Expert eye reveals value of unsigned pottery
There were many small potteries making stoneware and other ceramics for use in the kitchen, bedroom or farm. Most utensils made in America by the 1800s were made with thick pottery sides in simple shapes with almost no decoration.
The most expensive examples collected today have a design or name on the crock to trace for the age and maker. But unsigned pieces are often identified when sold at auctions. That takes an expert; a family legend is not enough.
Conestoga Auction Company often sells antique and vintage stoneware. Is the side curved or straight? Is there a shaped rim? Is the interior glazed in the same color as the outside or is the inside different? Are there quirks in the shaping of the bottom? These clues can be recognized from a picture, but contact the auction and ask how they knew the maker of the unsigned piece.
This crock is similar to others attributed to Shenfelder Pottery of Reading, Pennsylvania. It has an impressed mark of the numeral "1" inside a coggle wheel circle. It has a blue hand-painted leafy branch on the outside.
"Daniel Peter Shenfelder Reading Pa." is a known mark. The Conestoga catalog said it was "attributed," not definitely identified, but the auction house is close to the pottery building and has sold many stoneware utensils. This crock sold for $170 after 10 bids.
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Q: Can you tell me what a vintage plastic Coca-Cola cigarette lighter shaped like a bottle of Coke is worth? It's about 2 1/2-inch long. It's been in my family as long as I can remember, and I'm 77 years old. The "bottle" comes apart in the middle to reveal the sparking mechanism and the bottom is the snuffer.
A: This vintage Coca-Cola cigarette lighter was made in the 1950s. The contour fluted shape is a replica of the pre-1955, 6 1/2-ounce Coca-Cola bottle. It usually sells online for $10 to $20.
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Q: I have four Windsor sack back and knuckles armchairs. I'd like to know their value. Should I have them refinished or leave as is? They are in fairly good shape. Carved or burned into the bottom it reads "Nichols & Stone Co., Gardner, Ma."
A: This company traces its history to 1762, when Charles and Marcus Nichols founded Nichols Brothers Chair Manufactory in Westminster, Massachusetts. Chairs were made in workshops until 1857, when the company opened its first furniture factory.
Charles bought out his brother in 1894 and went into partnership with Reuben Stone. The company became Nichols & Stone and moved to Gardner, Massachusetts. Chairs, tables and beds were made. The company closed in 2008.
Find out how much it would cost to refinish the chairs. If you're using the chairs, it might be worth it, but if you plan to sell them, let the buyer decide whether or not to refinish them. You might not make enough money on the sale to cover the cost of refinishing them.
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Q: I have a sizable collection of Snowbabies. They are displayed, and I have the boxes all packed away. I've always been told to keep the original box for value purposes. Is this true for something as mass-produced as Snowbabies? I'll keep the boxes if it will help the value in the future, but if it isn't necessary, I'd like to free up the space.
A: Snowbabies, white bisque figurines of young children playing, have been made by Department 56 since 1986. They look similar to the original Snow Babies made of unglazed clay covered with crushed bisque "snowflakes" that were made in Germany beginning in 1864.
Some Department 56 Snowbabies are retired each year. The molds are broken and new figurines are introduced. The original box adds value, especially if the box has good graphics. You can find suggested retail prices for retired Snowbabies on the company's website retiredproducts.department56.com.
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Q: How can I tell new from old milk glass?
A: Antique bottles have become collectors' items, especially those made in rare colors. Less-expensive bottles with secure closures were used by the 1930s. Milk glass bottles with attractive women's portraits as the label-under-glass were often the decorations in a Victorian barber shop. Modern copies have been made.
Old milk glass is opaque and may be pure white, pale green, robin's-egg blue, pink or black. Milk glass was not used for dinner plates but was used for doorknobs, lamps, vases and knickknacks like salt and peppers. They even made reusable figural milk glass store contains for mustard. When buying, look at milk glass carefully. Old glass is smooth and often marked with a shape or pattern number. There are many vintage and new copies that sell for very low prices.
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TIP: Use protector pads on the bottom of furniture feet. Replace them periodically when they become dirty or very flat.
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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 email@example.com.
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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.
Souvenir tablecloth, California, yellow map, cities, multicolor drawings of famous landmarks, turquoise ground, red scallop border, cotton, 1950s, 50 inches square, $85.
Weller Greora vase, fan form, textured blue and green drip shaded to copper brown glaze, footed, 8 1/2 x 9 1/4 inches, $130.
World's Fair, lamp, New York World's Fair 1939, frosted glass plate with Trylon & Perisphere, square stepped base, electric, bulb sits behind plate, 7 inches, $240.
Toy, ray gun, Tom Corbett Space Cadet Sparkling G-Man Gun, tin lithograph and plastic, windup, box, Marx, 1950s, 22 x 6 inches, $270.
Kitchen, butter churn, wood, stave construction, metal bands, original blue paint, pole in center, 1800s, $490.
Furniture, cabinet, post office, oak, two sections, top with 70 square cubbies, bottom with locked drawer and lower shelf, early 1900s, 69 x 55 inches, $540.
Advertising, trade sign, boot, figural, sheet iron, tall shaft, stacked heel, painted black and orangey tan, western detailing, late 1800s, 26 1/4 inches, $780.
Coin-operated, vending, Pulver Chewing Gum, 1 Cent, metal, yellow crinkle paint, Woody Woodpecker figure, 20 x 9 inches, $1,230.
Bottle, pickle, cathedral form, four-sided, emerald green glass, draped shoulder, outward rolled lip, 1860-1890, 13 inches, $1,670.
Carousel figure, horse, leaping, head up, wood, carved and painted, white, brown saddle, C.W. Parker, 58 x 40 inches, $2,700.