Stumpwork embroidered boxes sell for thousands of dollars

Terry Kovel
 This 8-inch-high stumpwork box is over 400 years old. It has the embroidery on all sides. It sold at Cowan Auctions for way over estimate for $9,225. It is a writing box fitted inside for notes, inkwells and pens.

Ever notice stumpwork in an antiques auction or shop? It is a type of early embroidery that makes raised designs on a flat textile to make a three-dimensional design. It uses wire or padding to stuff the figure made of thread. This difficult type of embroidery was popular in England from about 1650 to 1700, but it was called "raised" or "embossed" work until the 1890s.

Stumpwork was used on clothing, decorative boxes and pictures. Girls learned to embroider as young as 8 years old, and the training culminated with the production of a box, often with the name and date of the embroiderer. Today, these boxes sell for thousands of dollars.

An example made in 17th-century England on silk fabric with flowers, insects and birds, two well-dressed women framed in wreaths, and many other figures and bits of flora and fauna was auctioned in Massachusetts recently. It was estimated at $2,500 to $5,000, but sold for $9,225. The box had doors and small drawers for storage of writing supplies.
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Q: I have a Sears and Roebuck potbelly stove, model No. 119-57, that is missing a few things. I need four legs, the bottom ash door and the hinge pin that holds the door in place. Can you help?
A: You could try to find parts from sources online that list stove parts for sale, but you might be better off selling your stove for parts and using the money to buy a stove that's complete. That model seems to show up online occasionally. One in good condition sold for $178.
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Q: A friend recently gave me something he said is from the Civil War. The top is the shape of a four-arm iron cross and is 14 inches high and 14 inches wide. The letters "C," "S" and "A" are on three of the arms. There are two rows of stars crossed in the middle and the words "Deo Vindice" on one side, and the years 1861 and 1865 on the other side. It's made of lead and weighs about 20 pounds. I think it might be a grave stone marker or some type of service marker. The rod that would hold it in the ground is 18 inches long.
A: You have a Confederate grave marker. The cross represents the Southern Cross of Honor and the letters "CSA" stand for Confederated States of America. The motto, "Deo Vindice," stands for "with God as our vindicator," and was used on the Great Seal of the Confederacy. The dates are the years the Civil War was fought. These grave markers were made for United Daughters of the Confederacy, a group founded in 1894, and mark the graves of Confederate soldiers. One sold recently for $165.
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Q: We have a collection of clear glass cruets of all ages. The newest are 50 years old and many are much older and in excellent condition. We have no idea how to dispose of them and get fair prices. Can you help?
A: Glass cruets sell for prices ranging from less than $10 to several hundred dollars or more, depending on the type of glass. A few sell for over $1,000. Cruets made of amethyst glass, cobalt blue glass, cranberry glass, ruby stained glass, and other colored or decorated glass sell for much more than clear, pressed glass cruets, which sometimes sell for $5 to $10. If you know the makers and age of your cruets, that's a plus. As with selling most things, convenience is a factor. Are you willing to go the trouble of advertising them, packing and shipping them, or do you want to sell the entire collection locally? Try local antiques shops or contact dealers who sell glass at antiques shows in your area.
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Q: I have some old Avon aftershave bottles that depict Ben Franklin and some presidents, like Washington, Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt. The heads are cream-colored, and the bottoms are white. Do they have any value?
A: Avon Products, Inc., dates back to 1886, although it didn't start using Avon as a product name until 1928. The company's name was officially changed to Avon Products Inc. in 1937. Collecting Avon bottles became a fad in the 1960s and was a popular pastime for about 20 years. That's no longer true, but there are still dedicated collectors out there. Your bottles were made in the 1970s. Abraham Lincoln was first in 1973; then George Washington and Benjamin Franklin in 1974, Theodore Roosevelt in 1975 and Thomas Jefferson in 1977. The bottles were made of painted glass and the heads, many of which discolored over the years (hence, the color of your bottles' tops), were white plastic. They were only made for a few years and contained six ounces of aftershave products called Wild Country, Tai Winds and Everest. Most of the bottles, even mint with the original box, sell for only about $5 today.
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Tip: Never wash cast iron or enamelware in the dishwasher. The iron may rust and the enamelware may chip.
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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), P.O. Box 22900, Beachwood, OH 44122.
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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.
Coffeepot, creamware, flowers, blue transfer, Copeland & Garrett, 1800s, 5 inches, $60.
Weller, flower frog, turtle, pale green to green, walking, Muskota Art, 4 3/4 inches, $120.
Arita, jar, lid, blue, scholars, immortals, landscape, reclining figure finial, white, japan, 8 1/2 inches, $375.
Candelabrum, four-light, silver plate, Georgian, Corinthian twist support, swags, 25 inches, pair, $400.
Mustard ladle, monogram, coin silver, Witherspoon family of York, 5 3/8 inches, $540.
Bed, half-tester, walnut, pierced crest, scrolled leaves, panels, 1800s, 93 1/2 x 45 inches, $600.
Majolica, jardiniere, birds, flowers, leaves, pink interior, George Jones, 1870, 13 3/4 inches, $760.
Louis Vuitton, train case, stamped LV, latch, cream linen shade, 8 1/4 x 15 3/4 inches, $890.
Carousel horse, prancing, horsehair tail, brown, white socks, Armitage Herschell, c. 1925, 47 1/4 x 15 inches,  $1,125.
Phonograph lamp, Hersteller, embroidered domed shade, doors in base, 1920, 32 1/2 inches, $2,300.
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Mid-Century to Contemporary, modern and mid-century ceramics made since 1950 are among the hottest collectibles today. Our special report, "Kovels' Buyers' Guide to Modern Ceramics: Mid-Century to Contemporary" identifies important pottery by American and European makers.

The guide includes more than 65 factories and 70 studio artists, each with a mark and dates. Works by major makers, including Claude Conover, Guido Gambone and Lucie Rie, as well as potteries like Gustavsberg, Metlox and Sascha Brastoff, are shown in color photos.

Find the "sleepers" at house sales and flea markets. Special Report, 8 1/2 x 5 1/2 inches, 64 pp. Available only from Kovels for $19.95 plus $4.95 postage and handling. Order by phone at 800-303-1996, online at; or mail to Kovels, P.O. Box 22900, Beachwood, OH 44122.