Silver serving dishes popular in Victorian era

Terry Kovel
Every food you might find on a Victorian table had its own silver-plated dish. This English silver-plated jar was used for cookies or "bisquits."

This silver on copper "bisquit jar" is a classic Victorian piece. It uses an old spelling for "biscuit," a British-English term. In present day American English, we would call it a cookie jar. 

Silver and silver plate were popular in the Victorian era. Almost every type of food had its own specific serving dish or utensil made of silver. 

"Old Sheffield" refers to a special kind of silver plate made in Sheffield, England, in the 18th century. The silver was hand-rolled in sheets over copper. Most silver plate made in the 19th century is electroplated. 

This jar may not be Old Sheffield silver, but it was made in the city of Sheffield. It sold for $270 at a Selkirk auction. Its pelican hallmark identifies it as the work of Thomas Wilkinson's firm, which received a Royal Warrant from Queen Victoria in the 1840s.

Question: Historical items from World War II are my passion. I recently found a small (about 3 or 4 inches long and 2 inches wide) khaki box labeled "Old Gillette Razor and Lighter kit from WWII." Can you tell me about it? 

Answer: It's possible that your shaving kit find could have been WWI or WWII era. The first safety razor was patented by King Gillette in 1901. It was created as an alternative to the straight razor. Gillette's invention, which used disposable blades, eliminated the need for sharpening the blade and allowed the user to shave himself without fear of serious injury.

He founded the American Safety Razor Company that same year. One of its products was the U.S. Service Set, introduced by the Gillette Safety Razor Co. (as it was known then) during World War I.

There were two versions, the khaki set and the metal set. The Gillette khaki set was issued to the soldier. The metal set was available for the purchase price of $5 and marketed as a gift for a soldier. The metal tin came with a handle, razor head, a pack of blades and a mirror on the interior of the lid. The exterior of the lid was embossed with U.S. Army and Navy insignia. They are fun military collectibles and are worth about $25.

Q: When I was young, my mother made braided rugs from old wool coats. I braided the strips of fabric she created from the coats. Two large rugs that we made have been in daily use for 85 years and show very little wear. I am now 90. I might sell them and would like to know what they are worth. Do they have any resale value? 

A: There's a rich history of braided rug making in the United States that began in the American colonies. The craft was inspired by Native American weaving techniques. The process is the same way the settlers recycled and repurposed worn clothing into rugs, giving them a new, useful purpose. Large handmade rugs similar to yours have recently sold for $65 to $175.

Q: As a child, I was addicted to two things: history and Madame Alexander dolls. Every year for my birthday and Christmas, I would get a Madame Alexander doll. One that I still have (and love) is the 12-inch-high Josephine doll, representing the wife of Napoleon. She has a silver crown and a cream-color satin dress with pink tulips on the bodice. She is still in her original box. Is she worth anything? The price tag on the box is $15, and I got her in the 1960s. 

A: Since 1923, Alexander Doll Co. dolls have been modeled after characters from movies, different nationalities, historical figures, cultural trends and changing women's roles. The dolls were produced in themed series, including international dolls and the 1961 Americana series. Certain classic Madame Alexander dolls -- especially those from the 1940s and 1950s -- might be worth well into the thousands. Unfortunately, the Josephine doll you have is only worth between $14 and $40 dollars, even with the original box.

Q: Do old disc records have any value? We have several Edison disc records with music by various artists. The discs are 10 inches wide, 1/4 inch thick and very heavy. 

A: Edison Laboratories made disc records from 1912 to 1929. The discs were made of celluloid bonded to a wood-flour base and sprayed with condensate, a resin varnish. They weighed 10 ounces and played at a speed of 80 revolutions per minute. They could only be played on Edison's Diamond Disc phonographs.

Discs were stored vertically in a compartment in the phonograph cabinet. Titles were molded into the discs until 1921, when paper labels were first used. Over 26,000 titles were released. Most Edison disc records sell for $3 or less today. A few sell for over $100. 

TIP: A "cut" autograph, one that's on a small piece of plain paper, is more attractive to a buyer if it's professionally matted with a photo of the player who signed it.

Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel answer readers' questions sent to the column. Send a letter with one question describing the size, material (glass, pottery) and what you know about the item. Include only two pictures, the object and a closeup of any marks or damage. Questions that are answered will appear in Kovels Publications. Write to Kovels, (Name of this newspaper), King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803 or email us at


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.

Dinnerware, Iroquois Casual, bowl, vegetable, divided, indented handles on sides, yellow, Russel Wright, Steubenville Pottery, 1947-1967, 2 ¼ x 10 ¼ inches, $35. 

Furniture, table, T. H. Robsjohn-Gibbings, birch, square, lower shelf, square legs, 28 x 18 x 18 inches, $125.

Jewelry, charm, diploma, 14K yellow gold, Diploma in black enamel, red enamel seal, inscribed "6-18-59" on rolled bottom edge, 1959, ⅞ inches, $285. 

Porcelain plate set, painted pictures of fish in water, gold edge, marked Royal Doulton and Tiffany & Co., each 9 ½ inches, 12 pieces, $410. 

Coca-Cola vending machine, Drink Coca-Cola, Serve Yourself, metal, red, white letters, rectangular coin box with slot on top, 25 x 30 x 41 inches, $675. 

Pair of lamps, copper base, bulbous, tapered, banded, tapered shade with copper frame and mica panels, pull chain, Mica Lamp Co., 23 x 21 inches, pair, $750. 

Sterling-silver centerpiece bowl, asymmetric form, turned up edge, three short tapered feet, Modernist, Mexico, 20th century, 17 ¾ inches, $880. 

Rug, Qum, ivory field, center medallion, birds, sprays of flowers, red madder flower and vine border, 11 feet, 5 inches x 7 feet, 5 inches, $1,010. 

Advertising sign, Borden's Ice Cream, lithographed tin, embossed, die cut strawberry ice cream cone, Elsie in daisy logo, 1900s, 59 x 35 inches, $1,250. 

Galle cameo glass vase, purple irises, cream shaded to yellow ground, bulbous, tapered, flared neck, signed Galle, c. 1900, 16 x 6 inches, $2,000.