Although we have gone to hundreds of antiques shows, shops and auctions, we are sometimes baffled by what we see. So the 6-inch brass elephant head was a mystery. It wasn’t an inkwell, although we have seen inkwells that size and shape. It had a tusk that could be pushed down, so it wasn’t a paperweight. The antiques dealer knew that it was a hotel service bell. The well-shaped brass head had glass eyes and bone tusks. Hold the tusks down, and a bell rang for hotel help. It kept on ringing as long as the tusk was held down. It probably will never again be used that way, but it will make an attractive paperweight or small figurine. The elephant is a good luck charm, too, because, according the superstition, an elephant figure with the trunk up is lucky; the trunk down is bad luck. But what about the ivory tusks? Can it be sold with the current restrictions on ivory? The seller told us the tusks were made of bone not ivory. So a lucky buyer paid $944 at a Morford auction and will probably make friends guessing what it was originally used for.
Q: My mother had this interesting glass bowl that I always called a juicer. I recently found out that they are called reamers and seem to be collectible. Can you tell me a little about reamers and how much the one I inherited from my mother is worth?
Answer: Reamers, or juice squeezers, have been known since 1767, although most of those collected today date from the 20th century. It is often a dish with a pointed-top cone in the center that squeezes the juice from the fruit held in the dish. Figural reamers are among the most prized. Reamers were invented out of need when it was discovered that citrus provided a cure for diseases like scurvy. They were first produced in Europe by Bayreuth, Meissen, Royal Rudolstadt and Limoges. In the United States, a co-op was formed in 1907 called the “California Fruit Growers Exchange.” The co-op marketed Sunkist. Sunkist reamers were marketed to the masses during the 1916 “Drink an Orange” campaign. Sunkist reamers were mainly white, but also came in green, pink, blue, yellow, black and white. They sell online for between $12 to $85.
Q: I just bought a weird vase decorated with bumpy black and orange glaze. Very modern, but unfamiliar. There is a partial paper label that says “Jasba West Germany.” Can you tell me anything about it — date, history and why West Germany, not just Germany?
Answer: When World War II ended, Germany was divided into two parts by the Allies to be sure the Germans would not try to again go to war. Although they had formal names, the terms West Germany and East Germany were used. West Germany was the side controlled by the United States and England. The split came in October 1945 and lasted until 1990, when the Berlin Wall fell and the two sides reunified into modern Germany. Very distinctive modern pottery was made by a group of companies in West Germany. They used bold colors, especially orange and black, glazes with strange textures, and even some original modern shapes. Jasba is a pottery that started in 1926 and continued working in West Germany and until today, but stopped making art pottery before 1980. Collectors call the West German pottery “Fat Lava” and collectors have books and clubs using that name. It was popular with American collectors in the 1960s and ‘70s, became harder to find, and is in again, wanted by those who collect modern ceramics.
Q: I found a large original painting of Mickey and Minnie Mouse and a small paper strip saying “©Walt Disney Productions” pasted on the drawing at the bottom. It looks like it was made for reproduction with bleed lines all around. My relative worked as a Disney animator. I would like to sell this if it has any value.
Answer: Original production cels are one-of-a-kind pieces of art used to create animated films or television shows. Each was hand-painted by studio artists on a piece of celluloid acetate and photographed over a background painting to create a frame of a finished production. For years, cels were either given away or sold at Disneyland. Experts need to look at your cel to see if it is vintage or a later one made by a machine. Here are some things to look for: See if your animation cel has peg holes at the bottom or sometimes top for color registration. This indicates that it is an original. Early Disney art have two pegs; later, Disney changed to a five-peg registration. Your family history of knowing the artist and the paper label is a good indication you have an original cel. The iconic Mickey and Minnie also add to its potential value. A cel from Snow White (1937) sold for $3,750. Your cel, if vintage, could sell for over $1,000.
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.
- Staffordshire, plate, historic, City Hall, New York, blue transfer, Ridgway, 10 inches, $94.
- Gaudy Dutch, plate, Grape pattern, green, yellow leaves, 7 inches diameter, $118.
- Box, storage, softwood, flame grain painted, dovetailed construction, hinged lid, original hardware, 1800s, 9 x 20 x 12 inches, $148.
- Currier & Ives, Death of Genl. Andrew Jackson, bedside scene, 9½ x 13¼ inches, $198.