritage Galleries in Dallas. The buyer is a longtime Archie fan from Virginia. Some cynical comics collectors wonder if money more than disappointment led to the sale. And some sentimental Archie fans still think that somehow Archie will eventually end up marrying Betty.


If you own paper shares in the old General Motors Corp., don't despair. Cancelled GM paper stock certificates now sell to collectors for more than they're worth on the market. A blue 1980s certificate with a futuristic scene of cars and male busts is selling for $15, and a red 1950s certificate is $17.50. On the stock market, the price is under $1 a share and is expected to go to zero, but some people are still buying. At that price, it's an inexpensive gamble.


Vernon KilnsQ: I'm trying to find some information about this tray. I know it's from the Disney movie "Fantasia," but that's all I know.

A: Vernon Kilns made vases, bowls, dinnerware, salt and pepper shakers, and figurines based on Walt Disney's film "Fantasia" in 1940 and 1941. Pieces marked with the date were made with different decorations. The movie "Fantasia" was not very popular when it was released in 1940, and the line of pottery was discontinued in 1941. It is now one of Disney's most popular animated films and the Vernon Kilns pieces are sought by collectors. Undecorated "dancing mushroom" trays like yours sell for about $20. A similar tray with hand-painted mushrooms and leaves was recently offered for sale at $300. Other Fantasia dishes sell for higher prices. The figurines go for hundreds of dollars.


Q: I found this Tiffany spoon at an antiques shop more than 40 years ago. In all that time, my research hasn't turned up any information at all on it. Can you help?

A: Your spoon was a major puzzle for us. The patent date in the mark indicates the year the design was patented. Tiffany used lower-case or upper-case date letter marks beginning in 1869 to indicate when the pattern was actually made. The marks were either raised or incused (hammered, pressed, or stamped). The lower-case "m" indicates that the silver was made c.1869-c.1875, when Edward C. Moore was head designer. After Moore's death in 1891, the initial of the last name of the president of Tiffany was used as the date letter mark. The lower-case "m" was also used from 1907-1947. Your spoon is a pattern called Lap Over Edge, designed by the superintendent of Tiffany's silver factory. It was introduced in 1880 and was an active pattern until 1904. It is a unique pattern because a complete set of Lap Over Edge silver includes many different decorations. Designs were inspired by Japanese design books and included animals, birds, insects, and plants. Special designs were made to order. Decorations were etched, engraved, chased, applied, or inlaid. The name of the decoration was hand-scratched onto the back of some pieces. Your spoon could sell for as much as $500.


Tin signs and cans will fade from the ultraviolet rays coming in a window or from a fluorescent light. Plexiglas UF-1 or UF-3 will cover the window and keep the rays away from your collection. There are also plastic sleeves to cover fluorescent tubes.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Mona Lisa: An empty teacup was thrown by a Russian woman at the famous Mona Lisa painting in the Louvre in Paris on August 2, but the painting was not damaged. The woman, who according to French authorities "did not have all her mental faculties," was arrested. This is one of a series of problems for the famous 16th-century painting by Leonardo da Vinci. Napoleon took it out of the museum and put it in his bedroom in the early 1800s. It was stolen in 1911 by an Italian who thought it should be in an Italian museum. It was returned in 1913. During World War II the painting was moved three times to other places for safety. The lower part of the painting was damaged by acid thrown at it in 1956. Later that year a Bolivian visitor threw a rock at it, flaking off paint near the elbow. Bulletproof glass was put over the picture in 1974; a short time later it was spray-painted, but Mona Lisa remained undamaged. The biggest problem for the painting these days is caused by its wooden frame, which has been infested with insects several times. Keep smiling, Mona Lisa.

Marilyn Monroe: Want to spend eternity near the famous movie star? Her body is resting in a crypt in a California cemetery. Monroe's ex-husband, Joe DiMaggio, sold the crypt above hers during their divorce in 1954. That crypt is now being offered for sale--with a starting bid of $500,000. The body of the current occupant will be moved to another crypt by his widow. She needs the money to help pay off her mortgage. The Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery is popular with tourists and as a final resting place for celebrities.


Woodstock JacketQ: I have a jacket that was worn by security personnel at Woodstock. I've searched quite a bit online and have not found any value or records about it. The front of the windbreaker has the word "Peace" over the peace sign.

A: Since this year marks the fortieth anniversary of Woodstock, there is a lot of interest in things related to the event. A jacket like yours, with a peace symbol on the front, is displayed in the Hard Rock Cafe in Makati, Philippines. It is one of its top 10 memorabilia items. A similar jacket, blue and without the word "Peace" on the front, sold for $1,186 last year.


Gmundner Keramic
Q: I have a pottery stein with an emblem of a flowerpot on the bottom with one flower and a long leaf on each side of it. It says "Keramik" underneath it. Can you identify the maker?

A: The mark indicates that your stein was made by Gmundner Keramic, a pottery in the town of Gmunden, Austria. The pottery was founded in 1903 by Leopold Schleiss and is still in business. It made ornamental art and began making tableware in 1968. All of the pottery is hand-painted. Most of it is exported to Germany and other European countries, Japan, and the United States. The company has changed hands several times and is now owned by Johannes Duke of Moy. The company still uses the flowerpot mark as a logo. Value depends on the design on the stein.


Need to check the measurements of a great find at a flea market? We have said for many years that a dollar bill is a good 6-inch ruler.

Martha Stewart Living magazine adds these suggestions: a man's size 10 1/2 shoe is about a foot long. A woman's size 8 shoe is about 10 inches long.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Image Courtesy of Cowan'sAn undercover operation just led to the arrest of 25 diggers, sellers and buyers of Indian artifacts allegedly removed from federal lands and grave sites out West. Thefts from American Indian archaeological sites have been a problem for many years. This particular ring is charged with running a major business involving truckloads of stolen pieces and hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales. Auction houses and galleries that sell legal Indian pieces are concerned that they too will be investigated--and that the investigation may scare off customers. Don't be scared. Legally acquired Indian pieces like the moccasins shown here sell for high prices at many shops and auction houses. Cowan's Auctions of Cincinnati sold these moccasins for $540.


The Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) law for food labels has been in full effect since March. The country of origin must be shown on labels so you can "Buy American" if you choose or check to see if there is a health hazard in the country that grew the frozen vegetables you're thinking of buying. The COOL law had already been in place for fish and fresh fruits and vegetables. The law is important to collectors of labels, because in years to come the labels will be an indication of the age of the label or package.


Image Herring-Farrel and Sherman of New YorkQ: I hope you can tell me something about this decorative piece of iron. It was found by a friend in the deep woods near a river bank in southern Georgia in the 1950s. As he was walking he stepped on something hard, pushed the leaves aside and dug this out of the ground. I spray-painted it gold long ago. What is it and is it worth anything?

A: This is a plate that was originally attached to the front of an old iron safe made by Herring-Farrel & Sherman of New York. It was held in place by screws that went through the "eyes" of the dolphins on the sides. The company won a bronze medal in 1867 for fire-proof and burglar-proof safes that were made of wrought iron, steel bars, and patented crystallized iron, which was advertised as "the only metal which cannot be drilled by a burglar." Several companies made safes advertised as fire-proof and tests were run on various brands to see which were best. The plate you have pictures a safe in a test furnace and four men nearby. Two of the men appear to be burglars, while the other two men represent the owners of the company. A bronze safe plate similar to yours, but with original gilt finish, sold at auction a few years ago for $173. It was made by Silas C. Herring & Co. and includes the date May 18, 1852. Since the company name on your safe plate is Herring-Farrel & Sherman and it includes the date Feb. 7, 1865, Herring evidently merged his company with the other two safe-makers after 1865.


J. and M. P. Bell and Co. Ltd.Q: I have a plate that I got in the highlands of West Timor, Indonesia, in the 1990s. The back is impressed with a three-leaf clover and a bell next to this red ink-stamped mark. "Buah" means "fruit" in Indonesian. I can't find any information about the maker or age of this plate.

A: This is one of the marks used by J. & M. P. Bell & Co. (Ltd.), a pottery in Glasgow, Scotland, founded by John and Matthew Perston Bell. The pottery was operated from 1842 to 1928. The English registry number on your plate was issued between 1919 and 1924. Much of Bell's production was exported to Asia. Patterns were influenced by traditional Asian designs and were given names of foreign places or foreign words.


Before you use the vase you just bought at a flea market, test it. Fill it to the top and put it on a dry spot on your kitchen counter overnight. If it leaves a ring of moisture or a puddle, it can't be placed on a good piece of furniture. Get some paraffin wax, melt it, and swish it around the dry inside of the vase. Make a thick-enough coat of wax to be sure there are no holes. It will be leak-proof for many years if you are careful not to scratch the wax with hard stems.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Listen to Terry Kovel live on Martha Stewart Living Radio today. Terry will be talking about collecting and answering listeners' questions at 1:30 p.m. today, Wednesday, Aug. 5, during MSL Radio's "Living Today" show. Tune in to Sirius Satellite Radio's Channel 112.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


Yankee StadiumParts of the old Yankee Stadium are being sold and will continue to be sold for about another year and a half. According to, Steiner Sports, which is handling the sale, will spend millions to remove the parts from the stadium undamaged. The first $11.5 million in sales goes to New York City. Most of the stadium's important items will be sold via competitive bidding, but you can still buy some grass from the field--freeze-dried in a display case--for a set price of $100. The turnstile pictured here sold for $6,785.


John Dillinger Pistol
Gangster John Dillinger carried a pistol in the 1930s when he was robbing banks. It sold at a Heritage auction in Los Angeles for $95,600, much more than expected and probably more than Dillinger ever got in a hold-up. Could part of the interest be because of the new movie "Public Enemies," in which Johnny Depp plays the part of Dillinger?


We just found a copy of a 1956 letter to Andy Warhol from the director of museum collections at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Warhol had donated his drawing called "Shoe." The director wrote, "I regret that I must report to you that the Committee decided, after careful consideration, that they ought not to accept it for our collection." He thanked Warhol, then added that he should pick up the drawing. Shoes were a favorite subject of Warhol's and are among his most famous images. The rejection didn't discourage Warhol, and today the museum possesses many of his shoe prints. As a collector, be careful what you pass up. But also remember--even museums make mistakes.


Anri Bottle Stopper
Q: I have a carved wooden bottle stopper marked "Anri." The man tips his hat and his head moves when the string is pulled. Can you tell me something about it?

A: Anri made hundreds of different kinds of carved wooden bottle stoppers. The company was founded by Anton Riffeser, who came from a long line of woodcarvers in the Tyrol region of Austria. In 1912 he started a workshop in St. Christina (part of Italy after World War I) and in 1926 started the House of ANRI. The name was formed by combining the first two letters of his first and last names. The company sold bottle stoppers and small figurines made in its workshop or made by local woodcarvers. Since each piece was handmade, no two pieces were exactly alike. Before 1952 much of the work was done by carvers who worked in their homes and sold their work to Anri, but after 1952 machines were used in the production. Thousands of items have been made, including bottle openers, corkscrews, bookends, desk accessories, nutcrackers, smoking accessories, and other items. The company is still run by a member of the Riffeser family. "Mechanical" bottle stoppers with moving parts like yours are popular with collectors. The stoppers were made in three styles, which collectors call the hat tipper, the drinking man, and the kissing couple. Value of your hat tipper, about $40.


Crown Potteries Company
Q: I have a children's bowl with this crown mark on it. I would like to find out the maker.

A: This mark was used by Crown Potteries Company of Evansville, Indiana, c.1950. The company was formed in 1902 when Crown Pottery Company took over Peoria Pottery Company. Crown Potteries made majolica, ironstone, semiporcelain and white granite. The company was out of business by 1962.


We got this tip at the International Nippon Collectors Convention last week. If you want to clean Nippon or any ceramic that seems dusty and stained, especially if it has raised decorations (moriage) or grooves, don't scrub it. Put the vase in a deep tub. Cover it completely with distilled water and let it soak. It may take a long time, perhaps a month. Be sure the water is always covering the piece. Dirt will eventually soak out. If the water becomes dark, change it. It should be clear at all times.