Wednesday, March 25, 2009


If you move into an old house, check the attic. A family in Cincinnati called an antiques dealer to take a look at the belongings in their old house to see what could be sold. Not much till the attic. There they found crates packed with 77 paintings by Thomas Corwin Lindsay (1839-1907), a listed American painter and a distant cousin of the homeowners. Estimated value: about $250,000. The paintings have been cleaned and are being sold at Eisele Gallery in Cincinnati through April 18.


We were just sent a newspaper article from Warsaw, Poland--part of the amazing way information travels on the Internet. The news had spread across Europe that the president of France collects stamps. The article said bloggers wondered why President Nicolas Sarkozy would be "practicing a pastime that is usually the domain of prepubescent boys." But others posting comments online knew that collecting is a good investment strategy. The article also said that the Polish art market has dropped a little but that "the long term profit--both emotional and financial--which comes from art is the best assurance that the art market will be OK."


Here's the latest inexpensive kitchen makeover idea from a British designer: Create an "unfitted kitchen" without built-in cabinets or appliances. Instead, use free-standing cabinets and appliances in a variety of shapes and materials. Try simple shelves instead of cabinets, use an island to work on, and limit other countertop space. It will look like a kitchen from the 1930s. This idea might go over in England, but U.S. kitchen makeover TV shows stress how important matching appliances, cabinets, trim, and tile or granite countertops (and a budget topping $25,000) are if you want to impress people and sell your house.


Town Hall

Q: I have an iron bank that my father and his sister had as children in the 1880s. Can you tell me what it is and who made it?
A: Your bank is called Town Hall and was made by Kyser & Rex in 1882. It was painted in various colors and trimmed with bronze. The tower originally had a paper clock face on it. Town Hall banks have sold for $200 to $1900, depending on color and condition.


Town Hall
Q: I have a bowl that is marked RW Bavaria on the bottom. Can you tell me who made it?

A: Rudolf Wachter started a porcelain decorating business in Germany in 1893. He was technical director of Wachter & Furbringer from 1914 to 1917. When Furbringer left the company in 1917, Wachter took over and the company name became Rudolf Wachter Porzellanmanufaktury. This mark was used by the company beginning about 1927. Much of the company's production was exported to the United States and other countries. The company closed in 1974.


From an email from L.T.:
I recently put a vintage glass rectangular refrigerator dish in the microwave. The dish had the typical ribbed base and embossed fruit on the lid. Within no time, the lid cracked into three pieces. I thought all glass was safe in a microwave. Did this dish have a hairline I didn't notice or will this happen to all refrigerator dishes of this age and style?

Tip (and an answer to L.T.'s question):
I can answer because I did the same thing to a glass dish with embossed fruit. I have no proof, but I think the difference between the thickness of the glass in the raised fruit and the surrounding dish caused a stress point. I have used plain ribbed glass storage dishes in the microwave often, with no trouble. Glass should be OK, in general, but I wouldn't try cut glass, either. It would break on a deep cut. One of my pieces did when I put a bowl of hot liquid Jell-O in the refrigerator to cool. The change in temperature did the damage. Glass "ages." It becomes more brittle as it gets older. That's why you must check glass shelves. They bend slightly and eventually break if they're holding heavy objects.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


My dear fellow collectors,

Our staff has been very busy working behind the scenes. In the next few months, our website,, will have a new look plus exciting new features and content for you to enjoy. In fact, we are always trying to improve our newspaper column, books (including our annual Kovels Antiques and Collectibles Price Guide), our newsletter (Kovels on Antiques and Collectibles), and our special reports. So, as you can see, we at Kovels are looking to the future and trying to find new ways to communicate with collectors. No retirement in the horizon for me. Of course, I couldn't do it all without the help from our great staff and my children, Kim and Lee.

If you have any comment for improvement, please make sure to let me know.



Inscription in Lincoln WatchDo you examine every new piece you buy? Old desks often have secret compartments; lockets and memorial jewelry sometimes have space to put a note. But imagine finding an inscription that had been hidden for almost 150 years inside a watch that belonged to Abraham Lincoln. Doug Stiles knew that his great-great-grandfather had been a watchmaker who worked on President Lincoln's watch. Stiles found a 1906 newspaper article in which his grandfather told about putting a message in the watch. The watch was given to the Smithsonian in 1958 by Lincoln's great-grandson. When Stiles told the Smithsonian about the newspaper article, the museum decided to have a watchmaker open the watch. In front of an audience and TV cameras, he found the inscription engraved so long ago: "Jonathan Dillon, April 13- 1861 Fort Sumpter was attacked by the rebels on the above date." (Fort Sumter was named for Revolutionary War General Thomas Sumter, but the name of the fort was often misspelled; the first date of the attack was actually April 12.) Dillon's other inscription includes the phrase, "thank God we have a government." There was also an engraving by another watchmaker who repaired the watch in September 1864. His engraving included the name "Jeff Davis." Was that a pro-Confederate statement? We are amazed that the inscription remained secret for so long and that two watchmakers "scribbled" on the president's watch.


A pair of ancient Chinese bronzes sold two weeks ago at a Paris auction for $40 million. The buyer was Chinese. Why should that worry the average American collector? Because the buyer has refused to pay. A French court ruling earlier in February let the auction go forward in spite of objections by a group that wants the bronzes given back to China as "national treasures." The reneged purchase may be a protest by this or another group. The botched sale means there may be more problems with sales of historic Chinese art. No one wants a piece with a clouded ownership. And the Chinese government has already tightened customs rules, making business more difficult for foreign auctions. Dealers and collectors have long thought there are warehouses in China filled with old but not fabulous Chinese ceramics, textiles, netsukes, prints, etc. gathered up during the Communist Revolution. What will happen when these collectibles hit the market?


A pair of New York money managers involved in their own Ponzi scheme used some of their profits to buy houses, horses, cars, and collectibles like rare books and $80,000 worth of Steiff teddy bears. We remember several other famous collector crooks who turned to crime because they needed more money to collect. There was a Bakelite jewelry man, a Gaudy Dutch man, and a Tiffany lamp collector. In each case, money from the sale of the collection was given to the victims as partial repayment.

A question from a reader: Does anyone know when the practice began of putting a warning on pottery similar to "For decorative purposes only. Not for food consumption?"


Crow Hunt Game Q: I have had this Crow Hunt game since I was a child in the 1930s and 1940s. It still has its "harmless repeating rifle" and all of its targets. Could you please give me some idea of its value?

A: The Crow Hunt game was introduced by Parker Brothers in 1931 and was advertised as a "splendid shooting game." Crow-shaped targets are inserted onto a slide. Using a repeating rifle which shoots elastic bands, the object is to hit the birds which slide down the ramp and into an opening in the target. When you hit one bird, the next one slides into place automatically. You get one point for each bird you hit. The final target is a duck named Elmer. Hit him and you get five points. First person to get 25 points wins. An ad for the game stated that additional "ammunition" (rubber bands sold in a pack of 60) were available for 30 cents from Parker Brothers. Depending on condition, your game is worth $30 to $60.


Brimaur pitcher Q: I have a little pitcher or creamer that is incised on the bottom "brimaur farm pottery n.y." I can't find any info on it online or in any pottery books.

A: Your little Brimaur pitcher is probably a maple syrup pitcher. We found a 1954 gift-shop ad for Brimaur ceramics, but the company's history remains a mystery. Brimaur syrup pitchers or creamers sell for under $15 today. Some of the pottery was marked "Elizabethtown, N.Y." Does anyone have more information about this pottery?


Don't keep antique furniture in front of heat vents. The heat will eventually damage the wood. And besides, leaving open space near heat vents helps air and heat circulate better.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Send a Vintage St. Patrick's Day Greeting

Whether you're wearin' the green or not, you can spread a little Irish cheer with our vintage St. Patrick's day greeting. Send one to your favorite lads and lassies.


Ever misplace an antique in your house? I have been looking for one of my Roycroft bookends for months. But the United Nations has a bigger problem. The U.N. headquarters in New York are being redecorated soon, and the staff can't find hundreds of pieces of art that should be in the offices. It should be hard to misplace a huge Jose de Rivera sculpture, a Roman mosaic, the stone head of a Mayan priest and hundreds of other artworks. Even more surprising--the art was neither appraised nor insured.


The Goebel Porcelain Factory in Germany stopped making Hummel figurines in October 2008. Now a newly formed company, Manufaktur Rodental GmbH, has bought Goebel's Hummel factory. Production of the popular figurines was to resume last month. Many of the workers at the new company are from Goebel and have the necessary skills.


Are prices falling for collectibles and antiques? That's the most frequently asked question we're getting this month. We read all the antiques newspapers and magazines, five major daily newspapers including one from England, dozens of collector and decorating magazines, and numerous sites and publications on the Internet. The good news is the majority of reports are good for sales and auctions that don't sell million-dollar paintings. Prices are holding at levels expected a few years ago. Shows are getting good crowds and lots of new buyers looking for substitutes for expensive new furnishings. The antiquing bug is contagious and we predict many new buyers will become collectors. Best of all, many more of you are subscribing to our newsletter and visiting our website.


Japonisme Q: This dinnerware has been in my family since at least the 1940s. It is marked T. Furnival & Sons and has an English registry mark. Can you give me information about the history of it?

A: The type of design on your dinnerware is known as "Japonisme," a French word meaning "from Japan." The term was first used in 1872 to describe the traditional Japanese designs shown at the Paris Exhibition Universelle in 1867. Japonisme became popular in the United States in the 1880s, after the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. Asymmetrical patterns featuring fans, birds, bamboo, cherry blossoms, and other oriental designs were created. Thomas Furnival & Sons was in business in Cobridge, Staffordshire, England, from 1871 to 1890. The registry mark on your dinnerware indicates the design was registered on June 10, 1879.


World War II Q: This teapot was given to me by someone who said these were given to soldiers during World War II. Is this true?

A: Teapots similar to yours were made during World War II, but not for the soldiers, who were much too busy for tea. They were made to raise money for the war effort. The teapots we have seen are black, like yours, and are decorated with flowers. A few were made in a smaller size. The words "For England and Democracy" are usually printed around the lid. Teapots with the words "Escorted to U.S.A. by Royal Navy" were also made. From 1939 until the end of the war in 1945, ships crossing the Atlantic were protected by Allied escort ships from the United States, Canada and England. The mark on the bottom of the teapot is the Staffordshire knot, indicating the pottery was made by one of the Staffordshire potteries. There is probably more to this story. Can anyone tell us more?


Be careful using a thick piece of old pottery in the microwave. If it has been in water and absorbed some in its "pores," it may break. When heated in the microwave, the water may expand into steam and crack the dish. I know this from sad experience.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


ChairsWinning the lottery is every collector's dream--a chance to buy whatever you always wanted. But a lottery winner in Indianapolis spent so much that the family couldn't pay the bills. So the contents of the house had to be sold in a huge liquidation sale ordered by the court. It took 25 people and four semi trucks to cart all the furniture and bric-a-brac to the auction house. They sold it using three auction rings all day. And of course many antiques dealers and collectors came to bid.

Included in the sale were hundreds of teapots, sets of dishes, 50 salt and pepper sets, bobble heads, glassware tables filled with over-sized Asian vases, two dozen china cabinets, church figures, large and small foo dogs, large carved furniture, many dining room and bedroom sets, and several huge gold Buddha statues. Many of the pieces were duplicates. We noticed they had a Berkey and Gay painted china cabinet, Drexel dressers, Baccarat, Fenton glass, Bohemian glass, Carnival glass, Lenox, Lladro, Franciscan, Royal Doulton, Nippon, Spode, Noritake, Limoges, McCoy, Royal Worcester and Royal Vienna pieces. There were also fifteen or more outdoor statues and fountains, and patio furniture.

The online bloggers couldn't believe it all came from one family. But one blogger claimed to know the family and to have been in their house. At least they bought antiques and collectibles instead of shoes. They enjoyed their purchases, recycled goods, and helped the economy.


From our readers comments on last weeks Kovels Komments:

J.R. wrote: I collect bicycles. I'm 99% certain that the button shown in the newsletter is an ad for Arnold, Schwinn, and Co.'s "The World" bicycle. The model name was used from 1896 on.

A.M. wrote about the British registry mark mentioned in the discussion of the Clementson Bros. plate. One little word can make a big difference. We wrote that the mark told when the dish was made--but it actually indicates only when the design was registered. It takes time after the registration to actually make a plate. The mark indicates the earliest possible date of manufacture. We got it right in all our books, but slipped up this time. This is a mistake that was common in books written 40 years ago.


Q: I bought this ferris wheel at an estate sale. It stands 30 inches tall and has working mechanisms. Can you give me any information on it?

A: Your Aeropal toy is similar to one pictured in a Marklin catalog c.1895-1914. It is a Russian Swing (Russische Schaukel), probably made c.1909. Marklin was founded in 1859 by Theodor Friedrich Wilhelm Marklin, a tinsmith in Goppingen, Wurttemberg, Germany. The first products were lacquered tinplate dollhouse accessories, but by the end of the nineteenth century the company made a variety of tin toys. Some of Marklin's mechanical tin toys sell for several thousand dollars, but buyers should be aware that reproductions were made. Your toy is in very good condition and it may be a reproduction. Marklin is still in business, now specializing in model railroads and accessories, but it recently declared bankruptcy. It hopes to reorganize.


Springer and Co. of Elbogen, Bohemia
Q: I have a set of dishes which were given to me by my mother in 1948 as a wedding gift. Who made this set and how old is it?

A: This arm and stiletto mark was used by Springer & Co. of Elbogen, Bohemia (now Loket, Czech Republic), one of the potteries that was part of EPIAG. The pottery was founded in 1815 by Rudolf Eugen Haidinger and Eugen Haidinger and operated under various names and owners. It became Springer & Co. in 1885 and joined OEPIAG, an association of potteries, in 1918. In 1920 the name of the association was changed to EPIAG (First Bohemian Porcelain Industry). This mark was used from 1941 to 1945. The pottery was nationalized in 1945 and became part of Starorolsky Porcelain.


To keep a fine chain necklace from tangling in your jewelry box, slide the chain into a flexible straw. If the chain does tangle, sprinkle it with baby powder and slowly untangle the knots. Borrow magnifying eyeglasses from a near-sighted friend to help you see what you're doing.