Drink in the unique designs of mocha pottery

Kim and Terry Kovel
Antique mocha ware, made in England to export to the United States and Canada in the 18th and 19th centuries, caught collectors' attention in the mid-20th century. Like many mocha pieces, this colorful mug is decorated with several patterns.

To a pottery collector, a "mocha mug" isn't meant for a coffee drink. "Mocha" is a type of decorated earthenware pottery made in England and sold in America in the early 1800s. Mocha pottery, or mocha ware, is usually utilitarian; pieces were originally used in the kitchen or during meals. It has colorful decorations painted in a slip glaze made from clay thinned with water to a liquid consistency. The decorations are usually painted over white glaze.

Traditional patterns have descriptive names, like "banded," "checked" and "marbled," or repeated "tulip," "fan," "seaweed," "dendrite" or "leaf" motifs. Others have less obvious names, like "cat's-eye," which consists of clusters of dots, and "earthworm," or thick, mottled lines in waves or loops.

This mug, which was made about 1800 and sold for $375 at Link Auction Galleries, has earthworm and cat's-eye patterns in its center section, with a green and brown banded top border and brown banded lower border.  

The name "mocha" may come from some patterns' resemblance to mocha stone, another name for moss agate, an opaque multicolor semiprecious stone. Mocha pottery may also be named for the coffee-colored glaze that appears in many designs. 

Question: When my father was ill in 1939, he received a letter from Jack Dempsey wishing him "a speedy recovery." The letter was typed on his restaurant's stationery and signed in ink. What is it worth?

Answer: Jack Dempsey (1895-1983) was an American boxer who was the world heavyweight champion from 1919 to 1926. He opened his restaurant near Madison Square Garden in New York City in 1938. It closed in 1974. The value of an autograph is determined by the importance of the signer, rarity, condition and proof of authenticity. Signatures on letters are worth more than an autograph by itself. A handwritten letter is worth more than a typed letter with a handwritten signature. The content of the letter also affects the value. The letter must be seen by an expert to authenticate it. Contact an auction house or gallery that holds sales of autographs to see what it is worth.

Q: I'm trying to find information about a silver bowl marked "Reed & Barton, 1120" near a tiny engraved heart. It's 6 inches in diameter and about 3 1/2 inches high. How old is it and what is it worth?

A: This is called a "Revere" or "Paul Revere" bowl. The number "1120" is the model or design number. The shape is a reproduction of the style of the Liberty Bowl made by Paul Revere in 1768. The heart is the date mark Reed & Barton used for the year 1956. Reed & Barton made Revere bowls in sterling silver and in silver plate, and in different sizes. Sterling silver bowls are marked "sterling." Some of the silver plate bowls were made with different color enamel interiors. A 6-inch silver plate bowl sells for about $25. A 6-inch sterling silver bowl sells for $300 to $400. Sterling silver bowl selling price changes as the price of silver changes.

Q: I found a pint bottle of Old Taylor Whiskey that has a large drugstore sticker covering the front label. It lists the buyer's name, prescription number, doctor's name and the date "10/25/29." The label on the back of the bottle says, "For medicinal purposes only, sale or use for other purposes will cause heavy penalties to be inflicted" and "Bottled by American Medicinal Spirits Company." Is this bottle worth anything?

A: During Prohibition, which lasted from 1920 to 1933, the production, transportation and sale of alcoholic beverages were prohibited. The sale of alcohol for medicinal use was one of the few exceptions. Alcohol was thought to have a beneficial effect on the treatment of certain diseases. Patients could buy one pint every 10 days. The prescription had to be glued to the bottle.

Colonel Edmund H. Taylor established his distillery near Frankfort, Kentucky, in 1887. It closed in 1917. American Medicinal Spirits Company bought the distillery in 1927. Old Taylor was not one of the distilleries licensed to produce medicinal alcohol. The Old Taylor brand name is now owned by Buffalo Trace Distillery. A pint bottle of whiskey bottled by American Medicinal Spirits Company, but without the prescription, sold for $20. The prescription adds interest and might add value. 

TIP: Never display bottles with labels in a sunny window. The labels will fade. 

Current Prices

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.

Bank, still, figural, oil tanker, painted red, coin slot in back, pressed steel, wood wheels, Wyandotte, 1930s, 2 ¼ x 6 ¼ inches, $70.

Tapestry, scenic, stylized, bird among leaves, blue, light brown, yellow, cream, flower and fruit vine border, Continental, 75 ½ x 46 ½ inches, $125.

Iron doorstop, figural, owl, perched on stump, leaves, berries, green eyes, ear tufts, Hubley, 10 inches, $240.

Furniture, bookcase, Black Forest style, oak, carved fruit pilasters, two doors, six glass panes each, relief carved scenes in lower panels, carved feet, Germany, late 1800s, 72 x 59 x 22 ½ inches, $280.

Wristwatch, Longine, automatic, gold filled, gold dial, bar indices, date window, black pebbled leather band, $320.

Porcelain chocolate pot, lid, Point & Clover mold, cream, white and green ground, pink and white roses, gilt trim, blue opal highlights, marked, R.S. Prussia, 10 inches, $360.

Display, toy, Klik-Klak Blox, red, yellow and blue, toy sample attached to front, "For Girls For Boys For Fun" on sides, electric, 18 inches, $540.

Vase, Teroma, red flowers, green trim, chipped ice ground, shoulders, wide rim, marked, Handel, early 20th century, 8 x 4 inches, $625.

Blown glass pitcher, opal Marbrie loops, aquamarine, baluster shape, elongated spout, applied handle and foot, rough pontil mark, late 19th century, 7 1/4 inches, $2,110.

Porcelain vase, green ground, hen and rooster, tapered base, flared lip, blue character mark, Japan, 8 inches, $3,220.