Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Royal Doulton Prototype Jug Tops $10,000One-of-a-kind pieces don't always bring high prices, but those by well known companies or artists excite auction goers. If the piece is by a company that makes a series of collectibles, like Royal Doulton character jugs, there are many bidders. The two-sided jug showing Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee with a Washington Monument handle was produced in 1983. A few prototypes were made, but the jug never went into full production. In March one of the prototypes sold for $10,440 at Bonhams in London. The final-production two-faced jug (it has a pair of flags for the handle) sells for about $350.


New Lincoln Pennies
The U.S. Mint is making new pennies this year in honor of President Lincoln's 200th birthday. The first of four new 2009 Lincoln penny designs has an image of a log cabin on the tail side. But distribution is slow and we hear that single pennies are selling for $1 each and 50-cent rolls for up to $50 online. Save your money; there will be plenty of new Lincoln pennies in the future. A new tails design is scheduled to be released every three months. Lincoln's familiar profile is on the head side of all four penny designs.


The Financial Times of London checked prices to see if it was better to buy original 1920s-60s furniture or 2009 copies. Much of this furniture has full patent protection for the designs. Some copies are authorized by the original maker; others are unauthorized knockoffs that may be of lesser quality. The new licensed Egg chair by Arne Jacobsen sells for about $4,675, the "inspired by" knockoff for about $1,170. The new licensed Eames lounge chair and ottoman goes for about $8,750, the "inspired by" knockoff for about $730. An old original 1950s chair in excellent condition is an investment that will hold its value (an original old Eames lounge chair and ottoman in perfect condition sells at auction for about $7,000). A new licensed or "inspired by" chair is just used furniture with low resale value.


Q: I bought this "kibitzer" chair in 1970 at an auction at an antebellum home in Mississippi. I understand that the owner drew the design and sent it to England to have the chair made for him sometime in the late 1800s. The chair has a leather seat. Do you think it has any value?

A: We haven't heard the term "kibitzer chair," but we've seen a similar piece of furniture called a "backstool." The back of the stool is an extension of the rear leg. Backstools were first made in the late sixteenth century and had either three or four legs. They were not called chairs because they didn't have arms. By the eighteenth century this type of chair was called a single or side chair. Some people call this type of chair a cock-fighting chair, probably because similar chairs have been pictured in paintings of cock fights. But a cock-fighting chair usually has armrests. Another name for the chair with arms is a "reading chair." The reader sits facing the back of the chair and can lean his arms on the armrests. Your chair may have been called a kibitzer chair because a person could sit facing the back of the chair and "kibitz," or comment, while watching other people play cards. Chairs like this don't sell for a lot of money because they are not very useful. Yours is worth about $150 to $400 depending on condition.


The Hummel
Q: My mother collected Hummel figurines for several years, but there is one figurine we can't find listed anywhere. It is of a man wearing a black suit and top hat and carrying 2 buckets of water. It is 5 inches high. The words "Hummel-Hummel" are etched and painted on the base. It is marked on the bottom with a bee inside a V and an impressed crown over 2 letters. Can you tell me if it is a genuine Hummel and what it is worth? If it isn't genuine, can you tell me the history of it?

A: Your figurine is The Hummel, the nickname of Johann Wilhelm Bentz (b.1787-d.1854), a famous water carrier in Hamburg, Germany. Before Hamburg had a municipal water system, water carriers worked in the city. Bentz was supposedly the last carrier. Children would tease Bentz and yell "Hummel, Hummel," the German word for bumblebee. He would curse at the children, hollering "Mors, Mors." The Hummel became a symbol for the city of Hamburg and a statue similar to your figurine was erected in 1938. Today there are several Hummel statues throughout the city. Hummel is also pictured on the sides of Hamburg's water trucks, and when the Hamburg soccer team scores a goal, the announcer says "Hummel, Hummel" and the fans shout "Mors, Mors." Your figurine was made by Goebel (now Goebel Porzellanmanufaktur, located in Rodental, Germany). The impressed crown mark on the bottom over the initials WG (for William Goebel) was used c.1923 to 1949 and the bee mark was first used c.1950, so your figurine was probably made c.1949-50. Don't be confused by the name "hummel" on your Goebel figurine. Hummel figurines of adorable children were designed by Sister Berta Hummel and have no connection to this water carrier. The Hummel-Hummel figurine is a souvenir of Hamburg. It is probably worth less than $75.


Recent articles in major newspapers and magazines about "green" ways to polish furniture have suggested using olive or cooking oills with lemon juice to polish wood furniture. Some even say it will "feed" or "hydrate" the wood.  The wood in your furniture is dead and can't be fed. The oil leaves a glossy layer of oil that will eventually attract dust, hide the grain, and make the wood darker. The oil could even become rancid and have an odor. Do not use cooking oils. The best polishes for antique furniture are made of wax. It is a gamble to use the spray polishes available at grocery stores. Some of these have silicon and other products that will disturb the original finish. Always read the labels. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Collectors Celebrate Earth Day 365 Days a YearEarth Day celebrations encourage us to be "green" Collectors are. We recycle furniture, saving trees and power, and we buy old (not new) pottery, silver, jewelry, cookie jars, and even doors and fireplace mantels. And who hasn't noticed that the antiques you buy at shows and flea markets are often wrapped in old newspapers. Keep it up! And teach the younger generation to turn off lights and computers when they're not using them.


It costs to call off an auction the way Michael Jackson did last week.

The sale of Michael Jackson's memorabilia has been canceled. The auction, by Julien's Auctions in West Hollywood, was scheduled to start April 22, but the star changed his mind and wanted his belongings back. The auction had been well-publicized with ads, exhibitions, and a 900-page catalog. Jackson's company sued to stop the auction and the result was an agreement, not a trial. The auction house said it had spent $2 million preparing for the sale, so we assume the agreement (which was not made public) included a cash payment. Although few of us will ever have an auction of collectibles worth millions, it's important to know what happens when you take a consigned item out of a sale. Most contracts between seller and auction house either do not allow it or ask for cash to cover pre-auction expenses, the publicity value of the piece and more. Even at a house sale, removal of a large number of the top-priced items can lead to legal problems and a cash settlement. Be sure you have a contract when you're using anyone's services to sell your possessions. And be sure you read it before you sign it.


We found an old Pan American Airlines stock certificate after we wrote the newsletter article about old certificates that appeared in our April issue. A bright friend noticed that the certificate was signed by N.E. Halaby--that's Najeeb Halaby, the father of Lisa Halaby, now known as Queen Noor of Jordan. Najeeb Halaby was Pan Am's chairman from 1970 to 1972. The signature should add to the certificate's value.


Some communities are printing their own "money" to encourage shopping. The special money is sold at a discount but can be spent for full value. Cities in Michigan, New York, North Carolina, and Massachusetts are trying this to encourage folks to buy from local stores. It's an idea first tried in the Great Depression. Although the bills cannot look like federal money or claim to be "legal tender," they interest collectors who specialize in alternative types of money--like wooden nickels or even trade beads.


Terry KovelGet ready! You can see Terry Kovel in action when links to live web transmission of the April 23-26 public television auction that benefits our local PBS station, WVIZ in Cleveland. You can bid on thousands of items--everything from antiques (Terry Kovel herself is the auctioneer!) to grocery-store gift certificates.

For four days, the live "auction action" can be seen via a link at Items up for bid include antiques, art, and collectibles as well as general merchandise. Antiques are sold at "Table X," so you can tune in when its "X time" or watch the whole auction (starting at 3 p.m. Thursday and Friday and at noon on Saturday and Sunday). Look for a Satsuma bowl, a large aquarium, and vintage Barbie dolls mint in the box, along with 1930s brass floor lamps, a 1950s French Provincial dining room set, a pair of '50s Baker Furniture end tables, a Renaissance Revival table, sets of dishes, silver, antique jewelry, and much more. Collectibles up for auction include a LeBron James autographed basketball.

You'll be able to bid online or by phone. Look for instructions on the screen as you're watching the auction. For more information, visit
Please note that successful bidders who live outside the Cleveland area must pay shipping costs for anything larger than a gift certificate.


Silver TankardQ: My tankard was made by Joseph Edwards of Boston in 1749. We were told it was a wedding gift for ancestors. It is solid silver and 7 inches tall. The tankard was modified with a spout during the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794, according to a family tale. If made back into a tankard, would the value increase substantially to cover the cost? What is its present value?

A: It is not uncommon to find old silver pieces that have been modified in some way. We recently heard from a museum that several items donated to the museum years ago had been altered. A piece that has been altered is never worth as much as the original piece, although your tankard/pitcher is still attractive and will have some value. From a collector's point of view, the alteration has permanently lowered the value and it may not be worth the money to remove the spout. Take the silver to an expert, a silver dealer, or an auction house to get an opinion. What you have now is an attractive piece of silver but not a collector-condition antique.


Globe-Wernicke Company Q: Can you give me any information about an oak bookshelf-desk I inherited? It has 3 separate glass-front shelves and a unit that is a desk with a fall front. The parts are joined together with metal bands. The glass doors lift up and slide back.

A: The Globe-Wernicke Company invented stacking bookcases, which they called "elastic bookcases." The bookcases could be customized by stacking the shelves in various ways. The company patented the "equalizer," a method of opening the glass doors by sliding them back instead of swinging them out. The Globe Files Company was founded in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1882 and the Wernicke Company was established in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1893. Globe bought the Wernicke Company in 1899 and became Globe-Wernicke Company. The name was changed to Globe-Weis after Weis Manufacturing was purchased in 1963. Globe-Weis became part of Cardinal Brands in 2000 and is still in business. Globe-Wernicke bookcase-desks like yours with 4 sections, a base, and top sell for about $750 or more. The highest prices are for those in good condition with the original labels intact on the back of each section. Older bookcases with wavy glass are more valuable.


A garden sculpture should be mounted at least 18 inches above the ground. It should be cleaned to keep off moss and algae.

Oops. Thanks to our readers who have corrected us. We described "Siam jewelry" in last week's ezine (April 15) as enameled (decorated with a vitreous substance, usually melted glass) when it is actually decorated with niello, a black metallic alloy of sulphur, copper, silver and sometimes lead. Other readers emailed that they own Siam jewelry made in the 1940s, so the jewelry is even older than we thought. But to our readers who worried about using the word "Siam" for jewelry made after the country's name changed to "Thailand" in 1949, stop worrying. The tourist jewelry made there is always called "Siam jewelry" by collectors.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Terry will hawk antiques and collectibles donated to the WVIZ-PBS Ideastream benefit auction in Cleveland. The auction airs April 23-26, 2009. Her segments will start around 7 p.m. (EDT) each evening. Check back that week--there will be a link to streaming video of the auction on For now, you can view and bid on some of the lots on the station's site.


Siam Sterling Modernist silver jewelry is hot, especially Mexican pieces by William Spratling and American pieces by Art Smith. But prices are getting high, so some collectors are searching for Siam jewelry, the tourist jewelry made in Thailand in the 1960s and later. Pieces are usually silver with black enamel decorations of Siamese gods, boats, and other traditional designs. Also starting to attract interest is midcentury silver jewelry from Peru, especially pieces by Graziella Laffi. The Peruvian jewelry designs are based on pre-Columbian art. To find out more about what's hot, subscribe to Kovels on Antiques and Collectibles, Kovels' monthly newsletter on collecting, now in its 35th year.


According to a recent survey, 58 percent of U.S. homeowners would rather have more storage space than a swimming pool. I'll bet a survey of collectors would find that number reaching 95 percent.


Last week, production of Syracuse china made in the United States came to an end. Syracuse China dates back to 1871 but has been owned by Libbey Inc. since 1995. The Syracuse brand name will continue, but the dishes will be made overseas.


Albert Sweetser Bond Q: I bought a baby grand piano at an estate sale for $500 in 1972. It is labeled "Made and Guaranteed by The Packard Piano Co., Fort Wayne Ind. Est. 1871/Bond Piano Co." The serial number is 22190. I would like to know what the white keys were made of and the value of the piano today.

A: Albert Sweetser Bond was one of the owners of Packard Piano Co. In 1911 a group of Packard stockholders founded Bond Piano Co. In 1913 they decided it was inefficient to run two separate operations and Packard began manufacturing pianos with the Bond name on them, while continuing to make pianos with the Packard name. Bond pianos were made through 1925. The serial number on your piano indicates it was made in 1924. Piano keys were made of ivory or celluloid before the 1950s, when plastic keys were first used. Ivory keys were made in two pieces with a seam between the front and back part of the key. The keys are grained and may look yellowish. Celluloid keys were made in one piece and are off-white. A piano has to be seen and played to be appraised since the condition of the sounding board and internal mechanism helps determine the value.


Albert Sweetser Bond Q: I'd like to know some history about the manufacturer of this cookie jar. It's 10 inches tall. I think my grandmother bought it in Germany before World War I. This mark is on the bottom.

A: Lorenz Hutschenreuther started a porcelain factory in Selb, Germany, in 1857. Hutschenreuther bought other porcelain factories, including the Paul Muller Porcelain Factory in 1917. A loose translation of the cartouches: "Entwurf" is "design," Professor Fritz Klee was director of the porcelain technical school, and "Abteilung fur Kunst" means "department of art." Klee designed the lion trademark used by Hutschenreuther in 1919.

The jar you have is called a maskaron jar. The maskaron is a grimacing face at the bottom of the jar. A similar jar with slightly more ornate gilt trim was made by Paul Muller. L. Hutschenreuther combined with C.M. Hutschenreuther in 1969 and the factories became Hutschenreuther AG. In 2000 the company was bought by Rosenthal, which is now part of Waterford Wedgwood. Waterford Wedgwood filed for bankruptcy protection in January 2009, and most of its assets were recently purchased by KPM Capital Partners of New York.


Fantasy and fake beer cans are showing up online and at flea markets. The beer can label is reproduced on a plastic film that's applied to a common flat-top can (perhaps even an old rusted one) or to a fake cone-top can (converted from a brake fluid can). Over 135 different fakes, including rarities, have been offered for sale. These repros have an "orange peel" finish that won't fool experienced collectors, but they could certainly confuse beginners. (Beer Cans & Brewery Collectibles, April/May 2009)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Lots of amazing prices and stories keep popping up in the collecting world. Here are a few.

Ever wonder what happens when a bidder changes his or her mind? A Heil's Extra Bottled Beer tray picturing a very chubby girl, made by J. Meek of Coshocton, Ohio, sold at auction for $4,050. When the buyer did not pay, it was relisted and sold for $2,025. (The Breweriana Collector magazine)

Fidelitas Clown Train

A 1909 toy clown caravan by Marklin sold at auction for $103,500. The painted tin caravan, 37 1/2 inches long, was made up of four attached carts, each with a sitting clown. (Bertoia Auctions, Vineland, N.J.)

Globes, microscopes and medicine chests are selling well at auction. European auctioneers say the economy has brought rarities to the auction block and that today's collectors, often retired doctors, scientists and engineers, buy for love, not for future profit. Coming up for auction this month: a microscope by Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, the father of microscopy, expected to bring close to $150,000 at Christie's in London; and an important table globe made in 1728 by Johann Gabriel Dopplemayr estimated at $30,000 to $45,000 (although it sold in 2002 for $84,000).

Vaseline Carnival Glass
A very rare vaseline carnival glass Heart and Flowers plate made by Northwood sold for $25,000 (Jim Wroda Auction Services, Greenville, Ohio). The seller bought it for $30 awhile ago. It's probably the only carnival glass plate Northwood made in vaseline glass, and only four examples are known.

Looks like great antiques and collectibles can be good buys today.


"I read your eNewsletter about the Russian nesting dolls. How can I sell my dolls to the Russian government?"

Our answer: Sorry, the Russian government is buying new dolls from Russian families who live off the income from their craft work. The only dolls the Russian government wants are brand new, never-sold-before, products.


Tam O'Shanter jug
Q: My husband and I bought this beautiful pitcher in a little antiques shop in Milford, Connecticut, for $150. Since then we haven't had any luck finding any information on it. On the bottom it says "Published by W. Ridgway Son & Co./Hanley/September 1st 1840."

A: Your pitcher is sometimes called the Tam O'Shanter jug. The relief-molded figures illustrate Robert Burns' poem, "Tam O'Shanter," written in 1790. It tells the story of Tam being chased by witches after a night of drinking in the pub. Ridgway first made this design in 1840. It also was made in slightly different shapes, with a different handle, and with a pewter lid. W. Ridgway was one of a series of companies with the name Ridgway in the Staffordshire district in England. William Ridgway, Son & Co. was in business at the Church Works in Hanley from c.1838-1845. An identical jug sold last year for $80, although at previous auctions it has brought $200.


The Homan Manufacturing Company of Cincinnati, Ohio.

Q: I have a silver punch bowl, tray, and 12 silver goblets that were my grandmother's and probably date back to 1900. I would love to know the value.

A: Your punch bowl set was made by The Homan Manufacturing Company of Cincinnati, Ohio. Henry Homan and Asa F. Flagg went into partnership in 1847 making pewter items. Some pieces were marked "Flagg & Homan." Silver-plated pieces were being made by the 1880s and the company name became the Homan Silver Plate Co. in 1896. The name Homan Manufacturing Company was first used sometime between 1904 and 1915. The company went out of business in 1941. The punch bowl alone sold last year for $230. Your set of 14 pieces is worth $500-$600.


Sunny windows are the enemy of antiques. Textiles and wood will fade; glass sometimes breaks from the heat.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


Most Waterford Wedgwood assets have been bought out of receivership by KPS Capital Partners of New York. They are not buying the Irish production facilities, so jobs will be lost. Some manufacturing will be transferred to Indonesia, Germany, and Slovakia. But this does mean production of the famous brands will continue. And higher-end Wedgwood products will still be made in England.


Have you noticed that huge flashy diamonds are out--they're too ostentatious with the downturn in the economy. But expensive jewelry by great designers, jewelry with impressive colored stones like emeralds and rubies, are still OK.


Vintage 1980s Russian Matryoshkas Nesting Dolls

If you collect Russian nesting dolls, a favorite souvenir, you will be delighted to learn that the Russian government will spend up to $28.4 million to buy nesting dolls ("matryoshkas" in Russian) and hand-painted dishes for the Kremlin and state agencies to give as gifts. The "stimulus" is meant to help native craftsmen, who often come from families that have been selling the dolls for years.


Hitler skunk Q: This little skunk figure was sitting on a table at home as far back as I can remember. I recall my mother saying it was "The Phew-er." What can you tell me about it?

A: During World War II, novelty anti-Axis items were popular. Many represented Hitler, Mussolini, and Tojo and sold for less than a dollar. The Johnson Smith & Co. 1944 catalog offered several anti-Hitler items, including a cast-iron skunk figure called "Der Phew-er" ("shows Hitler as he really is"), a Hitler skunk ashtray, a Hotzi-Notzi pincushion (according to the catalog, FDR had one on his desk), and a Hitler squealing pig bank. Johnson Smith Co. is still in business in Bradenton, Florida, and still sells novelty items through its catalogs. Several different Hitler skunk figures were made in cast iron, chalkware, pottery, and plastic. Twin Winton made a ceramic Hitler skunk, Mussolini pig, and Tojo rat. Reproductions of your Hitler skunk figure have been made. If yours is an original cast-iron Hitler skunk, it could sell for close to $300. Pottery versions sell for about half that.


Wood and Sons Q: I've been collecting teapots for a while now, but I'm having trouble dating a couple of Wood & Sons teapots in my collection. Can you help me out?

A: Wood & Sons was founded in 1865 in Burslem, England, and operated potteries in several locations. Wood owned shares in Ellgreave Pottery, founded in 1921, and eventually that company became part of Wood & Sons. The Ellgreave name was not used after 1978. Marks similar to the one on your teapot, with the names of Ralph, Aaron and Moses Wood, were made beginning in the late 1940s.


Collectors of teddy bears and other stuffed animals should realize that the plush toys can harbor dust mites, those microscopic critters that live in pillows, bedding, and carpets. Some people are allergic to the mites. Most of the problem can be avoided. Use dust-mite-proof covers for all bedding, get a vacuum with a HEPA filter, and limit the number of stuffed animals in a bedroom. Once in a while, place any stuffed toy in a baggie and put it in the freezer for 48 hours. Dust mites need air and do not like freezing temperatures.

Get Social with The Kovels!

Are you on MySpace, Flickr or Facebook? Add us as a friend. You can post your collection and share it with fellow collectors.

Join us on MySpaceJoin us on MySpace Join us on FlickrJoin us on Flickr Join us on Facebook

*FREE Directory Listing:
If you are offering a service of interest to collectors, like caning chairs, repairing glass, or appraising, then please list yourself in our Free Directory.