Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Action Comics No. 1
Action Comics No. 1, one of about 100 copies known to exist, sold in a private sale for $1 million on Monday. The 1938 comic book is in better condition than any of the others, which explains the high price. Other copies of this comic book, which introduced Superman and originally cost 10 cents, are reported to be worth over $400,000. The sale was handled by, an auction site.


George WashingtonAnother historic treasure is going to be auctioned soon. It's a painting of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart that until recently hung unrecognized (as an original) in the Rochester, New York, home of a descendant of John Jacob Astor, America's first millionaire. The painting will be auctioned March 27 by Cottone Auctions in Geneseo, New York.


Blenko Green Vase
The most popular Blenko glass colors, according to collectors, are Aqua, Charcoal, Gold, Lilac, Lime, Mulberry, Nile, Plum, and Rose. Blenko, located in Milton, West Virginia, announced it was closing early last year, but collectors bought so much of the inventory that Blenko had enough money to keep making glass pieces in small numbers.


Watch for another TV series about antiques to air in May on the Discovery Channel.  Each episode will report on a day in an auction gallery and the treasures offered for sale.


Limoges enamels
Q: I inherited a number of antiques from my grandparents in 1976, including this little metal and enamel vase, which is about 5 1/8 inches tall. It has suffered some under my stewardship. Enamel has chipped off the base and the mouth of the vase is chipped. The signature has always baffled me. It looks like Vibprt, but the top of the b is smeared, as is the last letter. I hope you can solve the mystery of the name of the artist and tell me if it is valuable.

A: The signature on your vase is probably Vilert, the artist who decorated it. It was made in Limoges, France. Limoges enamels have been made for centuries. Your vase is a type made in the late 1800s when romantic scenes of landscapes and people representing an earlier time were popular. Do not confuse the enamels with the famous porcelain dishes made in the same city of Limoges, France. Vases similar to yours, but in good condition, usually sell for around $500. The chips on your vase lower the value by as much as 50%.


Porsgrund Porcelain FactoryQ: I would like to know the maker of this napkin ring marked "erindring fra Norge" and with an anchor with the letter "P" on either side of it.

A: This anchor mark was used by Porsgrund Porcelain Factory of Porsgrunn, Norway. The company was established in 1885 by Johan Jeremiasse and the first porcelain was made at the factory in 1887. Porsgrund is now part of CG Holding Company and makes industrial and household porcelain, as well as porcelain for the Norwegian Royal family. Variations of this mark were used from 1887-1937 and from 1948-1954. After 1954 it had the words "Porsgrund Norway" around it. The words "erindring fra Norge" on your napkin ring are Norwegian for "Memory from Norway," so your napkin ring was probably a souvenir from a trip to Norway.


Watch out for traveling auctions that set up in a hotel or large (rented) house and advertise pieces owned by celebrities. This week we found a sticker on our daily newspaper that advertised a "due to losses caused by Bernie Madoff auction." That's a new twist to the old line, "including items belonging to." The "due to" doesn't mean fabulous antiques that once belonged to Madoff will be sold. The items up for auction probably belonged to people who lost money when they invested with Madoff. The "including items" line is a similar trick. It often means the auction has just one item that belonged to a celebrity. And that item usually has such a high reserve that it's never sold--it's just used for advertising. Always research out-of-town auctioneers in town for a week.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Cloisonne vases
A matching pair of cloisonne vases was among hundreds of unclaimed items abandoned in a Connecticut storage facility and put up for auction on Jan. 30. The vases, estimated to bring about $2,000, auctioned for $52,900. Most of the proceeds went toward paying storage bills. A London bidder and a member of the audience fought for the vases until the London bidder bowed out. So the vases went to the person bidding live at the Nest Egg auction in Meriden, Connecticut.


Map of the Battle of Yorktown

George Washington's personal map of the Battle of Yorktown, which descended through the family of an aide to Washington, was auctioned two weeks ago. It brought $1.15 million at James Julia Auctions in Maine. That set a record for an American map and was possibly the most expensive map sold anywhere.


Anonymous said...
I really appreciate Kovels Komments' efforts to keep readers alert to updated health warnings, but wish that Kovels Komments would check out warnings such as this before posting them to subscribers, and cite your sources rather than just saying "new health warnings." It would save subscribers from unfounded fear, as well as time spent trying to find the supportive evidence. This particular warning has been noted as an urban legend for several years.

Our response: We were fooled, like a lot of others. This is a hoax that started in 2002. It is safe to use one-time-use plastic containers that are sold filled with food. Dont use plastic storage bags or grocery bags. Plastic wrap can be used, but do not let any wrap touch the food when microwaving.

Lynne said...
My rule is: never subject any item to technology that hadn't yet been invented when it was made. Any potential health risk aside, 1930's refrigerator [wares] are so much cooler than plastic containers!


The record-setting $104,327,006 Giacometti sculpture is 72 inches tall.
The "Mystery Mark" Watson wedding spoon had a mark with an H in a pennant. A reader explained that the H stands for Homan, a New York company whose trademark was bought by Watson.


The record-setting $104,327,006 Giacometti sculpture is 72 inches tall.
The "Mystery Mark" Watson wedding spoon had a mark with an H in a pennant. A reader explained that the H stands for Homan, a New York company whose trademark was bought by Watson.


Weller vase in the Ardsley patternQ: I have a vase with cattails and flowers on it. Can you tell me who made it and anything else about it?

A: You have a Weller vase in the Ardsley pattern. The flowers on the bottom are water lilies. Weller pottery was founded in 1872 in Fultonham, Ohio, and moved to Zanesville, Ohio, in 1882. The company closed in 1948. Your vase was probably made in the 1920s. The vase was made in two sizes. The 12-inch size sells for about $175, the 8-inch size for $45 to $70.


 E.G. Webster & Son
Q: I have a silver trophy with enamel inlays inscribed "The Yellowstone," which was a gentleman's club in San Francisco. It was presented to my grandfather in 1898. The mark on the bottom is a spider web with a "W" in the middle. Can you give me any information about this piece?

A: The spider web with "W" in the center was used by E.G. Webster & Son. The company made silver plated hollowware. It was founded by Elizur G. Webster in 1859 and was in business under various names until 1928, when it was bought by the International Silver Co.


Examine your flea market or house sale buys for bugs. The bottom of a piece of furniture may have little fuzzy white balls attached. They are spider eggs that will hatch in a warm house. Also look out for spiders and their webs. If you find them, they are easy to wash off.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Send a Vintage Valentine's Day Greeting!


Chalmer’s Catawba Wine Bitters trade mark Sutters Old Mill, Spruance Stanley & Co., Proprietors
An antique bitters bottle embossed "Chalmers Catawba Wine Bitters trade mark Sutters Old Mill, Spruance Stanley & Co., Proprietors," sold at an American Bottle Auction for $19,600. It is a San Francisco bottle, bluish aqua with an applied top, made about 1872-73.


Alberto Giacometti bronze sculptureThe Alberto Giacometti bronze sculpture "L'homme qui marche I" ("Walking Man I") sold last week for $104,327,006. It is the most expensive artwork ever sold at auction. It auctioned February 3 at Sotheby's in London. Why should the average collector care? Because it's an indication that art is a good investment even in tough economic times. Other reports about recent shows and auctions suggest that collectors are starting to buy again, but they want the best.


George II-style red lacquered parcel gilt secretary
A George II-style red lacquered and parcel gilt secretary sold at a recent Leslie Hindman auction in Chicago. The estimated price was $6,000 to $8,000, but the piece sold for $207,400.


Many of you were upset that we suggested using newspapers to wrap antiques. We should have warned you that this is a short-term solution. The ink will do damage over time. Read about 20 other suggestions for wrapping your breakables when moving them--go to last week's ezine and read the tips in our blog. Here's one, an ECOLOGICAL VERSION OF BUBBLE WRAP:

Sylvie Nault said ...
I am an Ebay seller, Vintage-by-Jojo, and I sell mostly vintage glass that travels from Montreal, Quebec, Canada, to anywhere in the U.S. I found a great way of cutting my expenses and helping the planet by recycling solar plastic covers for swimming pools. These huge blue plastic covers have bubbles just like bubble wrap. If you are lucky, you can get a 32-by-16-foot-long cover for a few dollars instead of paying the outrageous price at Office Depot. You do, of course, need to cut it in strips of 2 by 3 feet with a very sharp pair of scissors--but still, it's worth it. Then you clean it once it's cut. I have experimented with two solutions and found the best to be the washing machine, making sure to use warm water and at least 1 cup of Javex (bleach) to disinfect. The other solution is a bathtub soak with lots of soap and Javex, followed by a rinse with the telephone shower head. The third could be the dishwasher, still with Javex, but only on the top basket. Cheers, Sylvie, aka Charlo1910 on Ebay.

Oops. The Stetson China Company mentioned in last week's Mystery Mark should have said that the company closed in 1966.


Purchase ExpositionQ: I have a silk handkerchief that was made in 1904 to commemorate the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis. The flowers around the edge are hand-embroidered. As you can see, there is a brown spot on one corner. Is there any value to this piece of history?

A: Several different handkerchiefs were made as souvenirs of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition. Most picture President Theodore Roosevelt, a fairground building, or some other central decoration. President Roosevelt attended the ceremony that dedicated the buildings on the fairgrounds in April 1903. He opened the fair on April 30, 1904, by touching a gold and ivory key on a telegraph machine in the White House. Your handkerchief picturing Roosevelt would appeal to collectors of either political items or World's Fair memorabilia. The needlework flowers and cutwork designs vary on the commemorative handkerchief. Those with more intricate cutwork sell for higher prices. Unfortunately, the brown spot in the corner lowers the value of your handkerchief. Value - $100 to $150.


The Watson Co.Q: Can you identify the manufacturer and age of this spoon? We got this vintage silver spoon as a wedding present 32 years ago. Our names and the date of the wedding are engraved on the bowl of the spoon. Our oldest daughter recently married and I thought of doing something similar for her.

A: The "H in flag" mark was used by The Watson Co. of Attleboro, Massachusetts. The company was in business under various names from 1874 to 1955, when it was sold to R. Wallace and Sons. The company made flatware, hollowware, souvenir spoons, and other items. During the early 1900s, Watson made flatware in several different floral and fruit patterns as well as hundreds of souvenir spoons. You may be able to find a similar pattern through a matching service, like We haven't found out why the company used an "H" in the flag, since the company name and founders' names don't begin with that letter. Can anyone solve the mystery?


New health warnings say you should not heat food in plastic containers or with plastic wrap. Some of the plastic chemicals will get in the food and into your body. We use 1930s covered glass refrigerator containers.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Barbie is back, more popular than ever, and is making money for Mattel. Collectors should be pleased. The new "Fashionista" line, featuring a smaller, bendable Barbie with lots of fashionable clothes and accessories, is one of the reasons. In addition, there was a shortage of Barbies at Christmas time, and Bratz dolls (Barbie's competitor) couldn't be sold in the United States because of a lawsuit. New young buyers of Barbie lead to older buyers of Barbie who have become collectors. If they ever stop making the doll, interest will gradually fade.


Salvaged Bugatti

A 1925 Buggati Brescia that was pulled from a lake in Switzerland last summer auctioned for $368,686 in spite of missing parts, rust, and other damage. The car was probably abandoned in Lake Maggiore in the mid 1930s.


The blog has become so active, we have decided to include the best of each week's blog (our choice) here in our ezine. That way, those who do not check the Kovels Komments blog each week can get a taste of what's out there. This is the "Best of blog" from Jan 27--the Reader's Comment in answer to our suggestion to open a collectible can of Pepsi from the bottom:

Dawn wrote...
My husband was part of Desert Shield in 1991. He brought back a can of Pepsi because it was labeled in Arabic. Last year, we were watching TV and heard a loud bang. We couldn't find the source that night, but the next day discovered the can on the floor; the bottom of it was behind the bookcase it sat on. There was little stain from the contents, so I guess most of it evaporated, but there was a deep dent in the wall where the bottom hit when it blew. So I would recommend emptying the can if you plan to keep it.

Our bloggers have been very concerned about the new show "American Pickers." Many felt I should condemn the pickers, who buy at very low prices and then tell us they will make a huge profit. I have been told that unaired shows are being edited to explain that the "profit" often includes the cost of cleaning and some repair of the collectible, plus the overhead of travel and office expenses. I know from experience that a "farmer" with a barn or two full of old stuff knows the value. People featured on the show seem to like having company and sell just a few pieces at a time. Besides, the pickers arrive with a full camera crew and producers, so all the guests know full well they are part of a TV show. Without a camera, you can never get the same result you get with this few minutes of fame. I do agree the show sometimes presents the pickers as trying to buy from uninformed elderly who need money and sell too cheap--the stereotype of the "wicked dealer." But the show's hosts are polite and always ask the seller to set the price--and everyone seems to enjoy the encounter. If the show bothers you, don't watch. Low ratings kill a show. But we find many of our readers enjoy the show. And any publicity about collecting is good for collectors.


Cameo glass
Q: I have two cameo glass vases, both signed "Charder." I bought them in the early 1970s at an estate sale. Could you give me a little history and a value?

A: Cameo glass was first made by the Romans over 2,000 years ago. The French began making it in the late 1800s. Your vases were made by the Schneider Glassworks, founded in 1917 in Epinay-sur-Seine, France. Cameo glass was produced there from 1918 until 1933. Cameo glass is multi-layered glass; parts of the layers are cut to make a design.

All Schneider glass was signed either "Le Verre Francais" or "Charder," a contraction of Charles Schneider. Many pieces have both signatures, along with "France" acid-stamped on the bottom. The art deco designs on your vases suggest they were made in the early 1930s. They could sell for $1,500 to $2,000 each.


Stetson China
Q: This tea set was purchased by my husband 23 years ago at an estate sale. I have tried to research Stetson China with little or no luck. I would appreciate any information you can give me.

A: Joseph W. Stetson bought the Illinois China Company of Lincoln, Illinois, in 1946 and founded Stetson China Co. During the early years the company decorated and sold dinnerware made on Mount Clemens Pottery blanks. They made hundreds of different patterns. Stetson China Co. was out of business by 1966.


Last week was the 50th birthday of bubble wrap, one of the best of all wraps for breakable antiques. Best, we think, are unused disposable diapers or crumpled newspapers.