Blue star flag pays tribute to servicemen, women

Terry Kovel
 This Blue Star Mother's 23- by 35-inch flag was offered for sale in a recent auction for $1,000 to $2,000, but didn't sell. Many do not know it has been a tribute to those in the Armed Services since 1917.

A reader asked, "What country uses a little flag with just a red border and a big blue star in the center?" It is a service flag designed in 1917 that identified a family that had someone in service during the war. It was entered into the Congressional Record in September 1917, and it can only be used according to strict guidelines.

The idea expanded to a Gold Star flag for a family that lost a son or daughter during any United States war, including World War II, the Gulf War and the Vietnam War. The flag size must be in the ratio of 10 to 19 like the United States flag, and it must be smaller and flown below, never above, the Stars and Stripes.

In 2010, the Silver Star honoring those wounded in the wars was approved by the House of Representatives. The Gold- and Blue-star mothers, wives and families have special clubs, lapel buttons, ribbons and meetings. In 1936, the last Sunday in September was declared Gold-Star Mother's Day. There are new flags flying in windows now, and the old ones are being saved and collected as interesting war memorabilia. 
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Q: I have an Erphila teapot. Porcelain floral design. The mark reads "Est. 1886, Erphila, Czecho-Slovakia." The word "Portland" is printed below the mark. Any suggestions on finding the year it was made? 
A: Erphila is a mark used on items imported by Ebeling & Reuss of Philadelphia, a giftware firm that was founded in 1866 and out of business sometime after 2002. The mark is a combination of the letters "E" and "R" (Ebeling & Reuss) and the first letters of the city, Phila(delphia). The mark with the country name spelled with a hyphen in the middle was used from 1918 to 1921. Portland is the name of a chintz pattern.
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Q: I inherited an unusual marine picture of the "Linta," a steam yacht which was built for my father in 1905. The artist was Thomas Willis (1850-1912), who specialized in such work. The picture is 32 by 17 1/2 inches and nicely framed. It's painted canvas with velvet and silk embroidery thread used to depict the boat and the ensigns and burgees of the yacht clubs the owner belonged to. I no longer have family members to whom I can leave this work and probably will donate it to the museum at Mystic Seaport or some other museum. What value should I put on it, either to sell or for tax donation purposes?
A: The Linta steam yacht was commissioned by the Navy in World War I and used as a patrol and escort boat in the New York City area. It was decommissioned and returned to the owner after the war. A picture of a different steam yacht by Thomas Willis sold at auction for over $1,800 this year. Ask the museum if they want the picture. Then you will need an approved fine arts appraiser to examine the picture and fill out a legal appraisal, in order to take the tax deduction. Many auction houses will do an appraisal for a fee. A museum cannot appraise a gift for tax purposes.
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Q: I have a Depression glass powder jar with a baby deer topper. The bottom is broken. Is it possible to find a replacement? Or would the topper have any value to someone? I want to replace the bottom even if it is modern as long as it matches the pinkish-orange color.
A: You probably can't match the top, and you don't have Depression glass. The knobs (toppers) on lids are not figural. Most of the glass is decorated with a shallow lacy impressed border. The colors used for the glass are pastels, and the pink is baby pink with no orange tint. If you have a good picture of the piece before it was broken, you might look for the topper online or ask about it when at a show or shop, but the odds are against you. You may have other glass made at the same time by Heisey, Fenton or Westmoreland. Known glass patterns can sometimes be matched, and there even is a website that sells ceramic lids. The bottoms are kept as bowls.
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Q: I have had this Pegasus for many years. It's marked "Laszlo Ispanky" and says "One of 300" with a small capital "H" to the left. What does that mean? I saw the same piece on a website that was selling this at $399. What do you think the value of this piece is? Where can I sell if it I decide not to keep it?
A: Laszlo Ispanky was born in Hungary and came to the United States in 1956. He moved to Trenton, New Jersey in 1960, and became a designer for Cybis Porcelains. In 1966, he went into business with George Utley. Ispanky began making limited-edition figurines marked with his name and "Utley Porcelain Ltd." The company became Ispanky Porcelains Ltd. in 1968. It moved to Pennington, New Jersey, in 1972. Ispanky began working for Goebel of North America in 1976. He died in 2010. This figurine was made in 1968. A figurine like yours recently sold for $156. Some Ispanky figurines sell at antiques shops, auctions and online.
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Tip: Think about the problems of owning a cat and a large collection of ceramics.
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Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel answer questions sent to the column. By sending a letter with a question and a picture, you give full permission for use in the column or any other Kovel forum. Names, addresses or email addresses will not be published. We cannot guarantee the return of photographs, but if a stamped envelope is included, we will try. The amount of mail makes personal answers or appraisals impossible. Write to Kovels, (Name of this newspaper), King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803.
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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.
Vase, applied yellow flowers, ruffled rim, pink to white, Stevens & Williams, 9 1/2 x 4 1/2 inches, $60.
Jewelry box, coffin shape, walnut, high relief game birds, leaves, pokerwork ground, 8 1/4 x 14 inches, $375.
Wooden panel, storyboard, fishing, poi farming, domestic life, fruit tree, waterfall, Hawaii, 14 x 19 inches, $1,560.
Asian porcelain, vase, hexagonal, enameled flowers, branches, oxblood over cream, 17 3/4 x 9 inches, $2,040.
Steuben vase, water scene, geese in flight, trees, plum jade, acid cut, flanked handles, 13 inches, $2,500.
Art glass perfume bottle, four colors, diagonal stripes, latticinio, purple, green, blue, white, c. 1875, 5 1/2 inches, $3,125.
George III chest-on-chest, 7 drawers, mahogany, bracket feet, 75 3/4 x 44 1/4 inches, $3,250.
Handel lamp, pine tree, dome shape, yellow acid-etched art glass, six panels, bronze tree trunk, 22 x 15 inches, $3,300.
Doll, automaton, Catalan dancer, rocky landscape, Gaultier bisque head, papier-mache body, 80 x 37 1/2 inches, $5,322.
Cloisonne vase, fish, flowers, wireless enamel, dark blue to purple, Aichi Hayashi Saku, 10 x 6 inches, $8,750.
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