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.