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.