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.