Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Vampire Killing KitVampires on TV today are lovable, not dangerous, so there seems to be no need for vampire-killing kits. Killing kits were needed when people were threatened by vampires. Kits have been sold at five or more auctions over the last several years. Each kit was assembled, so the contents varied. Prices ranged from $1,000 on eBay years ago, to $12,000 and $20,300 in 2003, to a claimed $35,000 asking price for a kit eBay wouldn't allow. Last year a kit in an American walnut case sold for $14,850. It held stakes, mirrors, a gun with silver bullets, crosses, a Bible, holy water, candles, and garlic.

This Saturday, October 31, 2009, another kit will be auctioned. It's in a rosewood case with mother-of-pearl inlay in the shape of a cross. The required pistol and silver bullets are in a small coffin-shaped case. There are also holy water vials, a prayer book, a cleaver, and a mirror. Wonder how these things protect you from vampires? Hold a mirror in front of a person and if there is no reflection, that person is a vampire. Religious items, garlic, and candle flames scare vampires and chase them away. Silver bullets or a stake through the heart kills vampires. Most vampire kits probably were made after 1897, when the novel "Dracula" was published and made people fear vampires. The kits were made as souvenirs sold at hotels in Europe. Will the kit offered this Saturday at Stevens Auction Co. in Aberdeen, Mississippi, set a new record price? We'll let you know next week.


Do not buy old coins without knowing the dealer or source. Coin World newspaper reports that over a million counterfeit coins made in China in recent years have sold as rarities at high prices. It is not illegal to make a fake U.S. coin in China, but U.S. law requires that the word "copy" be stamped on the coin. The rule has been ignored. Gold and lesser coins are being made.


RS Prussia chocolate setQ: Can you tell me something about this RS Prussia tea set with 4 cups? Is it valuable?

A: You have an RS Prussia chocolate set. A chocolate pot is taller than a teapot. Porcelain marked RS Prussia was made by Reinhold Schlegelmilch, who founded a porcelain works in Suhl, Germany, in 1869. Much of the porcelain imported into the United States from Germany in the late 1800s and early 1900s was made by Schlegelmilch. The distinctive handle on your chocolate pot and cups indicate that the shape is mold 501. That shape was first sold in the U.S. c.1900-1904. Decorations on RS Prussia did not have pattern names. The floral patterns on most RS Prussia seemed out-of-date by 1910, and the volume of imports declined. Value of your chocolate set: $350.

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Porcelain Factory ArzbergQ: I inherited a candy dish from my grandmother. This mark is on the bottom along with the words "24 Karat Encrusted Gold Platinum" in a circle. Can you tell me the maker and how old it is?

A: Your candy dish was made by Porcelain Factory Arzberg, which was founded in 1927 in Arzberg, Bavaria (West Germany after World War II). A porcelain factory operated on that site under various names and with different owners beginning c.1890. Arzberg porcelain is still being made under the name Arzberg-Porzellan GmbH, but the factory is now located in Schirnding, Germany. The romantic scene in the center of the dish and the 24K gold mark indicate it was probably made in the 1930s.


If you plan to use a modern pottery vase for flowers, first put the vase in the sink, fill it with water to the top, then put it on a dry countertop. An hour later, see if the sink top is wet. Pottery often leaks either through a tiny hole or just because the clay was not fired at a high-enough temperature. A leaking vase can leave a white mark or worse on a wooden tabletop.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


GOOD: A lock of Elvis Presley's hair auctioned for $18,600 at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers in Chicago this week. It was cut in 1958 when he went into the Army. Presley's hair has been auctioned before. In 2002 a large bottle of his hair sold for $115,120. In 2003 a smaller bottle sold for $33,657. In 2008 a quarter of the contents of the small bottle sold for $16,800. Anyone know what is happening with other auctioned clumps of hair? We have written about sales of hair that belonged to Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Napoleon, Marilyn Monroe, and others. One collector says he has hair from over 200 famous figures.

BAD: Perhaps because of the publicity surrounding the Amelia Earhart movie coming out on Friday, the International Women's Air and Space Museum in Cleveland tested a clump of Earhart's hair that the Smithsonian Institution gave to the museum 20 years ago. A White House maid is said to have retrieved the clump of hair from a wastebasket when Earhart visited the president right before her fatal flight in 1937. The test results came back. Oops. The clump wasn't even hair at all. It was strands of thread. The "hair" thread will stay on display at the museum with a new description and history.


Leonardo da Vinci painting
An "undiscovered" Leonardo da Vinci painting that could be worth over $150 million has been authenticated thanks to modern technology and the talent of a London art dealer. The portrait was bought for about $19,000 from Christie's in the 1990s, then by Peter Silverman in 2007 for about the same price. Silverman researched the painting and in 2009 sent it to Paris to be tested by new technology that could take images of layers of paint. Experts found a partial handprint and fingerprint and matched them to prints on some known da Vinci paintings. The portrait was definitely by da Vinci. The painting is on vellum (animal skin) and historians think it was made to be the cover of a book. The now famous and very valuable portrait of "La Bella Principessa" will be on display in Gothenburg, Sweden, in March.


STICKLEY QUAINT CHAIRSQ: My neighbor died recently and after her children cleaned out her house, they told us we could have whatever was left. We found these two Stickley chairs covered up with an old tarp at the back of the barn. Are they valuable? The metal tag says "Quaint Furniture, Grand Rapids."

A: Five Stickley brothers made furniture, Gustav, Albert, Charles, John George, and Leopold. Gustav is the most famous and his furniture brings the highest prices. Albert and John George established Stickley Brothers Company in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1891. Their Quaint Line of furniture was introduced in 1902. Quaint Mission was made first. In 1904 Quaint Arts & Crafts was made and in 1914 Quaint Tudor and Quaint Manor were made. In the 1920s Quaint American and Quaint Colonial were made. John George left the firm in 1902 and Albert retired in 1927. The company was in business until about 1947. The furniture was marked with a paper label or a brass tag like yours. The seat covering on your chair looks like a replacement. The chairs, as is, are worth about $175 each.


Edward Brothers
Q: This platter has supposedly been in our family for several generations and has been passed down to the oldest daughter. It has this mark on the back. The words "Victory" and "Rd 18958" are impressed in one corner of the back of the platter. When was this made?

A: The two Rd numbers are English registry marks and help to date your platter. The printed number indicates the design was registered in 1885. The impressed number indicates the year 1888. It may be the year the shape was registered, and Victory is probably the name of the shape. Not much is known about Edwards Bros. Several potters named Edwards worked in Fenton in the late nineteenth century, but there is no listing of brothers. Unidentified dishes like yours sell for very little, perhaps $10 to $15.


Dating some Barbie dolls made in 2009 and 2010 will be easy. Three special-edition Barbies with thinner ankles will be sold starting in December. They and their fashions and shoes are being created by designer Christian Louboutin. He said Barbie's ankles had to be thinner so high-style modern shoes will stay on her feet. The dolls will cost $150 each and will come with four pairs of Louboutin shoes.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


The clear bright green stone that looks much like an emerald (and is a modern favorite at Tiffany's) is called "tsavorite." It was discovered in 1967 by the Scottish geologist Campbell Bridges, who mined for rare gemstones in Kenya. Campbell was murdered near his mine in August by a mob armed with arrows, spears, and machetes. The motive may have been a dispute over mining rights. Six men have been arrested so far.


Fake artifacts aren't all bad. For years, a trip to Mexico or Egypt included a chance for a tourist to buy old pottery pieces that were sold as antiquities. Some were genuine, stolen from graves and other sites. Some were modern copies of the old. These relics, old or new, were sold to middlemen who sold them to tourists. Now forgers are using eBay to sell fakes at better prices than they can get for the real thing. The result is that buyers have to deal with more fraud, but there is less unauthorized digging for antiquities at archaeological sites. Even experts admit that it is getting more difficult to identify fakes without looking in person at the actual objects. (based on an article by Thomas Claburn in Information Week)


Roy Rogers LampHow long do movie or TV stars remain popular after they die? Collectors buy memories of their childhood, and stars like Roy Rogers and his wife, Dale Evans, are probably unknown to those born after 1960. The pair were huge stars in over 100 cowboy movies made between 1935 and 1959 and starred in The Roy Rogers Show on television from 1951 to 1957. But interest in the Roy Rogers-Dale Evans Museum in Branson, Missouri, has declined and it is closing. Collectors who want Rogers-Evans memorabilia can find gun and holster sets, lunch boxes, play sets, books, comics, Halloween costumes and, of course, figurines of Roy's horse, Trigger. The Roy Rogers lamp pictured features a Hartland figurine of Roy riding Trigger. The lamp sold last week for $410 at Morphy Auctions in Denver, Pennsylvania. Prices for Rogers-Evans collectibles will probably go down without ongoing publicity.


Champion Trading CardsQ: When we replaced our old kitchen cupboards, we found an old unopened box of Wheaties. There are several sports cards on the box. Are these cards or the box itself worth anything? How old do you think the box is?

A: Wheaties issued this series of "Champion Trading Cards" in 1952. It pictures famous sports figures from the 1950s. There were 60 cards in the set, which included both portrait and action pictures of 30 different athletes. Ten of those pictured were baseball players, while the rest were from other sports. The cards had to be cut out of the back of the cereal box, making it hard to find cards in perfect condition today. The uncut box is more valuable than the same cards cut out. Cards that are cut out often sell for about $10-$15 unless they were carefully cut and picture a popular athlete. A card picturing Ted Williams can sell for as much as $100 if in perfect condition. Groups of 30 cards, half a set, have auctioned for $100 to $240. Depending on the players whose cards are on your box, the box could sell for $100 or more. (Collectors would be especially interested in your box because the 20 baseball cards in the set were counterfeited in 2002.)


Meissen porcelain
Q: I have a Meissen vase with this crossed swords mark with a dot between the swords. Isn't this the mark used by Marcolini?

A: Porcelain has been made in Meissen, a town in Germany, since 1710. Any china made in the town can be called Meissen, but the Royal Porcelain Manufactory is the most famous pottery that operated there. The factory used several variations of the crossed swords mark, and the mark has been copied by many other companies in Germany and other parts of the world. From 1732 to 1773, Meissen used a mark with a dot between the handles of the swords. From 1774 to 1814, when Count Camillo Marcolini was director of the company, Meissen porcelain was marked with a star or asterisk between the handles of the crossed swords. The mark like yours, with a dot between the blades of the swords, was used from 1924 to 1934.


Home movies are important historic documents that will disappear without proper care. Store the films in a cool, dry place--a bedroom closet, perhaps, but not the attic or basement. Keep them in boxes or canisters. Label them. Do not repair them with tape. Only play them on the proper projectors. Copy them to DVDs or cassettes to watch them, but keep the original films.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


19th-century Persian Box

A dream came true for two people selling things at online auctions this week. A man who regularly travels to Europe often buys antiques and later sells his finds at Aspire Auctions of Cleveland. He recently brought in an ivory box etched with wavy patterns of gold and niello (a black alloy), set with turquoise and a cabochon ruby on the top and another ruby on the inside cover. It was listed as mid-19th-century Persian and estimated at $700 to $900. The bidding was all by computer or phone, so it was a huge surprise when the box sold for $410,025 (plus premium, for a total of $471,529). We talked to Cynthia Colling of Aspire who said the bidding ended as a war between two European bidders. It opened at $250 and moved quickly to over $5,000. Then there were a series of bids jumping by $100 or so each time. At $60,025 there were two bidders and the bid jumped to $160,000. Six bids later, with less than one minute to go, the bid was $410,000. But an automatic bid came in 44 seconds later to win at $410,025. The seller made the right choice, to sell online to an international audience.
Cynthia said they are translating the foreign writing on the box. It is thought that it belonged to royalty and was used to hold jewels. The new owner didn't say what made this box such a treasure.
The second winner was a woman who brought an 18th-century oil painting of the Venice Grand Canal to be auctioned at nearby Sloans & Kenyon in Chevy Chase, Md. It was unsigned but from the school of Canaletto and was priced a modest $6,000 to $8,000. The owner said her family owned it since her grandmother bought it on a European trip about 1881. The lucky seller must have been surprised when the painting sold to a European buyer for $687,125.


My Dolly's Kitchen Series
Q: Can you tell me anything about Brimtoy or "My Dolly's" dollhouse furniture? My friend has "My Dolly's Combination Kitchen Set No. 277" in its original box. There are many small accessories, including a broom, dustpan, frying pans, etc. Any information would be greatly appreciated.

A: My Dolly's Kitchen Series was made by Wells Brimtoy c.1955. Brimtoy and Wells started out as two separate toy companies in London in the early twentieth century. Brimtoy was originally a brand name used by British Metal and Toy Manufacturers Ltd. beginning in 1914. The company name was changed to Brimtoy Ltd. in 1923. The company made tin cars, trucks, airplanes, trains, and other vehicles. A. Wells & Co. Ltd., founded in 1919, made lithographed tin vehicles and other toys. The two companies combined to become Wells Brimtoy in 1932 and continued in business under that name until 1970. Wells Brimtoy's kitchen furniture was made of painted tinplate. Some pieces in the series were sold separately, as well as in a set like yours. Your kitchen set may be worth $100-$125 with the original box.


Shanghai pattern
Q: I have a piece of blue and white pottery with this diamond-shaped mark on the bottom. I found it during an archeological excavation. I haven't been able to identify the maker. Can you help?

A: The mark with "W" in a diamond was used by W. & E. Corn c.1900. "Shanghai" is the pattern name. Edward Corn founded a pottery at Burslem, Staffordshire, England, in 1850. His sons, William and Edward, took over the pottery c.1864. William died in 1885. The pottery moved to Longport in 1890. After Edward's death in 1891, his sons Alfred and Edmund took over the pottery. The pottery continued to operate as E. & E. Corn until 1904.


There is more interest in vintage men's clothing because of the popular TV show, "Mad Men," which shows accurate clothing and rooms from the 1960s. Many of the old styles, like shirts made for cuff links, are back in style.