Early whistles made from hollow reeds, bird bones

Terry Kovel
Bird whistles are still made, but of modern materials. This multicolored bird, a whistle that would whistle, sold for $212.

"I bought a wooden whistle, but it wouldn't whistle" is part of an old children's song that goes on to joke about buying a metal whistle. But a modern metal whistle used by a policeman looks very different from the wooden whistle made centuries ago. And today, if a whistle is wood, it usually is carved into an interesting shape or painted to hide the wood surface.

Very early whistles were made from a hollow reed or bird bones. By the 17th century, ceramic whistles were made, often in the shape of an owl or other bird. The center of the whistle held water. Blowing into a hole on its back made the water move and make a sound. There also were wind whistles handmade or molded from clay. Many have been made since the 17th century, but few of the early clay bird whistles remain. Most are not marked, but are decorated with an identifiable regional design.

Today you can find a lot of whistles made of pot metal, celluloid or plastic. An unmarked earthenware bird whistle with colorful paint decoration was sold at a Hess Auction Group auction that featured Pennsylvania wares. The 4-inch-long bird sold for $212. 
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Q: I'd like information about a Mary Gregory vase I own. It's purple glass with white figures of a girl and boy playing tennis. The vase is cylindrical and is 8 inches tall and 5 inches in diameter. Can you tell me it's age and value? 
A: Mary Gregory glass was first made about 1870. Similar glass is being made today. All early Mary Gregory glass was made in Bohemia. Later it was made in several other European countries. The first American glassware with Mary Gregory-type decorations was made by the Westmoreland Glass Company beginning in 1957. These pieces had simpler designs, less enamel paint and more modern shapes. Vases like yours are worth about $300. The tennis game adds value.
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Q: When I bought my beauty shop in 1972, it had a Coke machine. It was made by the Vendo Company of Kansas City. Cokes cost 15 cents. But it isn't the typical red-and-white Coke machine -- the front looks like wood and has eight panels with black trim. The machine still works, and I have it in my home. Could you tell me its value?
A: The Vendo company was started in the late 1930s in Kansas City, Missouri. The Vendo Model 56 vending machine was designed about 1956 and made until the mid-1960s. The machine held 56 bottles, sizes 8 ounces to 12 ounces, in up to seven varieties. It was offered in red and white, red and white with woodgrain, and with woodgrain "decorator doors" that made it look like a cabinet rather than a brightly-colored soda machine. Styles included Danish, Provincial, Colonial, Traditional and Mediterranean, like yours. Vintage Vendo soda vending machines in old and worn but working condition that advertise brands like Coca-Cola or Pepsi sell from about $250 to about $500. Coca-Cola versions are worth the most. Restored examples sell into the thousands. Without product advertising, they are worth less, about $100 to $300. 
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Q: I've discovered 10 miniature vases marked "made in Occupied Japan." Can you tell me if there is much of a market for these? All appear to be in good shape.
A: Items marked "Occupied Japan" were made from 1947 to 1952, during the American occupation of Japan after World War II. Pottery, porcelain, toys and other goods were made for export. Many were inexpensive novelty items made for dime stores, while some were copies of European pottery and porcelain. Most Occupied Japan items are not very expensive. Miniature Occupied Japan vases sell online for $2 to $5, unless they have special decoration. There is an active group of collectors of anything marked Occupied Japan.
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Q: My husband recently purchased what we were told was a National Cash Register machine. There is no key for the lock, and the only information on the cash register is a paper label on the bottom of the drawer. I have been searching online, but I can't find one like it -- the configuration of the number keyboard is always different from the one we have. Any way you can help us to identify what we have so that maybe we can find a replacement key for the lock? 
A: The first cash register was patented in 1879 by brothers James and John Ritty of Dayton, Ohio. James Ritty was a saloon owner who wanted to keep an eye on the cash, and his brother was a mechanic. Together, they invented a machine that kept a record of the dollars and cents that changed hands at the bar. By 1884, the small company they started grew into the National Cash Register Company. The larger number on your cash register label is the serial number; it indicates that it was made late in 1947. The next number indicates the model, No. 126-2-X. The letters "Mah," stand for Mahogany, the woodgrain finish on the metal (probably steel). Keys for antique and vintage National Cash Register machines are available on eBay and other websites that specialize in old cash registers. Cash registers like yours sell from $50 to about $200, depending on the condition. The older brass ones sell for much more.
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Tip: Candle wax on your antique metal candlesticks? Put the candlesticks in the freezer. After a few hours, the wax will easily flake off. If there is a large lump of wax in the candle cup, run hot water on the stick until the wax melts. Do not let water get into the hollow.
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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. 
Creamer, porcelain, pink and brown border, company monogram, marked, Ellerman Lines, 1900s, 3 3/4 inches, $25.
Marble lamp base, neoclassical, gilt bronze, putti, acanthus base, 1800s, 19 x 34 x 9 1/2 inches, $220.
Cloisonne vase, blue ground, flowers, bird, silver rims, Inaba, Japan, 1900s, 3 x 7 inches, $605.
Ivory, card case,     pierced, curved, people in garden, different scenes on reverse, 4 x 2 inches, $630.
Match safe, silver, coins, woman's profile, alligatored surface, Gorham, 1892, 2 5/8 x1 1/2 inches, $720.
Decoy, merganser duck, wood, polychrome, gold and black, overlay, 17 1/2 inches, $740.
Teplitz, vase, owl and mice, matte glaze, signed, Bernard Bloch, 1900, 9 1/2 x 8 inches, $1,105.
Rose mandarin platter, court scene, birds, flowers and butterflies border, 1800s, 23 1/2 x 9 3/4 x 2 3/4 inches, $1,150.
Garden bench, ferns, cast and black-painted iron, 1880, 33 x 55 inches, $1,180.
Coca-Cola radio, figural, hobble skirt coke bottle, embossed, electric, 1933, 24 x 8 inches, $3,660.
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Kovels' "A Diary: How to Sell, Settle and Profit from a Collector's Estate" is a step-by-step guide on what to do when settling an estate -- from gathering legal papers to dividing antiques among heirs and selling everything else, even the house. How to identify popular collectibles.

Tips on where and how to sell furniture, jewelry, dishes, figurines, record albums, bikes and even clothes. We explain the advantages of a house sale, auction, selling to a dealer or donating to a charity. Learn about how to handle the special problems of security and theft. Plus, a free supplement with useful websites, auctions lists and other current information.

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