Coal scuttle had many uses for tending the fireplace

Terry Kovel
A coal scuttle wasn't always used for coal; it could hold logs or collect ashes. This one from about 1900 sold for $125 at DuMouchelles in Detroit.

A fireplace takes a lot of watching and "feeding" if it is going to keep a room warm. Today's wood-burning fireplaces use logs cut to the right size to fit into the fireplace. A metal basket holds the logs behind andirons, and a fire screen blocks the ashes and cinders from spilling out into the room.

The poker is a tool used to turn or move burning logs. The shovel removes the ashes when the fire is put out. But what is the use of the big box with a lid that is on the floor next to the fireplace?

The box is called a coal scuttle. They were first used in the 18th century to hold lumps of coal for the fire. By 1850, coal had been replaced by logs, but the box is still called a coal scuttle. The box could also be used to collect ashes when the fire was out. 

This coal scuttle is made of oak with brass trim. It was made about 1900 in the shape of an earlier example with four round feet and a metal lining. It sold for $125 at a DuMouchelles auction in Detroit.

Question: Years ago, there was a town in Nebraska named Gross. Only a store and bank vault are left in the town. My dad traveled for Swift & Co. in the 1920s and must have stopped at the bank, because he had a wallet embossed "Gross State Bank, Gross, Nebr., appreciates your business" in gold letters. I've never seen this type of wallet in a museum. Is there any value to it? 

Answer: Gross, Nebraska, is one of the smallest towns in the United States, with just two residents. The town was founded in 1893 and named after Ben Gross, an early homesteader and store owner. The town grew and several businesses, churches and two banks were established.

The railroad the town had expected took a different route and many people left the area. Later, two fires destroyed homes and businesses on Main Street. The population dwindled to 84 people by 1920.

Gross State Bank failed and was on the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation's list of failed banks in 1923, so your wallet is almost 100 years old. The only part of the bank that exists today is the vault, on the outside of the building. Your father's wallet is probably not a museum piece and doesn't have much monetary worth, but it has sentimental value and a good story. 

Q: When I was little, before I had my ears pierced, my mother let me play dress-up with vintage clip-on earrings that originally belonged to her mother and aunt. Were clip-on earrings more popular than pierced? When did ear piercing become more common?

A: Clip-on earrings were a 20th century invention. The first earrings were for pierced ears. Post and stud earrings appeared in the mid-1800s, but by the end of the century, people saw piercings as barbaric.

Earrings with screw backs were invented in 1894 as an alternative to piercing. Clip-on earrings were patented in the 1930s. Pierced ears became fashionable again in the 1960s. As the styles changed, new owners sometimes put new backings on older style earrings, changing from clip-on to pierced and vice versa.

Q: I'm trying to price a large quantity of old Avon bottles I got recently. How can I find current prices? 

A: Avon has been in business under various names for 135 years. Its founder, David McConnell, was a traveling book salesman until 1886, when he decided to sell perfumes, calling his company the California Perfume Co. He mixed fragrances himself and hired women as sales representatives. Cleansers, powders and other cosmetics soon followed.

The "Avon" name and logo was first used in 1929 on a cosmetics line. The company was renamed Avon Products, Inc., in 1939. After splits, sales and mergers, the company became New Avon LLC in 2016, and then The Avon Co. in 2021 as part of Natura, a Brazilian beauty products company.

The figural bottles that contained Avon products were made in limited editions from 1965 to 1980 and were very popular collectibles for several years, but they are not as popular now. Most sell online for less than $10.

Check "sold" prices on eBay and other websites to see what the bottles you have are selling for. If you don't see exactly what you have, something similar will give you an idea of price range. It will take time to do the research if you have a large collection.

Q: I'm trying to find information on the porcelain manufacturer that used a mark with the words "Crown Devon, S.F. & Co., Stoke on Trent, England" above an elaborate crown. Can you help? 

A: This is one of the marks used by S. Fielding & Co., a company in business in Stoke, Staffordshire, England, from about 1879 to 1982. Earthenware and majolica were made at the company's Railway Pottery, which was renamed Devon Pottery by 1912. The mark you describe was used from about 1891 to 1913.

TIP: Pictures above a bed or sofa should fill about two thirds of the space. Hang a large picture or a group of small ones. Be sure the lowest picture will not be bumped by a person on the bed or sofa.

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. Be sure your name and return address are included. 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. 

Game board, two-sided, checkers and Chinese checkers, pine, hexagonal shape, black frame, turquoise and black checkerboard on one side, multicolor Chinese checker board on reverse, c. 1925, 23 inches, $95. 

Sewing caddy, walnut and maple, three-tier spool rack, round pegged shelves in graduated sizes, pincushion cup finial, turned center column, square base with drawer, American, c. 1875, 20 inches, $120. 

World War II poster, Join the Navy and Free the World, ship on the sea, ball in chains on bottom, signed on bottom "M. Privitello USNR," matted and framed, 40 x 30 inches, $220. 

Advertising tin, Carr Biscuits, motor coach, Cinderella waving from shaped window in back, Hudson, Scott & Sons, England, 7 inches, $430. 

Furniture, table, writing, Louis XVI style, giltwood, kidney shape top, carved swags on apron, inset leather top with gilt accents, fluted tapering legs, pierced stretchers shaped as entwined Cs, c. 1900, 25 ½ x 24 x 16 inches, $565. 

Advertising tin, Crawford's Biscuits, steam roller truck shape, red and black, hinged roof opens to biscuits, front of boiler with logo and "William Crawford & Sons Ltd., Biscuit Manufacturers, Edinburgh, Liverpool & London," 7 ½ inches, $615. 

Lamp, pair of chandeliers, six light, chains and swags of faceted beads & prisms, basket form, brass frame with candle arms, brass leafy ceiling cap, 41 x 25 inches, pair, $750. 

Toy, piano player, Le Petit Pianiste, man seated at piano, sways back and forth, hands move across keys, plays chime music, wood, metal, cloth, Fernand Martin, France, 6 inches, $1,165. 

Wristwatch, Cartier, Tank Francaise Automatic, stainless steel, square dial, lug end, black hands and bold Roman numerals, second hand, link band, 28 mm case, $1,460. 

Olympics, torch, International Olympic committee (IOC) Centennial, Greece, March 1996, ribbed aluminum, tapered wood handle, band with names of host cities and dates since 1896, 22 x 6 inches, $1,500.