Monday, December 20, 2010

2010 Christmas Postcard | Latest News |

When have you ever heard of the postal rate dropping?

This early 20th century Christmas postcard cost a penny to send, which dates it sometime between 1907 and 1925. In 1872, the United States passed postal regulations allowing the mailing of postcards. The rate was 1 cent. The postcard rate went up to 2 cents in 1917 but went back down to 1 cent in 1919 until 1925.

Friday, December 10, 2010 Item of the Week December 6, 2010: McCoy Cookie Jar | Latest News | Item of the Week December 6, 2010: McCoy Cookie Jar

If you're thinking of raiding this cookie jar, BE CAREFUL! It's very rare. It's believed to be one of only six McCoy train engine cookie jars that have smoke. The cookie jar is 10 inches tall by 9 1/2 inches long, in mint condition and it sold for a sweet $7,015 at a fall Belhorn auction.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


Cigar Store Indian

A cigar store Indian that had been in the family basement since the 1960s gave the owner an unexpected legacy. The Indian, in fine unrestored condition, was sold by Heritage Auction Galleries in Dallas for an amazing $203,150. The Indian had been purchased by the owner's late husband before they were married. The record price for a cigar store figure, set in 2007, is $542,400 for a 19th-century carved Punch figure attributed to Samuel Robb. Most cigar store figures are Indians and the highest priced usually sell for about $50,000. But an Indian sold in Canada in 2006 brought almost $74,000.


A new record has been set: The world's oldest leather shoe has been unearthed in Armenia. The single piece of leather laced front and back is about 5,500 years old. The shoe, stuffed with grass, was found at an archeological dig in a cave. It is a few hundred years older than the shoes on Otzi the Iceman, the mummy found frozen in the Alps in 1991. A fiber sandal even older than the Armenian shoe was found in Missouri.


Look carefully through boxes of old photographs. A picture of two slave children was found in an attic in North Carolina when the owners of the house were getting ready to move and preparing for a house sale. The photo, probably taken in the early 1860s, was found with a document describing the sale of one of the boys. The photo and document sold for $50,000.



Children's horse tricyclesQ: I have had this horse bike for some time. I'd like some history and the value. The saddle is leather, the wheels are wood with steel spokes, and there is a steel band over the wheels.

A: Children's horse tricycles were popular in France in the late nineteenth century. The Impressionist Claude Monet painted a picture of his 5-year-old son, Jean, on a horse tricycle at his home in Argenteuil in 1872. Monet never sold that painting and kept it throughout his life. The painting is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Horse tricycles were popular in the United States until the 1920s, and reproductions are being made today. Without a maker's name or mark, it's impossible to tell if you have an old tricycle or a newer reproduction. Nineteenth-century tricycles might sell for $1,000 or more. Some reproductions sell for $100 to several hundred dollars.


Meriden B. Company
Q: An elderly lady gave me this "lemonade stand," as she called it, and silver goblet. The writing on the front of the stand says "Congratulations of Weisbrod & Hess." It has two circular marks on the bottom. One pictures scales with the words "Meriden B. Company" around them and the other says "Quadruple plate." It also says "Pat'd June 13, 1868" and "Pat'd Nov. 30, 1868." Can you give me any information about it? The front feet are bent. Will it lower the value of the piece if I have it repaired?

A: Your silver plate pitcher with stand is an ice water pitcher. It is an insulated pitcher used to keep ice water, iced tea, or lemonade cold during a dinner. The pitchers were often engraved and given as presentation pieces. Your pitcher was made by Meriden Britannia Company, which was founded in Meriden, Connecticut, in 1852. The words "Quadruple Plate" were not marked on Meriden silver plate after 1896. Meriden became part of International Silver Co. in 1898. Weisbrod & Hess was a Philadelphia brewery in business from 1882 to 1939 except for a few years during Prohibition. Your pitcher and matching goblet were made between 1882 and 1896. These pitchers are very popular but inexpensive. A set like yours, if repaired, will bring $250.


Chocolate molds can be used to make candy and other party food. Pour melted butter into the mold, then put the filled mold in the freezer. Take the frozen butter mold out and unmold the fancy shaped pieces of butter for parties.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Flash Comics No.1

Another very expensive comic book sold a few months ago. A copy of Flash Comics No. 1 (the 1940 comic book that introduced the Flash and Hawkman) in pristine condition sold privately for $450,000. It had been sold in January 2006 for $273,125. The sale was not an auction; it was part of a new "Make Offer to Owner (MOTO)" selling feature for Heritage Auctions registered users ( If you see an item auctioned by Heritage Auctions in the past that's listed in the Heritage Permanent Auction Gallery, you can make an anonymous offer. The owner can then decide to sell, set a different selling price or refuse to sell.


Bobble-heads, those figures with heads that bob up and down and sideways, not yes or no like earlier nodders, are popular again. They were, and still are, given away at baseball games and other sporting events. They lost favor, but came back in 1999. Today there are bobble-heads that represent popular book characters, aliens, rock stars, even Sarah Palin. Most sell for about $20, but old and rare ones can bring thousands.


Make a chandelier from hanging electrified fruit jars or wine bottles--or display all the old bottles you find--and look like the "with-it" rooms in the Pottery Barn catalog. Oversized wine bottles sell in the catalog for up to $279 each. The wine bottle chandelier is $399. You can buy the same type of bottles for much less at a bottle show or flea market.



Fro-joy ice cream
Q: I have an old photograph of several baseball players in front of a delivery truck that has the words "International 'Fro-joy' Ice Cream" on the side. Can you tell me anything about it and how old it is?

A: Fro-joy ice cream was made by the International Division of General Ice Cream Corporation. The company featured Babe Ruth in several of its ads and on baseball cards in 1928. The name "Fro-joy" meant "frozen joy," and its ice cream was advertised as containing "Youth Units"--- "rejuvenating plant salts" that were supposed to keep a person young and vigorous when eaten every day. Fro-joy was later associated with Sealtest.


Wurttembergish Porcelain Manufactory
Q: This platter is part of a cake set that was in my mother's family. The mark on the back is a crown above the initials PIS or PJS and "Wurtemberg Germany." I can't find out anything about the manufacturer or the platter's age. We know the platter has been around since the 1930s, at least. Hoping you can provide some history.

A: The initials in the mark on your platter are "B" and "P." The platter was made by the Wurttembergish Porcelain Manufactory C.M. Bauer & Pfeiffer. The pottery was in business in Wurtemberg under that name from 1904 until 1918. It became a stock corporation in 1918 and its name was changed. The pottery closed in 1931.


If you're selling the contents of an empty house, act as if the house is still occupied. An empty house is an invitation to a thief. A friend who traveled a lot and was picked up by taxi to go to the airport would stand at the half-open front door before he closed it and call, "See you in a few days, Mom" and then wave. Lights were set to go on and off at intervals during the evening to "prove" someone was first in the library, then the bedroom, then asleep.


Thursday, June 3, 2010


Spoongebob Square Pants
Original comic art is getting "younger." Animations cels picturing SpongeBob, introduced on Nickelodeon in 1999, as well as classic Disney characters and more were auctioned last week by Universal Live of Northbrook, Illinois. Martin Shape, president of Universal Live, told us SpongeBob is the auction's best-selling cartoon character and represents about 22 percent of the cels it's offering. Prices of SpongeBob cels ranged from about $20 to $50 each at Universal's May auction. The company hosts an online auction every few weeks. The next is today, June 2.


Dinner plates have gotten bigger in the past 1,000 years; so have servings of food. A researcher analyzed the plate and food sizes in the famous Leonardo da Vinci painting of The Last Supper and found that today's plates are 66 percent larger than they were in the late 1400s (when Leonardo painted The Last Supper), and that today's food portions are 69 percent larger. The last plate size change we remember was from inches to centimeters, when dinner plates were made a fraction of an inch larger and became too large for a standard 1960s kitchen cabinet. Check size if you are dating vintage plates. Many patterns have been made continuously for years; old dishes are measured in inches and newer ones in centimeters.


Museums are being more careful about de-accessioning art and other collections because of legal issues and the bad reactions of donors and the general public. The Brandeis University board, after a storm of criticism for authorizing the sale of paintings from the university museum, is considering other options to raise money from the use of the collection. Donors of the art are suing the university to prevent the sale of the art.



ZeppelinQ: My husband received this toy zeppelin when he was a young boy. It's probably at least 65 years old. The box is in good condition and the wording on it says, "No. 2017, Strauss Flying Zeppelin." The price on the back of the box is 48 cents. Can you tell me anything about it and what it's worth?

A: Ferdinand Strauss was an importer in the early 1900s. He started his own toy company in East Rutherford, New Jersey, in 1914 when the outbreak of World War I in Europe made it impossible to import toys from Germany. The company was known for its mechanical tin toys. Zeppelins, the first rigid airships, were popular in the 1920s and 1930s. Strauss was granted patents for its toy zeppelins in 1926. Strauss was in business until 1942. Value of your toy and its original box, about $400-$500.


Rosenthal Tray
Q: When my great-aunt died, I inherited a tray that belonged to her mother. Unfortunately, the tray had been broken and poorly repaired. Newspaper got glued to the back of the tray and covered up part of the mark. Can you tell me who made this and how old it is?

A: You have to be a detective to solve this mystery. First, tear off as much of the bits of newspaper as you can. Search online or in a book of marks for similar marks that include a crown and crossed swords. Some sources list marks by city and country, so look for marks from Selb, Bavaria. (Your local library may have a comprehensive book of marks, like "Kovels' New Dictionary of Marks.") Find something that matches the part of the mark you can read, then look for the remaining letters in the mark. Rosenthal established a factory in Selb, Bavaria, in 1880. Ownership changed several times, but Rosenthal china is still being made in Bavaria (now a state of Germany). The company used marks similar to yours from c.1910 to 1933. After 1910 a series of dots or dashes in different parts of the mark was used to indicate the year. The mark on your tray was used between 1907 and 1910. We can't see the top of the crown, but if there is a dot above it, it was made in 1926. This is a good example of why you should never try to repair a piece of porcelain yourself. If the piece is valuable, it is worth contacting a restoration service that can make invisible repairs.


If you're buying animation art, know the product. A production "cel" is a hand-painted picture made for a movie or TV cartoon and is one-of-a-kind. The many pictures on the cels were used to show motion. A "sericel" is a special lithographed or hand-painted piece made in limited editions to sell as art. Sericels were never used to make a cartoon. A "lumicel" is a special product made by Disney. It's a framed cartoon image that talks and moves when activated.



You're invited to preview our website's new look and features. The site is officially opening to the public soon. We have added the information you want--more prices, pictures, information on marks, tips on identifying family treasures, and our evaluation of market trends. Comments are welcome.

Terry and Kim P.S. We heard from a lot of readers who did not like the format for "Kovels' Komments" that we tried last week. So we have returned to our old format. Thanks for your input.



Sweater Guard
Ever wear a "sweater guard"? A syndicated newspaper story about the fashion influence of the TV show "Glee" pictures ladylike Emma in a cardigan sweater with a two-part sweater guard. If they are not in department stores, look for sweater guards at vintage jewelry booths or websites. They were very popular in the 1940s and '50s.


From about 1900 to 1950, Ohio was the marble-producing capital of the world. Glass marbles for children came from dozens of Ohio glass companies. But games like marbles have been replaced with electronic games, and marbles are collected today by adults. Only two marble factories remain in the United States. This week a group of collectors bought some glass and arranged to fire up the furnace at one of those two factories--Jabo Inc. in Reno, Ohio--to make one more batch of marbles. The 1-inch marbles came out of the kiln with multicolor speckles in the glass. Each one of the 120,000 marbles is different. Value now: probably $10 to $100 apiece, but none are for sale. Record price for any marble sold at auction: $7,700 for an Indian swirl marble that auctioned in New York in 1995.


We have heard of orphan earrings, but never before have we seen a single Indian moccasin tree. A dealer at a Philadelphia show wanted $25,000 for a collection of 19th-century moccasins that must have lost their mates. He displayed them mounted on a vertical stand.


Made in Staffordshire England
Q: This photo is of two teacups that my late mother purchased, probably in the 1950s. She thought it was a Lipton Tea Company offer made on television's Garry Moore Show. I would appreciate any information you can give me about them.
A: Several versions of the winking teacup have been made. Yours were made as a premium for Lipton Tea. A version of this cup, stamped "Made in Staffordshire England" on the bottom, was made c.1950. Another version was made in China in the late 1990s as a premium for Bailey's Irish Cream. The Bailey's logo is the eyebrow over the open eye and the word "Yum" is on the inside of the teacup. A teapot, sugar, creamer, and cookie jar were also made with the Bailey's logo eyebrows. The girl teacup has either a blue or a yellow bow. The words "Limited Edition" and sometimes the year "1996" are embossed on the bottom. Bailey's also issued an unpainted version of the girl teacup for the Los Angeles Youth Network. The cups were decorated by actress Helen Hunt and have her signature on the back. The girl has a pale blue eye and a silver necklace, but her eyebrows and bow are unpainted. Winking teacups like yours usually sell for $5 to $10 each.

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Edwin Bennett Pottery
Q: I have a pitcher and washbowl my husband bought for me at an estate sale. The bottom is stamped "Alba China" and has a picture of the earth with a sword through it. The words around the globe are "Bona Fama Est Melior Zona Aurea."

A: This mark was used by the Edwin Bennett Pottery Company after 1890. It was used on the company's semi-porcelain ware. The Latin motto "Bona Fama Est Melior Zona Aurea" roughly translates as "A good reputation is better than a golden belt." "Alba" means white. The pottery was in business in Baltimore, Maryland, from 1846 to 1936. Your pieces would sell for about $75.


Traveling out of the country? Be very careful when buying "antiques." Most countries do not allow important antiques to be taken out of the country. Many countries, like Morocco and Mexico, have been making copies of their antiquities for centuries--and that is what is found in their tourist spots. Even the letters guaranteeing age are faked. It is a case of "Buyer Beware." Be very wary of anything that's a great bargain.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


Orphan Annie

Little Orphan Annie is "retiring" on June 13 after 85 years in the comics. But wait--you can still see Daddy Warbucks trying to save Annie and her dog Sandy. No doubt there will be reprints of old strips, electronic versions, and the usual images of hollow-eyed Annie in her 85-year-old red dress. So collectors can spend at least a few more years hunting for Annie, a character known to many during their childhoods. Thats important, because we tend to collect our memories.


Food stamps are the latest collectible to gain formal recognition by a museum. The Smithsonian collection now includes food stamp coupons, from the original paper stamps (1969) to the Electronic Benefit Transfer cards (2004), booklets, and other material from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The program is now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The stamps were a form of "money," so they are part of the National Numismatic Collection. Will the stamps given out by department and grocery stores, like Eagle, Green or Gold stamps, be the next collectible? At the moment, food stamps, credit cards, charge cards, and store stamps sell for very low prices. Most are traded.


Tepper Galleries, a well known New York auction house, just emptied its building on East 25th Street and locked the doors. What happens to those owed money from sales, to those who have items waiting to be sold, to other creditors? We have seen this happen before and consigners are lucky to get either money or their items returned. Be sure when you send things to be sold you know that there is protection for you--that money will be collected in escrow and your pieces insured.


Pressed Glass Lamp
Q: I bought this lamp on the last day of an estate sale in Dallas, Texas. They charged me $2.50. I couldn't believe it! I think it is a beautiful lamp and I'm very proud of it. I have tried to research it to no avail. Can you help me?

A: Your lamp has a pressed glass figural base. It was probably made from the same mold as a set of glassware that included compotes or other pieces with figural stems. The glass font that is attached held the fuel, either oil or kerosene. Your lamp was later electrified. It was probably made in the Victorian era in Europe. The shade is not the original shade for the lamp, but it is still worth about $200.


W.H. Grindley & Co. Blue Transfer Design China Q: My husband inherited a set of china that belonged to his grandmother. Is this "flow blue"? I love the china but don't want to use it for fear of chipping or breaking it. Of course it has sentimental value, but if it isn't worth much I will go ahead and use it occasionally and enjoy it instead of simply displaying a few pieces on our hutch. Most of the plates have some crackling on the surface and some staining. Does that reduce the value? This is the mark on the bottom.

A: Blue transfer designs have been used since the 18th century. In the early 19th century, some pieces were made using a dark blue that would "run" or "flow." Collectors call the dishes "flow blue." Your set of china was made by W.H. Grindley & Co. of Tunstall, Staffordshire, England. The company was in business from 1880 to 1991. This mark was used from 1891 to 1914. Crackling in the glaze can happen because of heat or just from age. Stains or cracks will lower the value. We think people should enjoy their collections, so if you want to use the china for special occasions, just be sure to wash it by hand. Don't put it in the dishwasher because the heat may cause the glaze to pop off. A soup tureen like yours is worth about $150.


Don't use your mother's maiden name on anything seen by the public. Donors to museums or exhibits often mention their family connections. And don't give your mother's maiden name or even your father's middle name as a security question on a charge or bank account. It is too easy for a thief to find the name in genealogy programs found on the web.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


ScheierI went to dinner last weekend with Wes Cowan (of Cowan's Auctions and PBS's History Detectives). We swapped stories about what is in and out. Haviland dinner sets are out, selling for about $200 to $300 now. Ten years ago, they would have cost $800. Pink roses are not what 30-year-olds want, and gold trim makes a trip to the dishwasher or the microwave dangerous for the dishes. Cut glass is down in price, too. A $250 bowl bought 10 years ago is now only $100 to $150. The $1,000 market is moribund; many things are not selling. However, the top 15 percent of the market (determined by price) is in great shape and prices are going up. Wes has planned a fall auction of studio pottery and we have a new report coming out on studio pottery--so studio pottery may be next on the shopping list for pottery lovers. You can find great pieces with unique design and lower prices than for comparable art pottery.


I donated 24 blown hollow-stem champagne glasses to our public TV auction. They didn't get a bid. New champagnes are all flute shape. Maybe those of us who remember the bubbling champagne glasses pictured on neon signs during Art Deco days already own hollow-stem champagne glasses. Those of us who don't remember those days don't know what fun it is to watch champagne bubbles dancing around in the stem.


Comments on our blog last week show that our report on the value of copper was misunderstood. Copper gutters, plumbing pipes, hardware, sinks, faucets, countertops and railings should be used in houses for their beauty and their antimicrobial properties. A copper surface kills E. coli, fungi, viruses, bacteria and more. But here are the safety factors to think about: Never cook using a copper pan that is not tin-lined. Acidic foods, especially tomatoes, will create a poison if they touch copper while being heated. Copper bracelets are fun, but it has never been scientifically proved that they help with arthritic pain. The antimicrobial properties of copper that we wrote about were part of a study conducted at the University of South Carolina.


bachelor chairQ: I have an old ironing board, chair, step ladder combination piece of furniture. Can you tell me anything about it?

A: Combination furniture like your ironing board, step stool, and chair are still being made. Some people call the combination a "bachelor chair" or "Jefferson chair." One legend says that it is an adaptation of an 18th-century bachelor's chair dating from the time of Thomas Jefferson. The Amish make them and call them "On-it-chairs." The ironing board chair is a novelty that sells for about $35.


Powell, Bishop & StonierQ: While in New Orleans recently, I was seduced by an old demitasse set. There are 18 cups and saucers with a black/brown transferware pattern with these markings: "Honfleur, Rd 7999, PB & S." Now that I have this lovely set at home in Santa Barbara, I'm wondering if I was overcome by the sweet olive and Sazerac! I would appreciate any information.

A: Your demitasse set was made by Powell, Bishop & Stonier, a company that worked in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, England, from 1878 to 1891. The company was founded by Edwin Powell, a potter, John Bishop, lawyer, and John Stonier, a dealer in Liverpool, England. "Honfleur" is the name of the pattern. Powell, Bishop & Stonier made a large quantity of ironstone china for export, so it is not unusual to find it in the United States. Demitasse cups can serve another use today. Not only are they appropriate for the coffee served as demitasse, but they are also being used to serve custard-like desserts and mousse. That means more demand, so prices have gone up in the last few years. Each cup and saucer is worth about $10-$15.


Keep your broken dishes, vases, and other decorative china to use to make mosaic stepping stones or tabletops for the garden. Chipped vases can still be used for flowers or, turned upside down, for toad homes.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


An 1840s stuffed crocodile in a glass cabinet on wheels was sold at Christie's South Kensington in London for $17,495.


Copper, according to a recent scientific study, has antimicrobial properties. That means Victorian copper hardware, plumbing pipes, copper pots and pans, and even copper jewelry of the past should be used in our new green world.


Snoopy, Charlie Brown and the other popular characters from the Peanuts comic strip will, we predict, remain popular with collectors for years to come. The licensing rights have been sold to a company that will promote the toys, clothing, and other products picturing the characters. Collectors collect their childhood, so as long as new items appear, new collectors are being created.


Drafting SetQ: This set of antique drafting tools was given to me in 1953 when I started art school. The wooden box is lined with velvet and has a silver plate on top that reads "H.W. Bennet, manufactured by Benj'n Pike & Sons N.Y." There are no dates shown. Can you tell me how old the tools are and the possible value?

A: Benjamin Pike was an optician who opened a shop in New York in 1798. The name of his business changed after his sons joined him. It was called Benjamin Pike & Sons from 1841 to c.1843 and from 1850 to 1867. The company made barometers, compasses, surveyor's instruments, and other scientific instruments. Some of the instruments sold by them were made by other companies. The company went out of business in 1916. H.W. Bennet may be the store that sold the instruments or the owner of the set.


ABC PlateQ: This plate belonged to my father when he was a young boy. In the center there is a picture of two little girls having tea. The alphabet in raised letters is around the outer edge and hands signing the alphabet are around the inside edge. The markings on the back of the plate are "Haynsley & Co., Longton" and "RON 426673." I would like to know more about this plate.

A: ABC plates have a raised or printed border of letters of the alphabet that were meant to help children learn to read. They were especially popular in the 1800s, but are still being made. Your plate was made not made by Haynsley, but by H. Aynsley & Co. of Longton, England. The company was founded in 1873. The initials on the backstamp are RdNo and the numbers that follow indicate the registry number for the design, shape, color, or pattern. The number on your plate indicates it was probably made c.1916. Alphabet plates with sign language and letters are prized. Yours is worth about $250.


SR, a reader, sent this tip: if you open the back of an old mirror, be aware that mercury droplets may collect at the bottom of the frame. The mercury vapors are toxic.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Persian Box
The ivory box described as a mid-nineteenth century Persian piece (see ezine Oct. 7, 2009) estimated at $700 to $900 that auctioned in Cleveland for $471,528 is at it again. The box, now identified as a sixteenth-century piece from Turkey, auctioned at Sotheby's London for $3.68 million on April 14, 2010. The verse on the box suggests that the box originally held a scale accurate enough to measure precious gemstones. Keep searching. You may find a treasure!


The Gutenberg Bible is probably the most famous book in Western civilization--the first book printed with moveable type. There are 21 complete copies of the 42-line Bible in existence (it's called "42-line" because each page has 42 lines of type). A damaged copy was purchased in the 1920s and single pages were sold. In March one page auctioned for $54,000 at PBA Galleries in San Francisco. The last complete copy sold in 1978 for $2.2 million. Some say a complete copy would be worth over $25 million today.


Steve Johnson of Circa Antiques & Historical Artifacts in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, was packing and sorting things for clients to sell. They were downsizing. There were Civil War items, good glassware, furniture, charitable donations and, in a corner, a pile of boxes and trash. Steve told us he saw the top of a crock in the trash and pulled it out. The 6-gallon stoneware crock had been used as an umbrella stand for years. It had a cobalt tulip decoration, the date 1857 on the side, and the impressed name "Jacob Swank" under the handle. The potter worked in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and few artifacts survived the 1889 flood there, so marked pieces are rare. The owners told Johnson the crock had been in the family for years and they never noticed the name and date. Crocker Farm auctioned it on April 17, 2010.


Terry KovelGet ready! You can see me in action on our local PBS station, WVIZ in Cleveland, on April 29-May 2. All proceeds from the auction benefit WVIZ. Bid on thousands of items--everything from antiques (I will be doing the auctioning!) to grocery-store gift certificates.

See me starting around 7 p.m. (EDT) Thursday and Saturday and 4 p.m. on Sunday. You can view and bid now on some of the lots on the station's website or watch the auction live online.


A blogger suggested we are censoring our blog, using only answers that we like. No. We post all comments except those with obscene and offensive words.

Here's the most interesting of last week's blogs about the poor sales of armoires:

Anonymous said ...
Now we sell more sideboards--Works Great--Large flat screens fit nice on top and the inside is great for all the DVDs and stuff.

Another Anonymous said ...
perhaps these decorators are missing a very common feature to most homes, the computer. These armoires are generally equipped with a pullout that the TV sat on, and a clever individual can figure out a way to turn it into a computer desk. And the best part is, when equipped with doors you can hide the computer and any clutter!


Shell Cameo PendantQ: I have an unusual cameo necklace that was given to my mother around 1946. At that time, she was told that it was "very old." The carved scene shows two women, footbridges, trees, and two buildings. It is 1 5/8 inches long and 1 1/4 inches wide and has no markings on the back. Although it is priceless to me, I would love to know its history and value.

A: Cameos were popular pieces of jewelry in the Victorian era. The most expensive cameos were made from agates that had different colored layers. The design was carved away, revealing a different colored layer beneath the raised design. Less expensive carved cameos were made from shell, which was easier to carve. Cameos were also made of bone, ivory, celluloid, plastic, glass, or other materials. Plastic and glass cameos are molded, not carved. Your cameo pendant, which looks like a shell cameo, was probably made c.1900-1910 and is worth about $250.


 C. Tielsch & Co.Q: I have a plate with this mark picturing an eagle above the letters "C.T." Who made it? Is it old?

A: This mark, used by C. Tielsch & Co., was registered in 1875 and was used until c.1935. The company was founded in Altwasser, Silesia, Germany (now Walbrzych, Poland) in 1845. Household and hotel porcelain were made. It became part of C.M. Hutschenreuther in 1932. Pieces marked "Tielsch" or with the initials "C.T." continued to be made until at least 1952, when the Altwasser factory was nationalized by Poland.


Remember what mother said: "Don't tilt back in your chair." It may weaken the frame or even break the chair, and put you on the floor.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


The Orrefors contract worth over $5 million for U.S. embassy glassware (mentioned in Kovels' Komments, April 14, 2010) brought over 70 blog comments, almost all outraged at the idea of Swedish glass being used to represent America overseas. And even more questioned the need for the glassware, the expense, the loss of U.S. jobs, and the no-bid contract. Many asked what they could do and many others suggested you write or email your senators and representatives to make your thoughts known. Fortunately, the two senators from New York and Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio were able to push the State Department to "relook at the contract." The first year will be unchanged, but the next four years of the contracts will be re-bid. We will report any future developments.


CoxTools are popular with a special group of collectors. At a recent auction by Brown Auction Services of Mystic, Connecticut, a pair of woodworking planes by C.E. Chelor sold for $8,250 and a Greenfield sash plane for $7,480. It takes an expert to know the tool market. Many families find tools and tool chests when a relative dies. Don't assume the tools and chest are not valuable.


Dealers report that armoires have become very hard to sell. They were popular with decorators for the past twenty years because they could be remodeled into storage units or enclosed cabinets for TV sets. The flat screen television set probably killed demand.


Here's the best of the comments on the State Department glassware purchase mentioned above (go to ezine, April 14, 2010). Few of our bloggers approved of the sale:
Kristen, NY said ...

I searched online: NY Senators Schumer and Gillebrand and Sen. Brown of Ohio are addressing this outrageous no-bid contract. American glass companies will be able to bid, but evidently not until fall 2010. Former NY Sen. Clinton should have done much better on this as 1) she knows well the economic problems in the state and 2) outsourcing production goes against what she has said about the U.S. needing to manufacture goods to remain strong. The State Dept. acknowledges an "error" in not ascertaining that Steuben does make the lead-free glass they need. Ridiculous!

And a warning from a blogger about the Chinese silver story:

I am a jeweler and it (Chinese silver) has taken over the silver market in jewelry. They plate it in copper, then nickel and then sometimes in rhodium; it looks great at first, but when heated for repairs the copper bubbles up and the plating cracks off and looks horrible. It is hard to detect in a lot of instances.


Terry Kovel

Terry will hawk antiques and collectibles donated to the WVIZ-PBS Ideastream benefit auction in Cleveland. The auction airs April 29 to May 2, 2010. Check back next week for more details--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.


CoxQ: I have a Cox Cargo Crane, Dock & Train set in the original box. The train was set up once to see how it worked, taken down, and put back in the box and never played with. I'd like to sell the set but have no idea of its value. Can you help?

A: Cox made HO-scale train sets and accessories in the 1970s. Your train set was made by Cox in 1976 and 1977. It is one of two HO-scale "trainscapes" sold by Cox. Trains and accessories were made for Cox by Athearn Trains of California from 1971 until 1975, when production shifted to Hong Kong. The last Cox catalog was issued in 1977. The complete train set includes the locomotive, train cars, track, crane, truck and trailer, containers, and other accessories. Pieces could be bought separately, but the complete set like yours might sell today for $100-$150.


Did you know that very old birds' eggs cannot be legally sold in England because of that country's 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act? Similar laws in the United States protect body parts of migratory birds and endangered species. An auctioneer in England was fined for trying to sell some wild birds' eggs about 100 years old. Years ago we reported a problem for an American college selling "bird skins," just the outside feathered skins that were kept for study purposes. That case was solved by giving, not selling, the skins to another museum.


FOOT WARMERQ: This picture is of the mark on a pottery "pig" we found. It has several places without the glaze. Can you give us any information about its origin and value?

A: You used an unfamiliar but correct name for your antique. Foot warmers are sometimes called "pigs." The proof is in the words "For Cold Feet" on the top of your stoneware jug. It's a foot warmer, which was used to keep a person's feet warm in the cold weather. In the days before homes with central heat and cars with heaters, they were necessary. Foot warmers were made of pottery, tin, or soapstone and held charcoal or hot water. Yours would have been filled with hot water. The warmer was put under a person's feet and then their legs and feet were covered with a blanket to keep in the heat. Your foot warmer was made by the Adirondack Hardware Company in Saranac Lake, New York. The damage hides the words "Ad-Har-Co., Trade Mark, Stone Pigs." Stoneware foot warmers like yours usually sell for $50 to $100, but because yours is damaged it is worth about half.


If you have an old scrapbook filled with trade cards, photos, and other mementos, remove any paper clips, pins, cellophane tape, or colored fabrics. They will degrade faster than the paper pieces. Put a sheet of interleaving paper between the pages to keep the scrapbook entries from coming in contact with the acidic paper used to make the scrapbook. It is available online.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


A dealer just asked me if I had read the latest issue of Glass Shards, the newsletter of the National American Glass Club. There is an article about Steuben Glass, the company's problems and need to lay off workers because they have lost so much business in the economic down turn. On the next page is an article about Orrefors, the Swedish glass company.  They were chosen for  a $5.4 million contract from the U. S. State Department to make glasses for 400 American Embassies. Each glass will be engraved with the seal of the United States. Critics are furious that the government did not keep the jobs at home with a company founded in 1903. We just learned that the U.S. Senator from New York has asked that the glass contract be rebid so that a U.S. company will be considered. But there is also another reason to have U.S. made products used. Our embassies, as representatives of our country, should be furnished with the best the United States can produce--a way to brag about the quality of U.S. products.


WPA 1930's PostersUnexpected treasures found among items grandma saved are not uncommon. Think before you clean out old paper ephemera. In May, Swan Galleries is auctioning 22 posters made in the 1930s by WPA artists to encourage children to read books.  The modernist posters are estimated to bring about $7,800 as a group. (They are being sold in 5 lots.) How lucky no one dumped them when cleaning a public library attic.


Warning. New silver colored beads are being sold under the name Chinese silver.  That name always meant solid silver made in China. The new beads are, according to the vendor, 30% silver plus copper, rhodium, and nickel no lead. Jeffrey Herman, Director of the Society of American Silversmiths says the plating will rub off and customers will complain. It may turn the public off silver entirely. Anyone with more information about this? We know the Chinese make many copies of old silver pieces so this can be a problem for collectors.


Portrait of President Woodrow Wilson
Q: Can you tell me anything about this ceramic portrait of President Woodrow Wilson? It is 6 x 9 x 3/8 in. On the back it says "Portrait of President Woodrow Wilson, Geo. Cartlidge, Sculpt, 1916, Made by J.H. Barratt & Co. Ltd., Stoke on Trent, England."

A: You have a photographic tile of President Wilson sculpted by George Cartlidge, a designer who worked in England from 1882 to c.1926 and later in the United States. He made photographic tiles of Wilson, Teddy Roosevelt, and other famous people. Cartlidge invented a method of reproducing a photograph on a ceramic tile. His early works were done using a plaster mold, but the exact process used to make these photographic tiles is not known. They may have been made by the "dust pressing" method commonly used by J.H. Barratt & Co. A "dry" mixture of clay and other ingredients was pressed into a mold. Your photographic tile is worth $150 to $250.


Edward and David KinseyQ: I have a silver ladle that is marked E & D Kinsey. Can you tell me who made it and how old it is?

A: Your ladle was made by Edward and David Kinsey in Cincinnati, Ohio. Edward worked from 1834 to 1861 and his brother, David, worked from 1840 to 1870. Your ladle was made sometime between 1844 and 1861, the years the brothers worked together. They made flatware and hollowware and were the major silver manufacturers in Cincinnati during that time.


1. Don't cut the printed price off a books dust jacket. It will affect the resale value.

2. Don't moisten a rye straw basket. If it gets too wet, it may mold.

3. Don't tilt back in your wooden chair. (Didn't your mother always tell you that?) It will weaken the frame and even break the chair.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


General Washington and Bust
The rare deep sapphire blue flask General Washington and Bust (McKearin GI-14) brought $100,620 at an online Heckler Auction that ended April 2, 2010 The back of the flask pictures an eagle and the initials T. W. D. (Thomas W. Dyott was a glass maker who worked at his own factory and later at the Kensington Glass Works.) The flask has the names Thomas Jefferson and John Adams on the ridge and is also called the firecracker flask because of their 4th of July, deaths in 1826. Dyott, a smart salesman, quickly made the commemorative flask by altering the mold of an existing flask made only in aquamarine. This one came in many colors to attract more buyers. Only a few of the flasks are known in sapphire blue.


Action Comic No. 1, the famous first appearance of Superman, has sold for an even higher record price. (see Feb 24, 2010). The new record price - $1.5 million. It was sold by in March.


An eBay scam was stopped by U.S. Postal inspectors in Florida. A three year investigation uncovered that a Florida resident and his son were selling items on eBay but never delivering the merchandise. The two stole $717,000. The father was sentenced to 5 years in jail. The son is thought to be in Brazil. We have not heard of any antiques being offered in this scam.


Philco Predicta

Six of the Philco Predicta television sets of the 1950s are being reproduced with modern parts for those who want modern TV reception and the authentic look of the past. Prices go from about $1,800 to $3,600.


Hall China Company merged with Homer Laughlin China company March 25, 2010. Homer Laughlin is the last major pottery manufactured in the United States. Syracuse Pottery closed in 2009.


ELECTRIC BATTERY MACHINEQ: This interesting box was given to my father several years ago. It is marked "Inspected by Achille St. Laurent date July 12 1917." All instructions and parts are intact. The instruction booklet is titled "Medical Electricty @ Home." Can you tell me more about it and its possible value?

A: Electric battery machines like yours were used to treat various illnesses, including fevers, rheumatism, epilepsy, cancer, and other diseases in the 1800s and early 1900s. The use of electricity to cure or alleviate disease was an accepted medical practice in the United States and Canada until about 1930. The box or carrying case usually included an induction coil, dry cells, and parts needed to give a slight electric shock to the patient. To treat a fever, the patient was touched with the positive end of the terminal while the patient's feet and the negative end were immersed in a basin of water. People still believe that electricity cures things, and there are modern devices available. Medical batteries similar to yours were advertised in the 1923 Sears Roebuck catalog for prices ranging from $5.80 to $13.55. Today they usually sell for $50 to over $100.


Vetcraft Shops of Toronto, Canada
Q: We have a very old hammered copper vase. The mark on the bottom is a triangle with a half sun and a fist holding a hammer. Any help would be appreciated.

A: Your copper vase was made by Vetcraft Shops of Toronto, Canada. This was one of several workshops set up by the Department of Soldiers Civil Re-establishment in Canada to provide jobs for disabled veterans of World War I. Vetcraft Shops were in business from about 1919 to 1925. Other workshops made furniture, toys, and the poppies that were given out on Memorial Day.


When thinking of bidding for an antique or collectible, check the shipping costs before you bid. We just heard about an online auction that sold a large brass cash register to a bidder in Taiwan. When he learned that the shipping cost would be added to the bid and would double his expenses he didnt complete the sale. Shipping charges for large furniture and other heavy pieces, even expensive paintings and ceramics that must be crated. can be significant when calculating the cost of an item.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Your old candlesticks can be put to use for Easter. Family Circle magazine suggests grouping the candlesticks, then putting a colored egg on top of each one instead of a candle. A very modern-looking use for collectibles.


19th-century Chinese jadeite censer
A whopping $1,082,500 was paid for a 19th-century Chinese jadeite censer, 6 1/4 inches high, at the March 22 Doyle auction of Asian art in New York. Surprising, since the estimate was $6,000 to $9,000. Other shockers: A pair of celadon screens ($20,000-$30,000) sold for $194,500. And a blue and white porcelain vase ($10,000 -$15,000), 18 inches high, brought $53,125. Many other pieces were also estimated way lower than the purchase price. Many of the buyers were Chinese. Chinese buyers are paying high prices at many sales because they have new wealth. Perhaps the Chinese value these works of art more than traditional American and Continental buyers do.


Did you know that James Whistler, the famous painter, sold his house and his collection of Chinese porcelains to pay legal bills? He sued an art critic for libel and won, but he wasn't awarded enough to cover his legal fees.


Interesting pieces we came across recently that are not often seen at a show: a piece of Dorothy Liebes (1899-1972) hand-woven fabric almost 9 by 8 feet was offered for $9,500. I had Liebes drapes on the single window in my library when we moved into our house in the 1950s. The fabric was shades of beige with silver and pastel threads. A must for the designer house of the time. Also at the show: a Peter Hunt bedspread made in the 1940s. Hunt is best known for his painted furniture with folk-like decorations of people and plants. The bedspread had a price tag of $9,500. If your family saves everything, take a good look at the fabrics of the 1960s and earlier. Old drapes are sometimes valuable.


MateQ: I have a silver "mate" server with matching silver sipper tube that my father brought back from Chile in the early 1900s. He said the gauchos always carried them with them for their daily mate tea breaks. My father was chief surgeon at the huge open pit copper mine at Chuquicamata, Chile, and attended to the injuries the miners incurred and also patched up the locals who would get into knife fights. Is this a valuable collectible?

A: Mate (mah-tay) is a traditional South American drink made from dried yerba mate leaves. It is made by steeping the leaves in hot water. It is typically made in a hollowed-out calabash gourd, called a "mate." The sipper, known as a "bombilla" in Spanish, is usually made of silver, although modern sippers are also made of stainless steel and other materials. The bulbous end of the sipper has holes that strain leaves from the drink. In the United States there is little demand for mate, so the serving set is worth only about $100 to $150.


Schauer Dutch Lady
Q: I have a porcelain figurine of a Dutch lady carrying two baskets. There is a gold colored button on the bottom of her skirt that has words on it. Who made this figurine? How old is it?

A: This mark was used by Schauer & Co. of Vienna. The company, founded by Anton von Schauer in 1900, was in business until c.1927. The company made enameled and painted porcelain and majolica. Schauer began making faience figurines, lamps, clocks, and vases in 1906. Some Schauer pieces are marked with the designer's signature.


A 5-foot-long painting was sold at a recent show after the dealer realized it had been cut in half and framed into two paintings. He restored the two paintings to the original size. This was not an unusual thing for a dealer to do in the 1950s. Unimportant pictures were cut into smaller ones--a landscape, a portrait, anything that looked like an attractive painting for over the sofa. Look carefully at the back of a painting and the way the painting has been stretched. The canvas should have an unpainted edge that curls around to the back of the stretcher. A painting that goes over the edge has probably been trimmed.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Love letters from John F. Kennedy to a Swedish woman, Gunilla von Post, and dated from 1954 to 1956 auctioned for $115,000 on March 4 at Legendary Auctions in Illinois. The president was married to Jackie Bouvier a few weeks after he met Gunilla but he continued to send letters to Sweden, creating this long distance romance.


Don't be fooled into thinking you have one of the valuable copies of Action Comics No. 1 (ezine, Feb 24). The comic book that introduced Superman has been reprinted several times. The reprints are the size of a new comic book. The original is a little larger. A 1970s reprint was also large, but the date is at the bottom of the inside cover.


IMAGE COURTESY OF JULIUS LOWY FRAME & RESTORING COMPANY, INCThe biggest shows and sales of the year are in New York City in January. Prices are always high and the merchandise is tops. The economy is in bad shape, but at the New York shows it seemed to be fine. Sold pieces included a bird-shaped weathervane cut from copper (asking price, $85,000); an 1823 silk embroidered mourning picture from New Hampshire, $250,000; a Philadelphia William and Mary table, $72,000; a Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, sampler for $125,000; and a blanket chest with ball feet, $125,000. Other pricey pieces were a huge elk from a Johnstown, Pennsylvania, Elks lodge, $385,000; a Boston blockfront chest of drawers, $775,000; an elaborate mirror made about 1800, $45,000; and a cow figurine with bocage by Enoch Wood, a 19th-century Staffordshire potter, $12,000. Less expensive wares were selling, too. We wonder if antiques are becoming so desirable because stocks, bonds, and real estate are not great investments right now. (From a long article in Maine Antique Digest, April issue)


Jackie in Seattle says: Concerning leaving the moss on garden ornaments:

If the articles are made of concrete (cement), moss will "eat" the porous, older material. I know only too well! As a bride 25 years old, 45 years ago and still in the same house, I loved the beautiful moss that started growing on my front steps here in the damp Northwest (old steps) and people passing by would comment on howlovely it looked. Well!!

Now, the outer layers of the steps are crumbling and the little stones in the concrete are falling out; literally being eaten by the flourishing moss.

I have since learned that makers of new old-fashioned garden urns, etc., let moss grow on them to get the mottled "old" look.

March 11, 2010 4:31 PM

Anonymous said...With regard to soaking pieces in vinegar and water. Caution: Do NOT soak chalkware (plaster of Paris) pieces in the above solution. When restoring or repairing old oil lamps, the brass collars were attached to the glass lamp font with plaster of Paris. To remove the collar, I have always soaked the collar and font in a vinegar/water solution which breaks down the plaster so the collar can be detached. Many other early glass pieces (creamers, sugars, cracker jars, perfumes, etc.) had metal collars attached with plaster, also.


Silver Spoon
Q: I have a silver souvenir spoon that was made for the opening of the Thorvaldsens Museum in Copenhagen, Denmark. My great-grandmother and great-grandfather were born there. There is a picture of the museum in the bowl of the spoon and three towers on the end of the handle. Can you tell me if this spoon is worth much today?

A: Thorvaldsens Museum was founded to display the works of Bertel Thorvaldsen, a neoclassical sculptor who was born in Copenhagen in 1770 but who lived and worked in Rome most of his life. The museum, which opened in 1848, is Denmark's oldest museum building. It contains drawings, sketches, and original models for most of Thorvaldsen's sculptures, as well as his collection of works of art. The three towers on the handle of your spoon are a symbol used on Copenhagen's coat of arms and town seal. Thorvaldsen died in 1844 and was buried in the museum courtyard in 1848. The spoon is not a well-known souvenir spoon, but spoons of this type with an enamel bowl sell for about $75.


Quimper Pottery Casserole DishQ: I picked up this casserole marked Keraluc at a flea market and have been unable to find any information about it. Can it be real Quimper, or do you think it is a fake, and what would it be worth?

A: Pottery marked Quimper was made in the town of Quimper, France. The first Quimper pottery was established in 1685. Two other potteries using the Quimper name were established in the 1700s. Typical designs on Quimper pottery include peasants, the sea, and flowers. Keraluc was founded in the town of Quimper in 1947 by Victor Lucas, who had worked at two of the Quimper potteries. Designs were more contemporary than those made at the original Quimper potteries. The company was reorganized and operated under the name Stylform from 1985 to 1993, when it was bought by the Socit Nouvelle des Faienceries de Quimper. Your casserole dish was made in the town of Quimper between 1947 and 1985. Value, $25.


Newest way to wear costume jewelry: Pin a group of jeweled pins on a beaded necklace--pearls work well. It makes a very impressive necklace, the size now in style.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Some collectors are "decorators" who buy to fill the house. Some are "historians" who buy to research and record. Some are "complete set buyers" who want every collector plate. And some are "accumulators" who buy what appeals to them. But the collections must be sold or given away one day. In the last few months, we have seen a collection of two million butterflies and moths valued at about $41 million donated to the Florida Museum of Natural History. A collection of more than 500 cow figurines, paintings and other cow-related objects was sold at auction. One item, a cabinet filled with 300 toy cows, sold for almost $6,000. Three huge mechanical bank sales were held in 2009, and six separate auctions are needed to sell the toy collection of Donald Kaufman. The first two sales brought $7.1 million. Don't forget your collections are financial assets.


At a talk by an innovation expert, I learned a surprising bit of information about writing lists, ads, and other informative copy. Put 7 objects on a table, then ask someone to tell you how many things are there. You will probably get the answer "7" immediately. Try it again with a new person and 8 objects. Instead of getting the immediate answer "8," most people will count "1, 2, 3... " before deciding. This has been tested, and an immediate answer usually comes at 7 plus or minus 2. To start counting when seeing 5 objects shows limited ability in this area. To recognize up to 9 without counting shows a special talent. That means the best list for anyone to grasp quickly is not a "Top 10," but a "Top 7" list. That amount of information sticks the best. Watch for our Top Seven lists in the future.


Here's our favorite blog post from the March 10 ezine. It includes more information on the dangers of using bleach:
For pots that may have been washed with a bleach based product repeatedly or simply soaked in bleach, we would suggest a simpler, more environmentally friendly approach.

You should soak the piece in a solution of white vinegar and water. The purpose of the vinegar is to neutralize the effects of the bleach and stop the disintegration of the piece. After soaking the piece in the vinegar solution, clean and soak in distilled water to remove the vinegar.

Should you need to lighten the crazing lines on a piece, never use bleach. Instead, use hydrogen peroxide, the kind sold at the beauty stores for bleaching hair. You can soak the piece in the peroxide, then wash well and soak in distilled water. (Use gloves.) Some pieces may need more soaking than others.

Lenore Gusten
Gusten's Restoration Studio


Arthur WoodQ: I have a Jack and the Beanstalk pitcher. It's 8 1/2 inches high with a figural giant handle. The maker's stamp on the bottom is "Arthur Wood" on a banner over a globe. How old is it and is it a collectible?

A: Arthur Wood established a pottery at the Bradwell Works in Longport, Stoke-on-Trent, England, in 1904. The pottery made earthenware and was known for its teapots. In 1928 it became Arthur Wood & Son. The mark you describe was used beginning c.1934. The company is now part of the Rayware Group. Value of your pitcher, about $200.


Union Pacific Railroad spittoon Q: I have a spittoon that was used on a railroad car. The inscription on the side says Union Pacific RR beneath a picture of a locomotive. The train looks like it is from the 1880s. How can I tell if this is an old railroad spittoon or a reproduction?

A: Railroad items are popular collectibles and reproductions of spittoons, chamber pots, lamps, signs, uniform buttons, blankets, and other items have been made. Most old spittoons were brass and were heavier at the bottom so that they wouldn't tip over. They are usually low, squat containers marked with the company's logo or initials. You may find some for sale at railroadiana shows. Reproduction spittoons are usually made of thinner brass, are taller and narrower, and are shaped like a bulbous vase. The Union Pacific Railroad spittoon with a picture of a locomotive is a common reproduction. Spittoons similar to yours usually sell for under $50.


A reader sent a picture of a "mystery" object from World War II to get a value. It was a picture of a bomb-like explosive device. It was even marked in Japanese. We wrote back and told him: "You should call your local fire or police department immediately and ask someone to come to your house to look at the 'mystery.' Old armaments can explode unexpectedly because the contents deteriorate and are unstable. We have heard many stories about collectors who are injured or houses that are set on fire by old souvenir hand grenades, bullets, and 'mysteries' like yours."

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Wendell August ForgeThe historic Wendell August Forge factory in Grove City, Pennsylvania, was destroyed in a major fire on Sunday, March 7. The company has made aluminum, pewter and other metal pieces since 1923. The employees and customers who were in the building when the fire started were all able to get out unharmed. The fire appears to have been caused by a malfunctioning fan. Firefighters were able to save many of the dies that made patterns in the metal products, but the plant's machinery and most of its contents were ruined. The company president said the forge will rebuild and could be open by Christmas. Its retail stores in other cities are still open. Wendell August Forge makes hammered aluminum pieces and other hand-wrought metalware popular with newlyweds in the 1950s and later.


Thanks to all the readers who gave advice about the disintegrating art pottery we wrote about in last week's tip. They suggested the cause was mice, hatching insect eggs, termites, pressboard or Chinese drywall fumes, or an old chlorine bleach cleaning. Other suggested causes include a change in humidity or altitude or temperature. Or possibly the pottery froze while being shipped; then when it defrosted, it chipped. And don't ignore the possibility of old repairs. Here are a few of the most interesting suggestions in the blog. We haven't tried any of these, so be careful. For more, go to (Tip, March 3).

Petercdale, in two posts, said:

It sounds like the pottery was washed in a bleach-like liquid. You must cut off the air around that. A first good step must be to spray a clear lacquer glaze in matte and/or gloss over the whole piece inside and outside. This seals the item from air that is probably causing crystals to form through the normally unseen craze lines and under the outer layer of glaze. The crystals form from the digestion of the middle layer of clay. Pottery and similar items are formed in 3 layers--outside glazing, than clay, and then by inner glazing.

This also may have contributed to the problem: The difference in expansion/contraction characteristics which has the inner layer of clay expanding and contracting at a different rate than the inner/outer glaze does. This forms the craze lines you now see. So it could be the combination of craze lines absorbing cleaning liquids that force the outer glaze to crumble. Again, wipe it carefully to knock off any loose stuff, then spray them. The lacquer glaze easily comes off later by dipping in acetone, lacquer thinner or MEK. Lacquer thinner of the three is my choice. Observe the warnings on the chemical cans and lacquer spray glaze can and wear rubber gloves and approved mask. These may all be available in an auto supply store (Pep Boys or Auto Zone or a pro paint store). Good Luck.

John wrote: One of my customers had the same thing happening. She found out that her grandchildren were throwing darts at the wall!!

Anonymous said: Could this be related to the corrosive effects of Chinese-manufactured drywall? See links below.


Heisey Butter and SpoonerQ: I have two pieces of glassware that I think date from at least 1900 and were brought from Hungary or Slovakia. The color is yellowish. The mark on the bottom is an "H" in a diamond. Can you identify the maker, origin and value?

A: Family legends often attach to the wrong antique. Your glass is not from Europe. The "H" in a diamond mark was used by A. H. Heisey and Co. of Newark, Ohio. The company was in business from 1896 to 1957. Your dishes were made in Heisey's Ring Band pattern, made from 1900 to about 1903. Heisey named this opaque color Ivorina Verde. Collectors sometimes call it custard glass. Your pieces are part of a table set. A complete table set consists of a spoon holder, covered sugar bowl, covered butter dish and a creamer. The two pieces would sell for about $200.



Japanese flag Q: I have tea set from my great-grandmother, who was a seamstress. One of her clients traveled back from abroad with barrels of china packed in sawdust. One barrel was stored in my grandfather's basement and the china was bartered for sewing by my great-grandmother. I estimate that the set was given to her around the turn of the century. Any information you have about this set would be appreciated.

A: The crossed flags on the mark on your great-grandmother's tea set are the Japanese flag and the Chinese customs flag, which was used by the Inspectorate General of Customs from c.1872-1889. The crescent and star symbols were used by the Ottoman Empire by 1844 and later by Turkey. Your mark was used by A.A. Van Tine & Co., a company in New York City that imported china from China, Japan, Turkey, and southern Russia. Ashley Abraham Van Tine (sometimes spelled Vantine), established an import business in New York in 1866. He went into partnership with James F. Sutton in 1870. Some of the company's dinnerware was made in Japan. Van Tine was out of business by 1951. The shape and decoration of the dishes suggest a date of 1900-1930.