Most glass bottles identified the contents inside with embossed letters on the container or a paper label. But a special group, usually apothecary bottles or special gifts, were made with “labels under glass.” The medical bottles usually had a label with a black name written in a fancy type style, gold leaf trim, plus a solid glass cover for the label. It was made to fit into a shaped indent on the side of the bottle, making a smooth bottle with a protected label. There also were bottles with labels under glass made with color pictures of attractive women, season’s greetings or other messages used for gifts, or barber product containers displayed in barber shops. They were made from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s. Decorative “back bar” bottles were often whiskey bottles refilled with colored water when the whiskey was sold. They were probably made before Prohibition. Condition of these bottles is important. The glass label may crack, and the glue used for the paper label discolors. A small, round flask with a label under glass picturing a girl was in the recent sale by Glass Works Auctions in East Greenville, Pennsylvania; it was made at the end of the 19th century and sold for $468.
Q: I have a metal letter opener that says “American Malting Co., New York, Chicago, Milwaukee” on the handle. Can you tell me anything about it, possibly age and value?
Answer: Letter openers were popular advertising giveaways. The American Malting Company made malt for breweries around the turn of the 20th century. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, grain was malted in small malt houses throughout the United States. Profits were slim and competition was severe. Business often depended on friendships between maltsters and buyers. In 1896, Seymour Scott, a maltster in Lyons, New York, proposed the consolidation of several small maltsters in the area to increase efficiency and profits. It became The American Malting Company in 1897. By 1900, the company owned 38 malt houses and 41 grain elevators in several cities. The business didn’t do as well as expected and was reorganized as American Malt Corporation in 1905. The name on your letter opener shows it was made before the 1905 reorganization. Plain advertising letter openers sell for about $25. Those with insets, enamel decoration, engraving or other decorations can be more expensive. Tiffany letter openers sell for over $100.
Q: I have many Beanie Babies bought back in the ‘90s, when they were the craze. I have many originals, including the purple Princess Diana bear. A couple of websites listed it for several thousand dollars, which I hardly think is possible. Where can I find out a true going value?
Answer: The first Beanie Babies were issued in 1993 and sold for $5 each. Ty Warner, the creator of Beanie Babies, began retiring a few of the plush toys in 1995, and prices rose as collectors tried to find them. Some people collected them as an investment and paid several times the retail price for certain ones. The first Princess Diana Beanie Babies were made in August 1997, two months after Princess Diana’s death. They were made until April 1999. Proceeds were given to the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund. Although there are online sites asking as much as $135,000 for the “first edition,” a First Edition Princess Diana bear stuffed with polyvinylchloride (PVC) is listed on Amazon for $39; a bear with polyethylene pellets (PE) for $22.
Q: My mother bought a Lefton Shoemaker figurine, No. 4718, over 40 years ago, and I was wondering how much it’s worth. It’s in excellent condition.
Answer: The Geo. Zoltan Lefton Company was founded in 1941 by George Lefton (1906-1996), a Hungarian immigrant who was a sportswear designer and porcelain collector. He came to the United States in 1939 and founded his import company two years later. Pottery, porcelain, glass and other wares were imported from Japan, and later from Taiwan and Malaysia. The company was sold in 2001. Lefton figurines are selling for low prices, $12 to $50.
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.
- Decoy, goose, wooden, black, white, tacks for eyes, 11½ x 9 inches, $125.
- Pie crimper, whalebone, fluted wheel, turned handle, 1800s, 6½ inches, $220.
- Octant, ebony frame, brass hardware, inlaid scale and marker plate, stepped case, signed Whyte Glasgow, 11¼ x 9¾ inches, $280.
- Dr. Pepper cooler, “Good for Life,” white print, green, metal handle, 14 x 12¾ inches, $450.
- Fulper vase, straight neck, alternating light and dark green glaze, dark brown interior, handles, 1915-1925, 12 x 11 inches, $825.
Spool cabinet, J&P Coats, garage door, knob handle, carved intertwined boarder, oak case, 22¾ x 20¾inches, $840
- Sewing box, mahogany, inlay, checked banding, open winged eagle, banner, 1800s, 8 x 12¾ inches, $625.