Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Happy New Year!

Wishing you a prosperous 2010. Happy Collecting!

Your friends,

Terry, Kim and all of us at Kovels.com


Kovels News Follow-UpsWhy did the ivory box sell for $410,000? Whats new about President Garfields and Queen Nefertitis heads? Fifty-two Kovels Komments were emailed this year, each with a story based on the news. Ever wonder how the story ended? Here are the ten most interesting stories of 2009, the ones that got the most inquiries from readers asking How much did it sell for? or Then what happened? (The dates of our original stories are listed after each follow-up. Look them up on our website, Kovels.com. Click on "Free Resources" , scroll down to "Weekly Ezine," and select the date). Next week we will give you ten tips to buying smart in 2010.

1. The original bidder for the crypt above Marilyn Monroe's did not pay, so it was offered for sale in another auction in October. It did not get a single bid in that auction. As of November, the crypt still holds the body of Richard Poncher, whose wife was trying to sell the crypt to raise money. (Aug. 19)

2. Eva Zeisel is still designing and working with ceramics. She has even designed her first rug. Zeisel is alive and well at 103 as we write this follow-up. (July 1)

3. Egypt's antiquities chief said in December he will again demand the return of the famous stone bust of Queen Nefertiti. It's in a Berlin museum. This is the latest request for the return of the bust, which was first displayed in Germany in 1924. (May 13)

4. President Garfields head, stolen from his statue last spring, was returned to Hiram College in Ohio in the fall. The college is trying to make sure it won't happen again, but officials are taking precautions just in case it does. Metal rods were installed to hold the head in place, and a GPS device has been embedded in the head. The college also made a cast of the head so if it's stolen again the school can make a copy. And a security camera is trained on the statue at all times. The head was returned to the local police department by a "Good Samaritan" who refused the $1,000 reward but would not explain where the head was found. The grand jury is going to consider charges against a suspect. Hiram, an excellent liberal arts college in northeastern Ohio, has received nationwide publicity because of the theft. The headless statue was photographed by hundreds of visitors and the college even markets a T-shirt with the slogan "Get a Head at Hiram College." (May 20)

5. Amelia Earharts fake hair is still on display at the International Womens Air & Space Museum in Cleveland. The hair has a new label that explains the story of the hair-thread mix-up. (Oct. 21)

6. A moon rock was given as a gift to the Dutch prime minister in 1969. Somehow it became mixed up with a piece of petrified wood on display at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. No one seems to know how they were switched, but we understand the real moon rock is safely stored in Amsterdam. Last we heard, the petrified wood is still on display at the museum alongside a new label telling about the mix-up. (Nov. 18)

7. The ivory box that sold at a Cleveland auction for $410,000 has been identified. It's a 16th-century Persian jewel box that may have belonged to royalty. The writing on the cover has been translated. It tells of jewels as bright as stars. (Oct. 7)

8. The Abraham Lincoln stamp ("Ice House cover") that sold for $431,000 in June had been stolen in 1967 during the theft of about 250 valuable stamps from the Indianapolis home of J. David Baker (see the June 17 issue of Kovels Komments). We explained who got the proceeds (Baker's heirs) in our June 24 ezine. But there's much more to the story. It has been suggested that the 1967 theft was by someone working for the Chicago mob. In 1974 Boston police stopped the car of a known thief and found some of the stolen stamps. A short time later, a police officer posing as a crook was offered the return of the rest of the collection for $100,000. But the man who made the offer was murdered before a meeting could be set up. Soon after that, the undercover cop received another call from someone eager to sell the stamps. Police arranged a meeting, arrested the man trying to make the sale, and recovered the stamps. But the Ice House cover was not there. Meanwhile, a longtime legitimate collector said he and a friend bought the rights to buy the stamp (whenever it surfaced) from the insurance company that covered the original loss. But when the collector's friend committed suicide in 1995, the collector discovered that his friend was $11 million in debt and had been accused of selling fake collectibles. Now jump ahead several years: In 2006 a Chicago-area couple claimed to have bought the stamp at a flea market 20 years before and then forgot about it. They found out what they had when they took it to a Chicago stamp dealer. There are other Lincoln stamps, but this one is the most valuable because it's still on its original envelope. (Find more information at Starpress.com.).

9. The Bugatti car that was found in a barn when Dr. Harold Carr's heirs cleaned out his many collections sold at Bonham's in February. Presale estimate of the value was about $8.7 million. The Bugatti Type 57S Atalante Coupe, purchased by Dr. Carr in 1955 for $2,520, sold for $4.4 million, much less than expected. (Jan 14)

10. We announced in Kovels Komments on March 19 that our newly designed website was to be launched soon. Like all other website projects, it has taken much more time than we expected. Our new site will be introduced in the next few months.

Happy 2010!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Happy Holidays from us!

This is a 1935 Christmas postcard illustrated by Swedish artist Margit Ekstam.


Quite a weekend--went to a wedding in Washington, D.C., and got snowed in. Most guests missed the rehearsal dinner (so did the bride and groom), but locals and the wedding party got to the wedding the next day. Heard a lot of news. Producers of the "Antiques Roadshow" were excited when, in June, their experts appraised a group of four 18th-century jades for over a million dollars--the highest-priced "find" in the history of the show. But the jades auctioned in October for a total of a little under a half-million dollars. A better ending was at the auction of a very important letter written by George Washington in 1787. Estimated at $2.5 million, it sold this month for $3.2 million.


Steiff Bear
Q: I can remember playing with my adorable 3 1/2-inch-tall Steiff jointed teddy bear since my childhood in the 1960s. My mother thinks she had it as a child. It has a silver Steiff button in his ear. I've been told that the way the tail in the last "F" in the word "Steiff" trails down and back under the printed letters helps date my bear. Can you tell me how old my bear is?

A: The button with the trailing "F" was used by Steiff from 1905 until at least the 1940s. Some old stock buttons were also used from 1950 to 1952. So your bear is at least 57 years old, and possibly older. The Margarete Steiff Toy Co. was founded by Margarete Steiff (1847-1909) in 1880. Its first catalog was published in 1892. The company, established with the help of Margarete's brother Fritz and eventually Fritz's children, was originally devoted to the production of felt toys. In the early 1900s, Margarete's nephew, Richard, an accomplished artist and longtime lover of bears, convinced his aunt to produce a jointed mohair bear he designed. Mohair is the wool from an Angora goat and is a very durable natural fiber that requires little maintenance. Margarete agreed and when the toy was introduced at the Leipzig Spring Fair in 1903, the overall reception was mixed; some even ridiculed the toy. The teddy bear, of course, became one of the world's most popular toys.

Post a Komment | Read Others


Tuileries Palace PlateQ: My mother purchased this 6-inch cobalt plate in the 1950s. She was told it might be from the Tuileries Palace, but I doubt that. Can you tell me how old it is?

A: This is a mark used by Sevres, a French porcelain factory outside of Paris, from 1845 to 1848. The number "47" in the mark indicates your plate was made in 1847. The symbols in the middle of the mark are mirror images of the intertwined letters "P" and "L." Some Sevres pieces made for royalty are marked with a destination mark. The Chateau des Tuileries has its own destination mark. We don't see any indication that it was made for the Tuileries Palace.


You never know what's inside. Antiques may have many small parts, so check all of the tissue paper inside. Only collectors understand how difficult it is to give something to a collector--so admire every gift and be generous with your thank-yous. Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


EBay in France was fined $2.55 million for allowing sales of genuine Louis Vuitton perfume on its website. The court had fined the French eBay site in 2008 for not stopping the sale of counterfeit Vuitton products. Part of the agreement made last year called for eBay to stop all Vuitton sales on its French site to prevent the sale of fakes.


Holt HowardWarning! Think before you put Christmas dishes in the dishwasher. I unpacked my Holt-Howard Santa Claus mugs so I could fill them with candy. One looked dusty, so I put it in my new dishwasher on the anti-bacterial cycle--never thinking about the temperature of the water for that cycle. Imagine my horror when Santa came out of the dishwasher with a white face (his flesh had been skin-tone) and almost no red decoration. We have warned collectors for years to be careful about using the dishwasher for fine crystal, gold-decorated china and glass, hollow-handled silver knives and anything with an overglaze decoration. Most Holt-Howard pieces are made with underglaze decorations and can be washed in a dishwasher. Not my Santas. From now on, I will hand-wash all my 1950s-80s collectibles, including my lady head vases, salt and pepper sets, and tiny ceramic rabbits. Take a close look at our "before" and "after" Santa pictures. One more washing cycle and I think Santa will be all white.


A quote we like: "I'm developing a theory that all people who work at antiques stores are friendly and delightful." That's Taylor Swift on Twitter awhile ago. She's the cross-over country singer who keeps winning awards for her work. Wonder what she collects? She was at the Nashville antiques show in November.


A quote we like: "I'm developing a theory that all people who work at antiques stores are friendly and delightful." That's Taylor Swift on Twitter awhile ago. She's the cross-over country singer who keeps winning awards for her work. Wonder what she collects? She was at the Nashville antiques show in November.


Empress Eugenie lamp Q: I bought this lamp at a friend's garage sale for $20. She said it was an Empress Eugenie lamp. I can't find anything about it. Can you help?

A: Oil lamps with figural stem bases were popular from about 1865 to 1880. Most bases were gilded or bronzed, but the finish is often worn off like yours. The figure on your lamp is Eugenie, the wife of Napoleon III of France. She was empress consort from the time of their marriage in 1853 until they fled to England at the end of the Franco-Prussian War in 1871. The pattern of the glass font is Inverted Teardrop Band, a design patented by John Bridges in 1872. During the 1950s, oil lamp bases and fonts were sometimes used as vases for flower arrangements. The lamps sell for about $150-$200 in worn condition.


Horse Vehicle LicenseQ: I have this nickel-plated brass piece shaped like the number 2. I think it is a 1912 license for a one-horse vehicle. I would like to know more about this piece. Can you tell me why it is shaped like a "2" and who made it?

A: This is a Springfield, Ohio, license plate for a horse-drawn vehicle. For several years, plates in Springfield and some other cities were shaped like the last digit of the year, so your 1912 plate is shaped like a "2." The 1910 plate is an "X" shape, representing the Roman numeral for 10. It was made by Hiss Stamping Co. of Columbus, Ohio. The plate was displayed on the vehicle. License plates are technically "registration" plates, since they indicate that the vehicle is registered and the tax paid, not that the driver has a license. Massachusetts became the first state to require vehicle registration in 1903, when automobiles became popular and money was needed to maintain the roads.


Use your vintage linens for the holidays even if you must use your ironing board to get them into shape. (Remember the days before "permanent press"?) Use printed holiday tablecloths and cocktail napkins, even aprons with Christmas patterns. Then get out some vintage toys and candlesticks to use as centerpieces.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Dick Clark DollI'm just back from the Art Basel and Design Miami shows in Miami Beach. It's probably the largest art show in the world. As always, I looked for trends and the use of antiques in modern art. Seen at the show: a 3-foot-high modern "memory jar" decorated with antique plates, figurines, broken platters and small dolls. Also seen: an antique lacy carved chair from India with a red plastic "leather" seat topped by a neon "stop" sign. Droog, a Dutch design firm that likes to alter old things, offered a wooden kitchen chair from about 1910 that's covered with fuzzy white paint and light blue floral designs. Prices were high for everything. Each of the things I've mentioned must have cost over $10,000.

Modern Japanese basketry vases were selling for up to $30,000. By comparison, antique Japanese baskets are bargains.


Sun-Maid GirlFirst a younger Betty Crocker and Aunt Jemima and a slimmer Big Boy were created to update those advertising icons. Now a well-endowed, Barbie-faced Sun-Maid girl is representing her raisin company in TV and print ads. (She's still the 1970s version on Sun-Maid raisin boxes.) At 95 years old, her new look suggests she has seen a plastic surgeon. At least she still wears a bonnet--but her old one looked more comfortable.


Dick Clark DollQ: I have a Dick Clark autograph doll in the original box. Is it worth anything?

A: Dick Clark was the host of the popular syndicated television show American Bandstand from 1957 to 1989. Teenagers were invited to come on the show to dance to recordings of the latest popular music. Your doll was probably made c.1958. Dick Clark autograph dolls were made in two sizes, 25 and 45 inches. Autograph dolls and stuffed animals were popular in the 1950s and later. Children had their friends sign them. The lid of the box shows both Dick Clark and a group of youngsters autographing the doll’s jacket. The small doll with the box is worth about $400. The larger one is worth about $250.


Fake British Royal coat of arms Q: Can you identify this mark? It is on the bottom of a 4 1/4-inch flow blue ironstone pot.

A: This is a fake British Royal coat of arms mark. Manufacturers in England, the United States, and other countries used fake coat of arms marks to make their pottery seem older or more valuable. This "Victoria" mark was used on many new pieces of ironstone about twenty years ago. One clue to the fake: the mark is much too large for a small pot base.


You can update your old set of tiny 1930s painted metal figures that make Christmas scenes on a tabletop or mantel. The original figures by Barclay were dressed in 19th-century costumes. In the 1940s, more figures were made in contemporary costumes. These figures have been made again this year using the 1940s molds. It's easy to spot the repros if you are a collector of old ones. The new figures are solid; originals were hollow.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Money Bartender
A first edition of Charles Darwin's "On the Origin of Species" auctioned for $170,569 at Christie's in London. The rare book was noticed by the owner's son-in-law when he happened to examine the books in the guest bathroom. The family said the book was bought 40 years ago for less than $1. About 1,250 copies of the book were printed in 1859.


Perfume Bottle
Q: I picked up this unusual item at a local estate sale. It's made of heavy satin glass and is in the shape of a bird's head. It has a screw-off cap on one end. The person I bought it from thought it might be a perfume bottle, but someone else told me he thought it was a Prohibition-era woman's hip flask. It is about 8 1/2 inches long. Any idea exactly what it is and what it might be worth?

A: You made a lucky find! This is a swan's-head laydown perfume bottle made by Webb c.1884. Thomas Webb was a glassmaker who began working in 1829 and founded his own glassworks in Amblecote, England, in 1840. Production ended by 1991 and the factory was demolished in 1995. Your perfume bottle is probably worth $6,000-$10,000.


Two of Galileo's fingers, cut from his hand 300 years ago, were just rediscovered when the sealed glass jar they were stored in sold at auction. Three fingers were cut from Galileo's hand in 1737, when his body was moved to its final resting place (Galileo died in 1642). It was not uncommon at the time to cut body parts from saints to keep as relics--and Galileo was considered a sort of secular saint. At some point two of the fingers and one of Galileo's teeth were stored in the jar, which disappeared in about 1905. The person who bought the jar at auction took it to experts at the Museum of the History of Science in Florence, Italy. Experts there confirmed the authenticity of the jar and its contents. The fingers will be displayed at the museum with the third finger, which the museum already possessed.


Remember Carnaby Street? It was the center of London's fashion world in the 1960s. Long hair and mod clothes for men were "in." The extreme clothing featured bright colors and op-art designs. Men wore drainpipe (skinny) jeans, pointed-toe shoes, and mod suits with narrow lapels. Today the English lad in his 20s seems to be at it again. London's Financial Times pictures the latest Dickensian styles--men with upswept hair, beard and mustache, and wrinkled clothing. They're wearing waistcoats (vests), huge black overcoats, large bowties, shirts with Peter Pan collars, even torn sweaters. The most likely of these fashions to be popular outside of London are the accessories: walking sticks, watch chains with watch and fob, and key chains with charms dangling from a pants pocket. And, of course, old-fashioned tortoiseshell spectacles.


Thanksgiving is behind us, but we continue to thank you for making Kovels what it is today. Those of you who use Kovels.com belong to a community of over a million collectors. And now you can look forward to the unveiling of our new website! It's coming soon and will offer features YOU have been asking for: an events calendar where you can list your own events for FREE, forums you can enter FREE to talk about your favorite collectibles, the ability to comment on every article and to read the comments of others, and easier searches. On top of all that, you will be able to access (by signing up for a premium-plus subscription) more than 8,500 pottery and porcelain marks.

We trust that Kovels.com is helping you save more, spend less, and live a richer collecting life. We're listening to you--so please let us know how we're doing and what else we can do to make your collecting more fun and profitable.

To show our appreciation, you will receive 15% off any purchases you make at Kovels.com's store through Friday, December 4, 2009. Mention the code "Kovels" during checkout.


John Moses Brunswick
Q: I bought this pool table from a friend about 30 years ago. I also have the original balls, ball racks, counters, and shelf storage for cue sticks and balls. Can you tell me how old it is and what it is worth?

A: The company that made your pool table was founded by John Moses Brunswick. It started out as the Cincinnati Carriage Making Co. The company began making billiard tables in 1845. It merged with Julius Balke's Great Western Billiard Table Manufactory in 1873 and the name was changed to The J.M. Brunswick and Balke Co. After another merger in 1884, it became The Brunswick-Balke-Collender Co. and was the world's largest billiard table manufacturer. A table similar to yours was made by Brunswick-Balke-Collender from 1913 to 1915, but it did not have metal corners. The company name was changed to Brunswick Corp. in 1960. It's still in business, with headquarters in Lake Forest, Illinois. The company's website, http://www.brunswickbilliards.com/, pictures many of its antique tables. The company might be able to help you date your table.


Remember to wear your vintage Christmas pins.