Chinese porcelains among hardest to identify, date

Terry Kovel
 An examination of the bottom of the vase may show some clues to the age. Many modern copies of old vases have glazed, rather than unglazed, foot rims. But the vase is worth almost $1,500 just because it is so attractive and clever.

Chinese porcelains are among the hardest for an average collector to identify and date. They have been made for centuries and it is considered a tribute, not an attempt to fool a customer, to copy a piece perfectly including the original mark.

Unfortunately, today there also are some who deliberately make and sell excellent copies of antiques. The pictured vase is named "Five Boys." It is a piece of "famille rose" porcelain and has a six-character mark on the bottom. The boys are climbing or standing on the vase. One has a ruyi scepter; the others are helping each other to the top.

The famille rose decoration could be several hundred years old or new. The color and clever three-dimensional figures helped the vase sell for $1,476, its decorative value. If it were 300 years old, it would sell for much more.
       ** * 
Q: My small bottle that pictures James Madison. It has a quote about him on the reverse and is amber carnival glass. I'm located in Melbourne, Australia, and I'm wanting to get a value on it to sell.
A: Wheaton Glass Co. was started in 1888 by Dr. Theodore Wheaton, a country doctor who wanted to make quality glassware. In 1967, a division of the company began to make commemorative decanters, flasks and bottles. The first limited-edition presidential bottle was issued in 1969. It had John F. Kennedy on it, and other bottles with presidents from George Washington through George H.W. Bush followed. Forty-four were made through 1989. Each 3 1/2-inch canteen-shaped bottle was machine-made and had an image of a president with his birth and death dates on one side and a quotation or slogan and a facsimile signature on the other. Different colors were used, many with an iridescent finish that resembles carnival glass. Other series were made that featured great Americans, patriots and American military leaders. In 1996, Wheaton Glass Co. was sold and renamed Lawson - Mardon - Wheaton. As with many limited editions, prices are low. Your James Madison flask is worth about $5 in the U.S., probably even in Australia.
Q: I have an opportunity to acquire two vintage sperm whale teeth authenticated as over 250 years old. They are uncarved. They are treasured collectibles and will not be sold. Can I import them? 
A: Sperm whales are protected by the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. Whales' teeth are a hard form of ivory. According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service website, it is illegal to import whale ivory (whale teeth), or items made from whale ivory, except by special permit. Your whale teeth are not decorated (scrimshawed), so all of the laws may not apply, but you should check with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service before importing them. Breaking the law can result in heavy fines or jail time.
Q: My six flat silver butter knives are stamped "Pat. Apld. For Puritan Silver Co." Are they sterling silver? Are they worth anything?
A: Puritan Silver Co. is a trade name used by Oneida Silversmiths on silver plated flatware. Silver-plated flatware doesn't sell well. Young people don't want to bother to keep it polished, and it doesn't have the meltdown value that sterling silver has. Silver-plated butter knives sell for about $1 each.
Q: My Rookwood mug is old, dated 1884. It is covered with line drawings of what look like comic book figures. The name Cranch is in block letters, and the usual Rookwood marks also are on the bottom. It is yellowish white with black lines. Who is Cranch?
 A: E. P. Cranch was a lawyer in Cincinnati, Ohio, who also was an artist working for the Rookwood pottery from its beginning, as well as a poet, a story teller and an artist. Cranch used the words and often humorous pictures of activities described in ballads and folklore. He remembered a ballad sung to him by Noah Webster's nephew 50 years earlier, and wrote it down and illustrated it. Cranch seems best-known for his Rookwood pieces decorated with the Uncle Remus stories. His art appears on beer mugs, pitchers, jugs, plates, bottles and vases, most made in the 1880s. Although they are very different in style than most early Rookwood, with colored glazes and realistic decorations of flowers or perhaps Indian portraits, Cranch's work sells quickly. A 6 3/4-inch-high Cranch jug sold recently for $1,610. It was decorated with scenes and the words of the poem "Three Wise Men of Gotham Went to Sea in a Bowl."
       ** * 
Tip: Marble will scorch. A marble statue very close to the heat of a 100-watt lightbulb may be damaged. 
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.
       * * *


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.
Toy bubble pipe, figural bowl, "Popeye" head, smoking a pipe, sailor hat, curved stem, white plastic and paint, 1950, 6 inches, $20.
Needle threader, magnifier and spool holder, wooden base, magnifying glass on curved metal arm, 1916, 4 x 2 inches, $50.
Advertising sack, "American Lady Self-Rising Flour," Amelia Earhart profile, mat and frame, c. 1935, 24 x 17 inches, $165.
Gold medal, embossed, "Fourth of July 1913-Patterson N.J.", Andrew F. McBride-Mayor engraved on back, 1 1/2-inch diameter, $210.
Cigar humidor, mahogany, dog house shape, roof lifts open, brass hinges, 20 compartment cigar storage, bun feet, 1800s, 8 x 10 inches, $280.
Candy jar, "Lolly Pops For Little Boys & Girls," Disney, Ludwig Von Drake, Mickey and Donald, ceramic, conical lid, 1961, 9 inches, $345.
Gossip bench, mahogany, upholstered, sleigh-back chair with telephone table, carved lyre design, splay legs, c. 1945, 32 x 37 inches, $520.
Soapstone carving, old man seated against peach tree, petting reclining dragon on rocky base, Chinese, c. 1905, 6 x 6 inches, $950.
Barber pole, turned wood, painted white with red stripes, tapered, ball finial, free standing with stepped base, late 1800s, 72 inches, $1,275.
Teddy bear, "Henry," ivory mohair, glass eyes, rust-colored nose and claws, jointed arms and legs with humpback, Hecla, 1906, 13 inches, $3,700.
The 50th Anniversary edition of "Kovels' Antiques & Collectibles Price Guide 2018" will be published in September 2017. The book includes a special new section containing Terry Kovels' reflections on 50 years of collecting, with prices, trends, special events and surprises. Kovels' 50th Price Guide will be available soon at
Keep up with changes in the collectibles world. Send for a FREE sample issue of our 12-page, color-illustrated newsletter, "Kovels on Antiques and Collectibles," filled with prices, news, information and photos, plus major sale reports and opinions about the world of collecting.

An important tool for anyone who buys, sells or collects antiques and collectibles. To subscribe at a bargain $27 for 12 issues, write Kovels, P.O. Box 292758, Kettering, OH 45429-8758; call 800-829-9158; or subscribe online at