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Easter bunny a part Easter holiday tradition

Terry and Kim Kovel

When did the Easter bunny become part of the tradition of the religious Easter holiday?

This papier-mache candy container, made in 1900, is an Easter bunny in a peasant dress. She carries an Easter basket but no eggs. At 16 inches tall, the rabbit  probably was a store display.

Easter began to be observed hundreds of years ago to commemorate the rising of Christ from the dead, and it has gradually become associated with the themes of the renewal of life in nature and flowers. It was not until about the 18th century that the Easter egg became part of the celebration.

The egg has long been a symbol of eternal life, and decorating and hunting for eggs became part of the symbolism of the holiday. As years passed, cardboard and papier-mache eggs were used, then real eggshells with the liquid egg blown out through a small hole. Other countries used sugar eggs, wooden eggs and eventually plastic. All eggs were decorated.

Soon there were Easter egg hunts and Easter egg rolls, but still no Easter bunny. During the early 18th century, the Pennsylvania Germans suggested that, in spring, the Easter Bunny would hide eggs or perhaps put them in an upside-down hat that was left out overnight. That custom soon grew to using not just a hat, but a basket to be filled with eggs, candy and fake green grass.

By the 20th century, there were stuffed-toy Easter bunnies, porcelain figurines of bunnies and a German business making papier-mache and cardboard Easter bunny candy containers, which were sold in the U.S. and filled with candy. By the 1920s, there were tin or glass candy containers shaped like bunnies and other Easter symbols and, of course, toys.

Holiday collecting is becoming more popular. Easter items include religious pictures and memorabilia, baskets, bunnies, chicks, ducks, nut cups, place cards, postcards and store advertising featuring Easter themes. Prices have gone down and up since 1980.
Q: I'd like to know something about F. Winkles & Co. pottery. Is it old?
 A: F. Winkle & Co. made earthenware at the Colonial Pottery in Stoke, Staffordshire, England, from 1890 to 1931. Ridgways took over F. Winkle & Co. in 1931. The Colonial Pottery became Whieldon Sanitary Potteries Ltd., later a subsidiary of Doulton Co. The factory was torn down in about 2000. Pottery by F. Winkle & Co. is selling for low prices. Dinner plates sell for $10-$25, bread and butter plates for $9, a fruit dish for $15. Serving dishes sell for higher prices.
Q: I have a chair that looks like it is made of long, curved horns. When and where were these used?
 A: You have a very American chair. Chairs made of buffalo, elk or Texas longhorn steer horns were made from horns left behind at the slaughter houses or discarded by hunters. The horns had a graceful curved shape and when positioned carefully, they created a chair frame with a curved back, legs and arms. An upholstered seat was added and, in some cases, some trim from other pieces of horn. Matching footstools also were made. The chairs were not made for comfort, but were popular with hunters and those who wanted memories of the old West. There are pictures that show President Teddy Roosevelt and President Lincoln both had horn chairs that were gifts. Your chair could bring $1,000 or more at auction.
Q: I have dishes with bowls that look like heads of lettuce and plates that are a single lettuce leaf. They are marked with the signature "Dodie Thayer." Can you tell me anything about them?
A: Large leaves probably were one of the first "plates" used at a feast. So it was not surprising that plates were shaped like cabbage or lettuce leaves by the 1600s. Leaf-shaped European majolica, plates were made by Delft, and by the 18th-century, they also were crafted by English potteries Wedgwood, Longton Hall, Chelsea and Minton, and French potteries Jacob Petit and Palissy.

There was Etruscan Majolica from Pennsylvania, and modern giftware items like California Dodie Thayer ceramics. This Palm Beach dishware was made during the 1960s and '70s. Dishes were made from molds of actual cabbage or lettuce leaves or full heads of the vegetable.

Pink, red, yellow and green sets were made. They are signed with the artist's name. Recently, the Lettuce Ware dishes were reproduced for the Tory Burch shops in green or white. Full sets are made with cups, plates, tureens and more. A new salad plate costs $40. Leaf-shaped dishes of all ages are popular with collectors, but only those made of porcelain or after 1900 should be used to serve food.
Q: My 39-year-old toy lead soldiers are turning grey and then white, and are covered with a white dust when kept in a box for a long time. How can I store them safely?
A: Your toy soldiers have "tin pest." Years ago, all tin was made with some impurities like lead or other metals. This tin alloy was more stable than the nearly pure tin used in many electronic devices and in some tin soldiers. Cold weather makes the tin become "white tin" that is brittle, and then it becomes "grey tin." And when stored in very cold temperatures, it turns into a  powder called "powder pest" or "tin pest." There is no cure if it is very cold. There is a legend that Napoleon lost the battle at Waterloo in 1812 because the tin buttons on the French uniforms disappeared in the Russian cold and the soldiers' clothes fell apart. It seems unlikely, but if it's true, then the metal pipes on early church organs would self-destruct in very cold weather.
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Tip: If possible, hang an oil painting on an inside wall away from direct sunlight.
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Current prices are recorded from antiques shows, flea markets, sales and auctions throughout the United States. Prices vary in different locations because of local economic conditions.
Thimble case, egg shaped, papier-mache, turquoise blue with pink cherry blossoms, gilt highlights, silk lined, c. 1905, 1 x 2 inches, $25.
Sunbonnet Babies bonbon dish, Thursday Scrubbing, two girls cleaning, gold-tone center handle, triangular, c. 1910, 7 1/4 inches, $85.
Watering can, Toleware, cream with brown and green cattails, tapered cylinder, dome base, top handle, 1800s, 10 inches, $150.
Mandolin, wood with gilt designs, steel strings, serpentine top and turned handle, American Music Co., 1800s, 22 x 13 inches, $240.
Hatpin, Carnival glass, flying bat, purple, turquoise, gold iridescent, black ground, stars, triangular, c. 1910, 1 1/2 inches, $325.
Nippon chocolate pot, dome lid, red flowers, leaves, gilt double scroll handle & loop finial, scalloped beaker shape, c. 1905, 9 inches, $490.
Radio, Motorola Bullet, AM, tube, turquoise blue Bakelite, gold bullet-shaped dial, c. 1957, 6 x 12 inches, $850.
Windmill weight, long tailed horse, cast iron, brown and black paint, square base, Dempster Mill Mfg. Co., c. 1905, 15 x 16 inches, $975.
Iron Planter, standing cherub boy, draped, holding urn, brown patina, cast, round base, Victorian, c. 1885, 34 x 11 inches, $1,250.
Hall tree, carved wood, brass hooks, mirror, molded cornice, baluster turned supports, shelf, lift top box, 1800s, 89 x 43 inches, $2,750.
The Kovels have navigated flea markets for decades. Learn from the best. "Kovels Flea Market Strategies: How to Shop, Buy and Bargain the 21st Century Way," by Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel, tells you about the latest smartphone apps and websites to help you shop, share and ship, as well as what to wear, what to bring, and, most important, how to negotiate your way to a bargain. Also, tips on spotting fakes, advice about paying for your purchases and shipping suggestions. Full color booklet, 17 pages, 8 1/2 by 5 1/2 in.  Available only from Kovels for $7.95 plus $4.95 postage and handling. Order by phone at 800-303-1996; online at; or mail to Kovels, Box 22900, Beachwood, OH 44122.