A memorable sale by Morphy Auctions included a collection that belonged to a famous woman, a tennis historian and author. She had cameo pins picturing a woman with a tennis racket, wicker chairs with the backs woven in the shape of crossed rackets, dishes picturing tennis-playing rabbits, and of course, old tennis balls, gut-strung rackets and even a skirt lifter shaped like rackets, used to hold a women’s skirt up while playing in the 1890s. The sale proved that there were others who like both tennis and collecting enough to buy unopened cans of 1930s tennis balls for $1,200 and a tennis player weathervane for $11,000.
Q: My aunt was given a crystal punch bowl and stand as a wedding gift in about 1937. The bowl has a diameter of 15 inches. On the stand, it is 12 inches high and weighs 20 pounds. We believe them to be crystal. Would you tell me anything you can about this set? Is it valuable or just a family treasure?
Answer: Your punch bowl and stand are cut glass. According to glass collectors, “crystal” means only that the glass is colorless. Cut glass was all the rage after the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, where many American glassmakers showcased their wares and demonstrated the cutting process. The most desirable examples are from the “American Brilliant” period of glass design, 1875 to 1915. These pieces have elaborate geometric designs with deep mitre cuts. Around the turn of the century, factories looked for ways to reduce the cost of making glass by using fire-polished blanks that had the initial cuts pressed into them and by using more engraved decoration. Cut glass identification is difficult, as only about 10% of old cut glass is marked. A signature on glass adds significantly to the value. Take your bowl to an antiques shop or an auction house that specializes in glass and have them look at it. It could be worth anywhere from $300 to a few thousand dollars.
Q: We received an extensive collection of Jewel Tea dinnerware. Is there any interest in this?
Answer: Frank Vernon Skiff, a grocer from Newton, Iowa, started Jewel Tea. He began delivering groceries door-to-door from a horse-drawn wagon in 1899 and established company headquarters in Chicago in 1901. The first Jewel grocery stores opened in 1932. Traveling salesmen continued to sell Jewel products until 1981. Autumn Leaf pattern dinnerware was Jewel Tea’s most popular premium. It was made by Hall China from 1933 to 1978. Jewel Tea dinnerware was originally a premium given to customers who bought groceries. A different piece was offered to customers each week. Interest depends on the pattern of your china. An Autumn Leaf cup and saucer sells for about $26. There is a club for collectors, the National Autumn Leaf Collectors Club (nalcc.org).
Q: Some of the toys in my collection of iron cars and trucks may be later reproductions. Yes, fakes. How can I tell if they are old (pre-1910) or new?
Answer: Look carefully at the wheels. If they have fewer than eight spokes, they may be new. Another clue: There is a slot in the tubular axle that goes from wheel to wheel. The iron toy is not riveted but is screwed together. Because you know you have both old and new toys, you can try the easiest clue: Run your hand over the bottom. Old iron has a smooth finish; reproductions are rough. The iron feels almost like concrete.
Q: I am trying to find out more about a teacup from my mother’s collection. How do I research the mark and the value?
Answer: It’s like solving a crime, and it takes time. Follow the clues. First, look up the mark by shape. Pottery marks are sorted by shape in the book “Kovels Dictionary of Marks: Pottery and Porcelain.” Or you can search online. Your mark has a shield and crown with the word “Germany,” so search in those sections. We found a match that says the mark was used by Galluba and Hofmann from 1905 to 1937. The German company made decorative porcelain, dolls (especially bathing beauties) and gift wares, but it is best known for making Snowbabies. Other marks for this company have the word “Marmorzellan.” Now search for prices in a book like “Kovels’ Antiques & Collectibles Price Guide.” Category: Porcelain. You may not find a teacup by the same company, but you can find other German dishes of the same period and get an approximate value. Or you can go to a matching service with the information and search its prices. A single cup from a set has a low price because there is little demand for old patterns or buyers who are looking to replace a missing cup. The price is under $20. Appraisals always depend on when and where something is sold. You might learn your piece isn’t an expensive treasure, but it’s still a part of your heritage worth keeping.
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.
- Shelley art deco pitcher, basin, light blue band, line decorations, diamonds, fans, c. 1935, 13¾ inches, $75.
- Smith Brothers cracker jar, silver plate mouth, cover and handle, melon lobed, opaque white, flowers, c. 1880, 5¼ x 2¾ inches, $110.
- Quimper oyster platter, 24 black outlined wells, orange, yellow and pink flowers, yellow and black concentric circles, 16½ inches, $120.
- Mt. Washington toothpick holder, milk glass, fine rib, square rim, flowers, c. 1880, 2½ inches, $150.
- Buffalo Pottery Abino ware pitcher, windmills, boats, brown, tan, Ralph Stuart, c. 1923, 12 inches, $370.
- Leather screen, 4 panels, country scenes, baskets, barns, trees, serpentine top, Louis XV style, 83½ x 90 inches, $580.
- Rookwood ewer, silver overlay, scrolling acanthus leaf, brown, orange, flowers, c. 1880, 6¾ inches, $1,000.
- Durand ginger jar, blue iridescent glass, heart and vine pattern, signed, Vineland Flint Glassworks, c. 1930, 8¾ x 7½ inches, $1,060.
- Amberina Stork vase, pressed glass, bird capturing a snake, bull rushes, rocks, New England Glass Works, c. 1885, 4½ x 2¼ inches, $1,180.
- Santa Claus lamp, figural, red robe, mound of snow, glass, opalescent, nutmeg burner, Consolidated Lamp & Glass Co., c. 1894, 9½ inches, $3,240.