Desk accessories reveal Tiffany Studios' practical line

Terry Kovel
This rocker blotter sold for $161 at a Cowan's auction. Today, it has more value as a piece of Tiffany craftsmanship than as a useful desk accessory.

Tiffany Studios is synonymous with luxury and decorative items like jewelry, useful pieces made of precious metals and elaborate stained-glass lamps. The company also made practical objects, such as its line of commercial desk accessories made from about 1890 to the 1930s. 

Desk sets include items that office workers are unlikely to see today, like this rocker blotter in the Bookmark pattern. It sold for $161 at Cowan's auctions in Cincinnati, Ohio. 

The Tiffany Bookmark series featured the marks of early printers surrounded by panels of raised leaves and flowers. During the turn of the century, office workers would have used a rocker blotter along with a fountain pen and ink stand. Many people who have written with a ballpoint pen have smeared the ink. Fountain pen ink would have taken even longer to dry. 

People would speed up the drying with a sprinkle of sand or powder and, later, by blotting it with special paper. This rocker blotter would have held sheets of blotting paper to use on documents written in ink.

Question: I have a wooden file cabinet. It stands 38 inches high and consists of a group of stackable cubes. The lid is separate and has an imprint that I believe says "Yawman and Fre...Rochester New York, USA." This is on the front of the lid. It had been in my parents' home for many years, but I have no idea where it came from, probably an auction. 

Answer: Your oak file cabinet was manufactured by Yawman & Erbe Mfg. Co. of Rochester, New York. Its offices and main factory were in Rochester, and they had branches in several U.S. cities. In 1883, the company began making stackable filing cabinets that were customized to suit the specific filing needs of many businesses. A filing cabinet very similar to yours sold for $300 in 2019.

Q: Years ago, my grandmother gave me a small mother-of-pearl oyster shell purse. Family history has it that it was made by my grandmother's great-great-great-grandfather, who was a fisherman in Scotland. It's made from the whole shell with a metal clasp and hinge. Inside it's partitioned into three pockets, with a lavender fabric lining. Have you ever seen anything like this before? 

A: Yes, oyster shell purses are quite common, and purses like yours are still made commercially. They're easily available online at a variety of prices. Fancier types have gold bands around the shell and "carry" chains. In the Victorian era, oyster shell purses were popular as souvenir items sold at seashore resorts. In good condition, it could be worth $100 to $200. Without seeing the purse, we're not sure your rumor about your great-great-great-grandfather making it is true or a fish tale, but you've got a beautiful keepsake. 

Q: I inherited a Rookwood vase when my grandmother died 60 years ago. It's shaded from dusty pink to light green at the top, and there are three carved stylized tulips the length of the vase. The vase is about 8 1/2 inches tall. It's marked with the Rookwood logo and "XXIX" above "2387." I know it must be old, but is it valuable? 

A: Rookwood Pottery was founded in Cincinnati by Maria Longworth Nichols in 1880. Bookends, dinnerware, figurines, tiles and vases were made. Pieces were marked "RP," with the letter "R" in reverse, surrounded by flames. Roman numerals indicating the year were included below the initials beginning in 1900.

The pottery went bankrupt in 1941. It was bought and sold several times after that, and production resumed in 2006. The mark on your vase indicates it was made in 1929. The number "2387" is the shape number. Early pottery made by famous Rookwood artists sells for the highest prices. Some sell for several thousand dollars. Your vase is worth about $200.

Q: I inherited a set of very old metal cookie cutters from my mother. I've never used them but have childhood memories of the cookies made with them. Can you tell me a little about old cookie cutters? How can I determine the age and price? 

A: With "farm" style currently a design favorite, early cookie cutters with their rustic look are fun to collect and display. Cookie cutters are thought to date from about 1475, with the first American cookie cutters made by tinsmiths in East Berlin, Connecticut, about 1720. Tin was the primary material for cookie cutters until 1920, when aluminum became popular. Plastic replaced aluminum after World War II. Metal cookie cutters with "bullet" handles are especially wanted by collectors. Early cutters usually have backs made of uneven pieces of scrap tin.

TIP: Silverware that has been tarnished by eggs will come clean if rubbed with damp salt.

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. By sending a question, you give full permission for use in any Kovel product. Names, addresses or email addresses will not be published. We do not guarantee the return of photographs, but if a stamped envelope is included, we will try. 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. 

Jewelry, pendant, dice, textured gold, glossy gold pips, 1800s, ¾ inches, $75. 

Toy, Girl Cycle, girl on motorcycle, lithographed tin, vinyl head with rooted hair on rider, friction works, box, Haji, Japan, 1950s, 8 inches, $195. 

Rookwood pottery pitcher, Cherries & Leaves, standard glaze, three-sided form, shaped rim with elongated spout, Rookwood flame mark, artist cipher for Amelia Browne Sprague, 1891, 5 ½ x 7 inches, $220. 

Sterling silver bowl, geometric cartouche with monogram E, flared, wide stepped rim, Gorham, c. 1910, 3 x 9 ½ inches, $325. 

Civil War Union canteen, metal, brown wool cover, cotton strap, three sling loops, stopper with ring and chain, 7 ¾ inches, $530. 

Poster, Take Up the Sword of Justice, classical figure with arms up, holding sword, ship Lusitania in background, linen backing, Bernard Partridge, London, 1915, 27 x 19 inches, $630. 

Glass compote, Morning Glory, lavender overlay flower form bowl, clear stem and foot, stamped Libbey, c. 1930, 7 x 7 inches, $750. 

Clock, tall case, mahogany, broken arch top with scrolls and finial, fretwork over glass panel sides, arched glass door, moon face, Arabic numerals, three-weight, Howard Miller Clock Co., 94 x 30 inches, $1,220. 

Scrimshaw pie crimper, stylized horse form, whale ivory, fluted wheel, horse's head support with engraved eyes and mane, loop handle decorated with bouquet of flowers, c. 1860, 6 ½ inches, $1,500. 

Clock, shelf, burlwood, ebonized accents, arched bonnet, five brass finials, white and brass face, Whitington & Westminster chimes, bracket base with brass feet, England, c. 1900, 15 x 9 x 8 inches, $2,000.