Talented artists made expensive garden fountains

Terry Kovel
This 32-inch-high Rookwood faience fountain featuring a child and a dolphin spouts water from the dolphin's mouth into a pond. The water recirculates thanks to a pump and when the water evaporates either a hose or rain refills it. It cost $2,300 at a Brunk auction in North Carolina a few years ago.

Flowers were an important part of lives of the 1880s to 1950s Americans. Technology had advanced to a time when pottery could be made in multiples in molds and large kilns. New types of plants had been introduced to the country, flower arrangements were a sign of wealth and good taste. Formal gardens were important.

Collectors can find many flower vases by Rookwood, Weller, Roseville, Grueby, Fulper and many other important factories. And urns, flower vases, wall pockets, flower frogs and even chairs, benches, garden ornaments and fountains were popular. Life-sized frogs, rabbits, turtles, squirrels, even deer, dogs, elves and large mushrooms were created to display outdoors.

Talented artists made the expensive garden fountains. Many were sculptures of groups of children with birds, fish, plants, shells and large rocks. The Rookwood Pottery started making architectural pottery fountains in 1902 that were groups about 3- to 5-feet high, with water pouring from rock crevices or mouths of large fish. 

Today, a Rookwood fountain can sell for $3,000 to $8,000, depending on the artist, subject and condition. It is not unusual to have many chips, stains even firing cracks in a fountain after years outside, but it still sells for thousands of dollars. It also pays to get expert repairs that will raise the value and add to the life of the fountain.

A Rookwood fountain sold by Brunk auctions a few years ago brought $2,300 even though it was damaged. Wear and tear on a garden piece adds to the romance and aged look. Check the backyards of house sales or even houses for sale for overlooked fountains and birdbaths or ornaments. You might find a forgotten treasure.
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Q: Can you give me any information about a devil creamer? It's red-orange and is shaped like a devil on his knees. The cream pours out of his mouth. The bottom is marked "Royal Bayreuth, Bavaria," with a lion holding a shield with the letter "T" on it. The date 1794 is below the shield.
A: Royal Bayreuth is known for its creamers, pitchers, cracker jars, bowls, salt and pepper shakers, and other items made in the shapes of fruit, tomatoes, lobsters, shells, flowers, animals, birds, clowns and more. The red devil is part of a group of pieces known as "Devil & Cards," a group that was shaped like a devil, playing cards or both. The red devil alone was made as a 3 1/2-inch creamer, a 4 1/2-inch milk pitcher and two different ashtrays. A black devil was also made. The mark on your creamer, in blue, green or black, was used after 1900. The date on the mark is the year Royal Bayreuth was founded in Tettau, Bavaria. The company still is in business, now making dinnerware. There is a club for collectors, the Royal Bayreuth Collectors Club (, which has an annual convention. A creamer like yours sold for $360 last year.
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Q: I bought this cuff bracelet years ago at a yard sale. It's about two inches wide and I don't know what metal it is, but it has an antiqued finish. The inside has a mark for Miriam Haskell, but it doesn't look like her typical costume jewelry. Can you help and maybe give me a value?
A: The finish on your bracelet is called Russian gold. Other designers of vintage costume jewelry used similar finishes, but Miriam Haskell's company used a secret signature Russian gold plating recipe developed just for them that resulted in patinas ranging from dull to bright. It was a type of gold plating on brass, and the plating solution is said to have 24-karat gold among the secret ingredients. Pieces were hand-dipped and then sealed. Many were further embellished with glass beads, faux seed pearls and other decoration. Haskell's Russian gold also is found on many their filigree pieces. Asking prices for Miriam Haskell hinged bracelets like yours range from $100 to $250, but we've found selling prices to be less than $100. Embellished examples are worth more.
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Q: I have my great-grandfather's accordion, a Pre-1900 Hohner two-row button diatonic. It was appraised and I was told it would fetch four figures. I'd love to keep it, but no one in my family wants it. It's normal fifth scalar organization, 20 plus treble buttons and 12 bass buttons in very good condition. Where should I start?
A: You probably will get the highest price by selling the accordion at an auction of other antique musical instruments. Expect to pay the auction gallery a commission, a percentage of the hammer price. Fees are negotiable. Find out in advance what costs are and what it includes. Will the instrument be pictured in a catalog? What is the cost of shipping it to the auction? Insurance? Do you want a minimum bid? What are costs to you if it doesn't sell? You also can try a music store in your area. They may know someone who collects vintage instruments.
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Q: I'd like to know something about a vintage sewing box I found in my mother's things after she passed. It's decorated with a panda bear and eucalyptus leaves on the front and flowers inside the hinged lid. There are about 10 Chinese symbols in red marked on the bottom of the box and beside that is says "People's Republic of China." It's 9 1/2 by 6 inches. How old is it?
A: Your mother's sewing box is not very old. The People's Republic of China was formed in 1949, when the Communists took over. The country was closed to tourists after that until the mid-1970s, so your mother must have gotten this sewing box after that. Panda bears are a popular decoration on items made for tourists.
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Tip: Don't store fabrics in cedar chests, cardboard boxes, or plastic. The fabrics will yellow and may mildew. Use archival boxes.
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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.
Fan, mother-of-pearl, folding, silver gilt overlay, women, landscape, 10 1/2 x 20 inches, $75.
Tea caddy, Georgian, mahogany, inlaid, octagonal, foil lined, bone escutcheon, handles, 5 x 8 3/8 inches, $175.
Goldscheider, mark, terracotta, woman, black hair, orange jewelry, 12 1/2 x 7 inches, $240.
Telephone, S. H. Crouch, candlestick, intercom, auto dial, brass case, Bakelite horn, c. 1915, $330.
Enamel, plaque, perched owl, wire cloisonne, red, blue, wood frame, J. Trippetti, 6 x 6 inches, $340.
Tile, Carmel Mission, cloud, sky, hills, California Faience, 5 1/2 inches, $440.
Jade, figurine, horse, lying on side, hind leg touches head, russet inclusions, 4 x 6 inches, $625.
Commode, Louis XVI, cherry, cookie corner top, three frieze drawers, two deep drawers, 36 x 45 inches, $740.
Candlestick, silver, knopped cylinder, chased, repousse, flowers, leaves, Russia, 14 x 5 inches, pair, $875.
Lighter, table, enamel, lacquer, ants, butterflies, beetles, black, Dunhill, England, 4 x 3 1/4 inches, $1,125.
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Go to our website,, to see a list of many special reports and leaflets you can download that are filled with digital information for collectors. How to identify costume jewelry or woodblock prints, or to care for books, textiles and much more.