Cutwork an art form since second century

Terry Kovel
It took a skilled person to cut the tiny branches of flowers in this 18th-century cutwork picture. It is only 12 x 16 inches and sold for $2,460.

The very thin, graceful lines, the black-and-gilt frame, and the cutwork initials and date "JB/1760" added up to a bid (with premium) of $2,460 at a Skinner auction in Massachusetts.

Cutwork, or paper-cutting, has been an art form since the second century after paper was invented in China. Most of the pictures were made by women as a hobby.

Today, cutting is enjoyed in many countries. Each picture is a single sheet, not a collage. Scissor cuts are used with up to eight sheets of paper held together. Knife cutting is made with a few layers of paper on a soft waxy surface. It takes skill - there is no erasing errors.

The auctioned picture has a vase made by folding the paper, so the finished piece is symmetrical and many branches of flowers cut as single images. The white cutwork paper is attached to a black paper background.
Q: My mom has two blue glass lightning rod balls from my great-
grandfather's house. She was trying to find out how much they are worth. Any suggestions on where to take them or what to look for?

 A: Lightning rods are used on barns and houses to divert lightning strikes. Lightning rod balls fit onto the rod and are ornamental, designed to make the lightning rod more attractive. They come in many colors and different shapes. The most common are round and light blue or white. The colorful glass balls are collectible and often sell at bottle shows, depression glass shows and auctions. Common balls sell for about $35 or less while those with rare shapes and colors can sell for more than $100.
Q: We have a boxed set of five lithophanes and are wondering how to identify them. One by Benjamin Vautier is called "Das Ist Ein Taugenichts," which translates as "this is good for nothing." It pictures a schoolteacher at her desk, a mother, and a young boy, hanging his head. It's marked "HPM 93" and is from Porzellanfabrik Magdeburg. What is it worth?
 A: Lithophanes are porcelain pictures made by casting clay in layers of various thicknesses, so the picture shows through when the piece is held to the light. Most were made between 1825 and 1875. Many were originally made as panels for lampshades. Your lithophane was made by Carl Heyroth & Co. at the porcelain factory in Magdeburg, Germany. "HPM 93" is the model number used by Heyroth's company. Heyroth began selling porcelain paintings in 1830 and was in business until 1853. Your lithophane was made about 1848.The picture was done by Benjamin Vautier (1829-1898), a Swiss painter and illustrator known for his pictures of peasant life. Lithophanes sell at auctions and antiques shops for a few hundred to over a thousand dollars, depending on size, subject and condition.
Q: I have a collection of Vaseline glass and would like to sell some pieces because we are downsizing. Where can I get it appraised?
A: Vaseline glass is a greenish-yellow glassware resembling petroleum jelly. Some pieces sell for a few hundred dollars and some for over $1,000, but others sell for less than $50. If you have some good pieces of Vaseline glass, they will sell at an auction. Contact an auction that sells Vaseline glass. They will tell you if it's worth putting into an auction. You don't need to get it appraised. You have to pay for an appraisal and they will give you high retail value. But you'll get less when you sell it, because the auction house or antiques dealer needs to make a profit.
Q: Warwick Castle is pictured on my inherited Royal Doulton coffeepot. What can you tell me about it? 
A: Warwick Castle is part of Royal Doulton's Castles & Churches series, which was made from about 1908 to the early 1950s. It is one of eight castles and five churches in the series. Retail price about $80.
Q: I saw a bronze tray made by E.T. Hurley in an antiques shop. It was expensive, so I didn't buy it, but I was wondering who he is.
A: Edward Timothy Hurley (1869-1950) was an artist who lived and worked in Cincinnati, Ohio. Today he is known for his work as a decorator at Rookwood Pottery, where he began in 1869. During his lifetime, he was best-known for his etchings of scenes in and around Cincinnati. He also produced works of art in watercolor, oil, chalk and bronze. His works in bronze sell for high prices. A 5 5/8-inch round tray, with large spider in the center of a web, sold recently for over $1,000.
Tip: For every 24 inches of shelf, use about 20 books. Too many books makes it hard to take a book off the shelf.
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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.
Arcade shooting game, "Whirli Bird," tin lithograph, fall farm scene with scarecrows and barn, metal frame, table top, 1950s, 13 x 6 inches, $20.
Animal trap, for rats & moles, cast iron, spring mechanism, Out O' Sight brand, stamped "Patented," 1930s, 8 x 5 inches, $65.
String holder, Cheerful French Chef, figural, chef's head, hanging hook, hand painted, Chalkware, 1950s, $150.
Animation art cel, Owl & Piglet, from Winnie The Pooh, Piglet whispering to Owl, hand-painted, Disney production, matt, 1977, $280.
Caviar stand, star cut glass, silver plate base and lid embossed with scrolling leaves, ball finial, Mapin & Webb, c. 1890, 4 x 7 inches, $340.
Laurel and Hardy statue, riding on a tricycle built for two, ceramic with black, brown and red paint, c. 1945, 18 x 23 inches, $455.
Display case, "Mrs. Robbinson's Pies," metal and glass with diamond design, 5 racks, door, swirl feet, Table Talk Pies, 1930s, 23 x 15 inches, $710.
Picnic table, fir wood, 6-board top, fixed plank bench seats with log stretchers, stamped, Deerwood, c. 1935, 30 x 72 inches, $995.
Terrestrial globe, Napoleon III, boiled cardboard, cast iron base with lion heads, paw feet, Girard & Boitte, France, c. 1875, 25 inches, $1,305.
Table lamp, figural woman, seminude, holding jeweled sphere shade, rocky base, Art Nouveau, Spelter, 1920s, 30 x 13 inches, $2,750.
The 50th Anniversary edition of "Kovels' Antiques & Collectibles Price Guide 2018" will be published in September 2017. The book includes a special new section containing Terry Kovels' reflections on 50 years of collecting, with prices, trends, special events and surprises. "Kovels' 50th Price Guide" will be available soon at
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