The impossible to miss majolica

Terry Kovel
This majolica monkey crouching under a pillow must be a seat inside the home of the lucky bidder who bought it for $13,530 at a recent Boston auction. The seat is 18 inches high, the comfortable height for a chair. It is marked "Mintons," proving it is old.

It is impossible to miss Minton majolica in a room. It usually is shaped like animals, birds, flowers or just fantasies. A tasseled, pillow-shaped garden seat held by a crouching monkey holding a coconut is not something you would usually see at an auction. It was colorfully glazed majolica made by Minton, which often was thought to be the best of the majolica manufacturers.

Don't be confused by the mark - it could be "Minton" or "Mintons." Although the majolica was first made in 1862, either mark was used from 1871 to 1912. The famous company still is in business in England, but the strange majolica pieces are no longer made.

Tastes change, and colorful and imaginative items were not favored in the 1950s modern home, so antique majolica was low-priced and considered kitsch. Today it is very popular and high-priced. This garden seat probably will stay inside since it sold at a Skinner auction for $13,530.
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Q: I own a mechanical bank that matches two pictures in Kovels' Antiques & Collectibles Price Guides. It's priced $3,360 and $5,103. The description is "Magician" and "Cast Iron." I'd like to sell this bank. Who might buy it? 
A: The cast iron Magician mechanical bank was made by J. & E. Stevens Co. of Cromwell, Connecticut. It was based on patents issued in 1901, and by 1906, it was in the J. & E. Stevens catalog. If you put a coin on the magician's table and press the lever on the stairs, the magician lowers his hat over the coin and moves his head up and down. When the lever is released, the coin "disappears" into the bank and the magician returns to his original position. The front and back plates are blue and the flocking on the stairs is pink, chartreuse, yellow or tan. Over the past few years, prices for the Magician bank have ranged from $944 to $8,400. Before 2012, a few topped $10,000 and few others topped $20,000. The price depends on its condition and amount of original paint. An auction house that specializes in cast-iron banks might want to sell it. Ask about approximate value, sales, commissions, buyer's premiums and taxes. Or try an antiques store. It might want to buy it or sell it for a commission.
Q: We have a 65-piece barware set of Douglas Nash's "Silhouette/Animal Faire" barware. We also have some vases, candleholders, a large compote and two small compotes as well. We are interested in selling them. Would anyone be interested? 
 A: Silhouette line was designed by A. Douglas Nash for Libbey about 1933. The pieces have figural bears, camels, cats, elephants, greyhounds, kangaroos, monkeys, rabbits and squirrels on the stems. Glassware was made with black, opalescent "moonstone," or frosted stems. Douglas was the son of Arthur Nash, superintendent of Tiffany Glass Works. He worked with his father at Tiffany before starting his own company, A. Douglas Nash Corp., about 1927. That company closed in 1931 and Libbey Glass Co. hired him. Glasses in Nash's Silhouette line originally sold for $10 a dozen. The line was made until 1935. It would be difficult to sell a set, but single pieces are selling well. Silhouette center bowl with a Moonstone Elephant stem sold recently for $1,320, and two Kangaroo stem cocktail glasses auctioned for $160.
Q: I have a brown bottle dated 1475 - which seems crazy, doesn't it? On the front are the raised words "Big Tree" over the raised picture of a big tree. On the bottom is stamped "E.B & Co Ld." I don't know anything more about it. Can you help?
 A: It certainly wasn't made in 1475! Your bottle was made by a machine developed about 1905. The bottle held Big Tree Burgundy, a California wine sold in England. In the late 1890s, California wine makers had trouble selling their wines. The California Wine Association, founded in 1894, developed an export program called Big Tree brand. The wine also sold in a flat-sided brown or dark-green glass bottles with a sequoia stump in relief and "Big Tree" on one side. The mark on the bottom of your bottle indicates it was made by Edgar Breffit & Co., an English glassmaker. It was used from 1884 to about 1920. Your bottle was made between 1906 and 1920. Big Tree flagons, or flasks, sell from about $12 to $35.
Q: I have a large collection of Old English Ironstone Tea Leaf dishes, mostly made by Alfred Meakin. I'm looking for a place to sell them.
A: At least 12 English potteries made tea-leaf pattern dishes by 1850. It was made in the U.S. later. Tea Leaf ironstone sells at auctions, antiques shops, and matching services. There is even a club for collectors, The Tea Leaf Club ( Search online to see which auctions and matching services have sold Meakin's Tea Leaf Ironstone recently and contact them. 
Q: I have an old brass observation telescope that is about 24 inches long. Imprinted on the scope it says "W. and S. Azimuth Instrument, Model 1910, No. 246, Frankford Arsenal,1915." Can you give me any information about it, including its value?
A: Your telescope was made by Warner & Swasey Co., which was founded in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1880. The company made large telescopes for observatories as well as smaller telescopes for individual use. The Frankford Arsenal in Philadelphia made ammunitions for the military. A telescope like yours sold at auction for over $700 a few years ago. A telescope like yours with the original boxes and leather case sold for $737 in 2013.
Tip: Don't use tape or glue to mount photos.
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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.
Paul Bunyan postcard, Paul seated on stump, blue ox and ax, Black Hills South Dakota, 1950s, 3 1/2 x 5 1/2 inches, $15.
Water canteen, World War I, galvanized tin with fabric cover, canvas strap handle, circular shape, metal cap, Boyco        company, c. 1910, $60.
Picnic basket, hand woven, fitted dome lid and wooden carved handles, made by Winnebago Indians, 1800s, 9 x 14 inches, $135.
Doughnut cutter, metal with wood handle, six-sided, revolving wheel roller, cuts six doughnuts with one roll, Houpt, 12 inches, $200.
Toy truck, Fro-Joy Ice Cream, metal, red and yellow paint with original decals, rubber tires, Steelcraft, 1930s, 7 x 22 inches, $325.
Coverlet, hand woven cotton, red and ivory, flowers, inscribed "Rose of Alendale" on 4 corners, c. 1850, 74 x 90 inches, $405.
Salon hairdryer chair, metal frame, orange vinyl seat with piping, attached dryer hood, adjustable settings, Turbinator, 1950s, $820.
Garden table, cast iron, paint, round top, openwork scroll design, molded cabriole legs, X-stretcher, c. 1895, 25 x 39 inches, $995.
Apple Press, cider, wood and iron, flared bin, crank wheel, plank legs, two lower barrels, Superior Drill Co., c. 1905, 48 x 33 inches, $1,350.
Inkwell, log cabin, carved wood, front window with glass insert, storage compartment, Black Forest, Germany, c. 1887, 7 x 12 inches, $2,000.
NEW! Handbag collecting has surged in popularity since 2010 when the first large auctions were introduced. Today purses by brands, like Hermes, are sold for prices over $100,000. Sales, shows, stores and online retailers are selling used and vintage handbags.

Build your collection while prices of undiscovered brands are low. This report includes Makers information, trademarks, information on fakes, care and 130 color photos for over 75 brands. Plus a free supplement with current prices. Special Report, 8 1/2 x 5 1/2 inches, 46 pp. Available only from Kovels for $19.95 plus $4.95 postage and handling. Order by phone at 800-303-996, online at; or mail to Kovels, Box 22900, Beachwood, OH 44122.