Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Ebay has again rewritten its policy on counterfeits in its Purchase Protection Policy. AuctionBytes.com interviewed John Pluhowski, an eBay spokesperson, to get clarity. The word "non-authentic" has been changed to "counterfeit" because it refers to illegal items prohibited on eBay (like fake Rolex watches, we assume). It does not include pieces described as "authentic Chippendale," evidently because Chippendale is not a trademarked brand. We are still confused. Are only modern brands with intellectual property rights, like Coca-Cola or Chanel, protected by the new policy? And are antique pieces described, for instance, as "Schimmel" folk carvings or "Ohr" pottery protected instead by eBay's "item not as described" policy? In the second case, if eBay has to settle the dispute, the seller could be in trouble.


Did you know that caskets that are damaged or imperfect in other ways cannot be sold in California? A new company, Coffin Couches, recycles unused but imperfect caskets by transforming them into couches. They're probably very popular with vampires.


The New York Yankees are selling and auctioning ballpark seats, foul poles, urinals, ticket booths, scoreboards, bases, lockers, bullpens and even grass from the old Yankee Stadium. Visit SteinerSports.com to buy or bid.


Shwayder Trunk ManufacturingQ: This label is on a card table with a checkerboard top that has been in my family since the late 1930s or early 1940s. I wasn't able to find any information about the company that made it and hope you can help.

A: Jesse Shwayder founded Shwayder Trunk Manufacturing in Denver, Colorado, in 1910. His brothers Ben, Mark, Maurice and Sol joined the business between 1912 and 1923. The name "Samson" on your card table label was based on the character in the Bible known for his great strength. It was first used on Shwayder's suitcases in 1916. The company began making folding tables and other products when sales of suitcases declined during the Depression. The five men pictured standing on a board balanced on the table are the Shwayder brothers. The company advertised its suitcases and tables as "Strong Enough to Stand On." The name of the company was changed to Shwayder Brothers, Inc., in 1931. A patent listed on your label was issued in 1934, so your table must have been made after that. The company name was changed to Samsonite in 1965. After several changes of ownership, it now operates as Samsonite Corporation, with headquarters in Massachusetts.


Sevres mark Q: I collect covered soap dishes and think I might have gotten something special. The dish is white and has this blue mark on the bottom. From what I can find in "Kovels' New Dictionary of Marks," I think it might be Sevres. Do you think it is Sevres?

A: The mark on your dish looks like the inside of a Sevres mark used from 1834 to 1845. The Sevres mark had the crown, the monogram and the name of the pottery enclosed in a double circle. Many potteries used marks that looked like Sevres or other well-known pottery marks in the hope that people would think they had a more expensive piece. Pottery imported into the United States had to be marked with the country of origin after the passage of the McKinley Tariff Act in 1891. Your soap dish was probably made before 1915. Does anyone recognize this mark?


Children under 6 are being injured more frequently these days by overturned shelf units, desks, chests of drawers, and other tall furniture. Children try climbing to reach something at the top of the unit. Look at your furniture. If the shelves are spaced close enough to work as a climbing ladder or if you can make a "ladder" by pulling out drawers, do something to keep children from crawling up and perhaps falling down. Drawers can be locked with locks that open with a magnet or key. Don't put children's toys or enticing objects at the top of a tall piece. Also watch out for folding screens that could fall. And people who live in earthquake regions should be sure all tall furniture is screwed or tied to a wall, a stud or another strong support.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Looks like eBay heard the uproar about its fakes policy (see last week's ezine). EBay has changed the rules again. If a buyer and seller cannot agree that an item is fake, then the buyer is not required to destroy the piece. Instead, the buyer not only has to return the item to the seller, but also has to pay the cost of sending the item back. (EBay might pay the cost in some cases.) There's more explanation in EBay's new purchase protection policy. Is eBay more concerned about protecting modern trademarks than it is about obvious fakes of old items?


Chinese porcelain vase
There still are treasures to be found. A decorated yellow Chinese porcelain vase bought at a Florida yard sale years ago looked like a good copy of an 18th-century piece. It was put into a Brunk auction (Asheville, N.C.) as a modern copy, but the surprising final price was $1,236,250. At least two bidders thought it was real. Another Chinese jar decorated with dragons, thought to be a copy of a 16th-century piece, sold for $69,000 at the same auction.


President James Garfield
Where is the president's head? It disappeared this weekend just before the Hiram College commencement ceremonies in Hiram, Ohio. The college was recently given an 8-foot-tall 1914 carved sandstone statue of President James Garfield. Garfield, an Ohioan, was president of Hiram College before he was president of the United States. The statue was installed Thursday in front of the restored Greek Revival college building that had once been a church. By Friday morning he was headless, looking like an ancient Grecian artifact. But please, if anyone has seen Garfield's head (with full beard and mustache), let the Hiram police know at 330-569-3236. No reward, but as a trustee of the college I would be most grateful.


Wooden boxQ: I have a wooden box that my mother said was a Norwegian lunch box. Have you ever seen anything like this and do you know anything about it?

A: Painted boxes like this were made in Scandinavian countries. The two pieces that stick up on either side of your box are called lid latches and help hold the lid in place. Your box is probably a Norwegian picnic box or a bride's box. A Norwegian picnic box was price $495 at a recent show.


Homer and Shakespeare LaughlinQ: I have a set of dishes that was stored at a duck hunting club for many years. Can you tell me anything about the pattern and when it was made?

A: Homer and Shakespeare Laughlin, two brothers, began making pottery in East Liverpool, Ohio, in 1871. The pottery became Ohio Valley Pottery in 1874. Later it became Homer Laughlin China Company. In 1897 William Edwin Wells and Louis I. Aaron became the owners of the pottery. Members of their families still operate the company. The headquarters moved to Newell, West Virginia, in 1907. Homer Laughlin China Company is one of the most prolific producers of dinnerware in the United States. The company estimates that between 25,000 and 30,000 different patterns have been made. The peacock mark was used on the Wells shape and on some Century, Jade and Orleans shape dishes from 1930 to the 1940s. Your dishes are Century shape, which was made from 1931 to c.1951. The pattern is Briar Rose. Many Homer Laughlin dishes were sold in Montgomery Ward catalogs in the 1930s.


In an emergency, hand sanitizers like Purell can be used to remove tarnish on silver. Be sure the cleaner is non-abrasive, unscented, and contains no aloe. (Jeffrey Herman from Hermansilver.com)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


EBay's new policy states: "When buyers file a claim alleging that the item is not authentic, we [eBay] require the buyer to destroy the item." Then you can be reimbursed by eBay. Who decides it's a fake? What happens to the seller's loss? How do you prove you destroyed the item? Very puzzling. Visit eBay's website to read its complete "Purchase Protection Policy." Look at the second-to-last Buyers' FAQs.


Queen NefertitiA Swiss author, Henri Stierlin, says the famous bust of Queen Nefertiti is a 1912 fake. He says it was ordered by the archaeologist who supposedly discovered the treasure to test the colors of ancient pigments. The bust was said to be found during excavations at the old settlement of Amarna, 90 miles south of Cairo. It was later transported to Germany, where it was admired by a visiting Prussian prince when he saw it in 1912. Rather than embarrass the prince by telling him the bust was not ancient, the archaeologist (according to Steirlin) did not explain its history. The bust was later given to a Berlin museum and has been considered a great treasure. It will soon be displayed in a special newly built room. Stierlin says no archaeologists at the dig ever mentioned the bust, her deliberate lack of a left eye would have been considered an insult in ancient Eygpt, her shoulders were shaped differently than those on busts by Egyptian artists, and her facial features are based on twentieth-century ideas of beauty rather than on those of ancient Egypt. I always thought Queen Nefertiti looked amazingly modern, with a spectacular long neck and high cheekbones. Has anyone else noticed that in proper makeup Audrey Hepburn could look like her sister? Scientific tests haven't helped much in dating the bust because the stone is covered with plaster and the pigments are really 3,400 years old. To make the puzzle more complicated, since 1923 the Egyptian government has demanded the return of the bust, which it claims was smuggled out of the country.


Here's a good news "stimulus" story for collectors. Jim Julia of James D. Julia Inc., the Maine auction house, has announced that the commission rate the auction charges sellers will be 0% (that's ZERO) for expensive items--"expensive" ranging from $5,000 for things like toys to $8,000-$10,000 for rare guns. We dont know of any other auction house offering this. Do you?


Robert E. Lee Picture Q: This picture of Robert E. Lee painted on a tin "tray-like" frame has been in my wife's family for several generations. It has the inscription "compliments of Dr. D. Jayne & Sons, Philadelphia, Pa. USA." Can you tell me the history of this antique?

A: Dr. David Jayne (b.1798-d.1866) was a doctor in New Jersey who began making patent medicines in the 1830s. He moved the business to Philadelphia in 1850, where he built the tallest building in the United States. Dr. D. Jayne & Sons was founded in 1855 by Dr. Jayne, one of his sons, a nephew, and his brother-in-law. After Dr. Jayne died in 1866, the company was called Dr. D. Jayne's Family Medicines. The original medicines continued to be sold until at least the 1930s, though some of the names were changed and the ingredients modified to comply with the 1906 Food and Drug Act. Your self-framed picture on tin of Robert E. Lee in his Confederate General uniform is similar to several other versions that were made about 1863 and distributed as ads in drugstores. The 24-by-36-inch size is worth more than $800.


Franciscan dinnerware Q: I have used a set of Franciscan Apple dishes for over 60 years and my mother used them before me. I have one 8-inch plate that is marked "this is my first piece of Franciscan Ware." Can you tell me when these dishes were first made and why "this is my first" is stamped on one?

A: A piece of Franciscan Ware was given to each girl graduating from high school in the Los Angeles area in the 1940s-50s, probably marked like yours. We have seen an Apple mug with the "this is my first" marking. Franciscan dinnerware was made by Gladding, McBean and Company of Glendale, California. Gladding, McBean was founded in 1875 and began selling dinnerware and art pottery under the name Franciscan Ware in 1934. Two of the most popular Franciscan patterns are Apple, introduced in 1940, and Desert Rose, introduced in 1941. They are both still being made. Franciscan became part of the Wedgwood Group in 1979 and production was moved to Staffordshire, England.


Store old phonograph records on edge, straight up and in their sleeves.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


Looking for extra cash? Clean out your house and run a garage sale. Better yet, join with friends and host a big, big sale. Many newspapers offer a garage sale kit to tell you what to do. Find someone who has run sales before to help you out. A few tips: Run an ad online (Craig's list is good) and in your local paper. Read other people's ads to see what's selling. Put up neighborhood signs that can be read from a moving car. Set up a sorted display--clothes in one place, toys in another. Mark everything with masking tape or another label that's hard to remove. Do not put labels on paper or other surfaces that could be damaged by the glue. Make sure there's an electric outlet nearby that can be used to test any electrical items. Price things low enough. Your selling cost is less than it would be with a lot of online listings. Don't let anyone in your house for any reason. Keep cash in a secure box with a trustworthy person watching it. After the sale, help others by packing up what remains and taking it to a charity resale shop. You'll be adding a good deed to the list of your accomplishments that day.


The 1804 Adams-Carter silver dollarOne of the rarest American coins, the 1804 Adams-Carter silver dollar named for two previous owners of the coin, brought $2.3 million at a Heritage Galleries auction last week. Because of the recession, the coin sold for a half-million dollars less than it would have brought last year, according to the New Jersey dealer who bought it. The 15 known 1804 silver dollars were not struck that year. The first eight were made in 1834 as gifts to foreign heads of state. Another was struck in 1857, and six more were made later--perhaps illegally by a U.S. Mint employee.

Email comment from C.G. about the Siam jewelry mentioned in the April 15 and 22 Kovels Komments: "Siamese jewelry has been made since the 1930s. It comes in at least 12 different colors." Now we're wondering if anyone can prove when Siam jewelry was first made. We have seen the 1930s, '40s, and '60s given as the decade when the jewelry was introduced. We know it was available in the 1960s.


George Weinbrenner
Q: This roulette wheel was given to my father in 1965. The tag on it said it came from the Hotel Detroiter. The chrome piece in the middle is imprinted "B.C. Wills & Co. Detroit." Value?

A: B.C. Wills & Co. was owned by George Weinbrenner, who discovered a method of curing celluloid so that "square" dice cubes could be made. Before his discovery, dice were not perfect cubes, which affected the outcome of the game. When Weinbrenner bought the building formerly occupied by B.C. Wills & Co., a tool and die manufacturer, he kept the name B.C. Wills & Co. The company was known for making quality dice. Other gambling equipment, cabinets and furniture were also made. Clay Hathaway bought the gaming supply division in the 1980s and the company went bankrupt shortly after. The Detroiter Hotel was built in 1926 and was later demolished. Your 1930s Wills roulette wheel could bring as much as $2,000. For more information about B.C. Wills & Co., visit http://cctn.ccgtcc.com/wills.pdf.


Burton and Burton
Q: My neighbor bought a cookie jar for me at a yard sale because she knows that I collect cookie jars. I haven't been able to find any information about the jar. This is the mark on the bottom. Can you tell me who made the jar and how old it is?

A: Your jar was made in China for Burton & Burton, a giftware company based in Bogart, Georgia. The company was originally called "Flowers, Inc. Balloons," which is why "fib" is part of the mark. Flowers, Inc. Balloons was founded by Maxine Burton in 1982 to supply balloons to florists. Burton & Burton was founded later as a giftwares division with products that included vases, baskets, containers, cookie jars, and other items. The two divisions merged in 2006 to form "burton + BURTON." Your jar is probably not more than 25 years old.


Never clean a coin. It lowers the value, because collectors want coins with the patina unchanged.