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.


Spring is coming. If you have been living with snow, be sure when it melts to clean your garden ornaments with mild soap and water and remove mud and mold and maybe moss. Sometimes moss is part of the beauty of an old garden urn or pot. Clean the inside of all containers you are replanting. The plants will be happier with no leftover insects or disease spores and, of course, new soil.


Wednesday, March 3, 2010


Shogun Tobacco Tin
The rare Shogun Mixture tin auctioned by Morphy's last weekend sold for $8,625. We first saw this pocket tobacco tin at a can collectors "Canvention" while we were filming our television show in 1989. It sold then for $6,000. At December 2009 sales brought the auction house its "second highest fourth quarter income ever." We have noticed happier dealers at recent shows and auctions.


The argument is settled. Batman can beat Superman--at least he did last week. Last Thursday (Feb. 25) Detective Comics No. 27, which featured the first appearance of Batman, sold for the new record price of $1,075,500 at a Heritage Galleries auction. The printed comic book, originally priced 10 cents in 1939, was in "8" condition (grading is 1 to 10). The price beat the $1 million record set by the first Superman comic book three days earlier.


The art and antiques business seems to be improving. Sotheby's just announced that its September to December 2009 sales brought the auction house its "second highest fourth quarter income ever." We have noticed happier dealers at recent shows and auctions.


Giacometti sculptureThe Giacometti sculpture of a walking man sold for $104,327,006 (see Feb. 10 Kovels Komments) to become the most expensive artwork ever sold at auction.  It was sold to an unidentified buyer now known to be Lily Safra, one of the world's richest people.  She is the widow of Edmond Safra, who died in an arson fire in his Monte Carlo apartment in 1999.  The fire made international news, and the arsonist, Mr. Safra's male nurse, was convicted of the crime in 2002. Lily Safra owns the world's most expensive house, near Monte Carlo, as well as property in Geneva, Monaco, and London.  According to reports, she had the Giacometti statue delivered to London.  She has been an ardent art collector and is chairwoman of her well-funded family foundation, which supports projects in 50 countries.


Mexican jewelry collectors beware. Lily Castillo, daughter of the famous silversmith Antonio Castillo, is reproducing the works of some of the best-known 1950s Mexican jewelry makers, including Castillo, Margot de Taxco, and Hector Aguilar. She has permission to use their original hallmarks.


Spice CabinetQ: I bought this antique spice cabinet at the estate sale of my mother's best friend, who was an avid antiques collector. The cabinet is wooden. Behind the center door there are two small shelves with large holes in them, obviously meant to hold bottles of flavoring. The clock face, door inset, and drawers are glazed ceramic. Can you tell me where this spice cabinet was made, how old it is, and the value?

A: Your spice cabinet was probably made in the Netherlands. The words on the front of the large drawers are Dutch for coffee (koffie), flour (meel), rice (rijst), sugar (suiker), tea (thee) and vermicelli, a type of pasta. The smaller drawers have labels for various spices, including nutmeg, cinnamon, pepper, and other spices. Value, $300.


R&M Co. MarkQ: My sisters and I recently inherited seven flow blue plates from my mother. The plates depict historical events and are marked with the name of the scene, "Staffordshire, England," and "R&M Co." inside a diamond. Some of the titles are "Ride of Paul Revere, April 18, 1775," "Battle of Bunker Hill, June 17, 1775," and "Washington Prayer at Valley Forge, 1777." Can you give us some information about these plates along with estimated value?

A: The "R&M Co." mark on your plates was used by Rowland and Marsellus, an American importing company in New York City. The company was in business from c.1893 to 1938 and used this mark from c.1893 to 1900. Rowland & Marsellus is best known for its souvenir wares and many American views were made. Plates like yours sell for about $45 each.


This is a reverse tip. Can anyone help with this email request? We have never heard of this problem. "My sister has a huge Roseville pottery collection. She has noticed small chips of paint on her shelves and determined that something is 'eating' her pottery. She said there are tiny holes that are suddenly appearing and hairline cracks in the pots." She goes on to explain that this has happened only since her sister moved to a new house. We suspect there was an abrupt change in the moisture level surrounding the collection, but properly fired pottery should not be affected this seriously. Suggestions are welcome.