Old rainbow spatterware brings top dollar

Terry Kovel
This 11-inch-high antique rainbow spatterware water picture with bands in five different colors sold for more than $5,000 at a Conestoga auction this year. Notice the double G-scroll handle, an added value feature.

It is easy to guess what this is – a rainbow spatterware water pitcher. But how old is it? Spatterware was first made in the late 1700s in England, but most found today dates from about 1800 to 1850 in Staffordshire, England, made to sell in the United States. 

Unfortunately, the word "spatterware" now has several meanings, probably because novice collectors didn't realize there is a difference between spatter and spongeware.

Another hazard is that there are fairly good copies of spatterware made today to be used in the kitchen. Experts can tell the old from the new by the shape, weight and the white glaze color. They also know the difference in the look of a spattered paint mark and the mark left by a paint-dipped sponge. Old rainbow spatter like this pitcher is expensive. This piece sold with the buyers' premium for $5,227.

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Q: I have my vintage copper bottom cooking pots hanging in the kitchen. I use most of them, but my aunt gave me what looks like a frying pan with six pounded out round sections that look as if they are made to cook something special in the pan. I have seen several of these pans for sale online, but no one seems to know what it was made to do.

A: You have an egg poacher, a pan made to cook eggs in small perforated cups that fit into the dents in your "frying pan." You need the missing cups. Put water in the pan and bring it to a boil. Turn down the heat, break an egg into the cup and leave it for just two minutes. Then slide the poached egg out of the cup onto a piece of toast or a slice of ham. A poacher was used for this classical breakfast first introduced in the famous Isabella Beaton cookbook published in 1861.

Other types of egg poachers were also made. There were deep covered pots that held stacks of racks with perforated cups. Early egg poachers were made of iron, tin, aluminum or nickel-plated copper. Most made today are copper, and many are sold to be used as decorations. It is claimed that in 2019, the average number of eggs eaten per person was 279. Eggs can be refrigerated for a long time, but if you put your egg in boiling water and it floats, throw it out. The egg white and yolk have spoiled and can make you sick.

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Q: My mother has a five-shelf bookcase made by the Globe-Wernicke Co. in Cincinnati. The stamp on the inside states the size is D-8 1/2 and the grade is 398. Can you tell us more about the bookcase and its worth?

A: Otto H.L. Wernicke was granted a patent for his stackable "sectional stock case for mercantile houses" in 1892 and founded the Wernicke Co. in Minneapolis in 1893. He patented his design for a bookcase of interchangeable sections, which collapsed for shipping, in 1896. The company moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1897. It merged with the Globe Co. of Cincinnati in 1899, and the name became Globe-Wernicke. It was sold in 1955 and became Globe-Weis Systems Co. in 1963.

The stackable bookcases, sometimes called "elastic bookcases" or "barrister bookcases," were made with ash, mahogany, oak or walnut finish. The "grade 398" stamp indicates the finish is imitation medium dark mahogany on maple/red birch. It was used beginning about 1899. The "D-8 1/2" size stamp indicates they are 9 1/2-inches deep and 8 1/2-inches high. Retail value of your five-shelf bookcase is about $900.

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Q: While downsizing my parents' home, I came across an old Argus C-3 camera my dad dearly loved and used all the time. Is it worth anything? 

A: Almost 3 million Argus C-3 cameras were made by Argus of Ann Arbor, Michigan, between 1939 and 1966. The Argus C-3 was a relatively inexpensive camera and the company's most popular model. It's sometimes called "the brick" because of its weight and boxy shape. Argus was sold to Sylvania Electric Products Co. in 1957 and was resold several more times after that. By the 1960s, Argus cameras were being made in Japan and imported into the U.S. An Argus C-3 with its original leather case sells for under $25. 

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Q: I have a water pitcher and four glasses made from cut glass. The set was a wedding gift to my grandmother in 1923. I have looked everywhere to identify the design. How can I identify the cut glass design?

A: The American Cut Glass Association, a nonprofit, national organization, has pictures of examples of many cut glass items with patterns identified. Some benefits are available to members of the association only, including reprints of old cut glass manufacturers' catalogs and a pattern identification service. Check the association's website,, for more information.

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TIP: Store plates vertically in a rack or stack them with a felt plate protector between each plate.

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Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel answer reader's 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. Be sure your name and return address are included. Write to Kovels, (Name of this newspaper), King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803 or email us at

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Current prices are recorded from antiques shows, flea markets, sales and auctions throughout the U.S. Prices vary in different locations because of local economic conditions. 

Wood candlesticks, carved, Wilhelm Schimmel style, central ball, tapered sections, stepped base, 1900s, 10 1/4 inches, pair, $95.

Alarm clock, travel, gilt brass case, square, white dial with Roman numerals, Swiss quartz movement, marked Tiffany & Co., c.1970, 4 inches, $115.

Toy, Playland Merry-Go-Round, children on horses, multicolored, tin lithograph, windup, J. Chein & Co., box, 11 x 11 inches, $270.

Fireplace fender, serpentine iron fence, brass acorn finials and hairy paw feet, 1800s, 16 x 49 x 12 inches, $345.

Weathervane, golfer, silhouette, swinging driver, golf bag with clubs standing behind, copper, verdigris patina, 25 1/2 x 21 1/2 inches, $445.

Jewelry, cuff links, clear, red and orange gemstones, faceted pillow shape, bezel set round stones in each, 18K gold, chain link connector, marked, Trianon, 1/2 inch, $610.

Garniture set, neoclassical style, black, white classical figures, vase with 2 handles, 2 candlesticks, marked F&R Pratt & Co., c.1890, 9 inches, 3 piece, $705.

Furniture, chair, Neoclassical style, fruitwood, carved swan arms, silk brocade upholstery, 1800s, 31 1/2 inches, pair, $885.

Wristwatch, Omega Speedmaster Schumacher, chronograph, stainless steel, yellow face with three subdials, yellow band, steel buckle, 1996, 8 inches, $1,340.

Zsolnay pottery vase, oxblood, gold and lavender iridescent glaze, alternating sections of pulled stripes and flowers, bulbous, oval, stand-up rim, marked, 4 1/4 x 3 inches, $4,065.