Puzzle Pitcher

Since the spouts of this pitcher would have let a drink trickle down the front of the user, how do you solve the puzzle? A mouthpiece at the top of the handle and the rim around the top of the pitcher lets you drink the liquid through a ceramic “straw.”

This elaborately decorated puzzle pitcher was made in Budapest, Hungary. In 1839, Moritz Fischer bought a factory that had been operating in Herend, Hungary, since 1826. He started making dinner sets for Hungarians because the old sets from Europe and the Far East were no longer available. The company started making figurines in the 1870s. At the turn of the century, Jeno, Moritz Fischer’s grandson, took over the company, revived the old patterns and made new ones. Fischer Company was nationalized in 1948. Another company named Herend started importing Herend china into the United States in 1957. Herend was privatized in 1993 and is still working making Hungarian-style ceramics.

Just how old is this traditional puzzle jug marked “Fischer J Budapest”? In Hungarian, surnames are written first, and I and J are the same. The Fischer J in the mark stands for Ignac Fischer, a distant relative of Moritz, who trained with his father and later with Moritz. In 1867, Ignac started making his own ceramics that were similar to those made at the Zsolnay factory. About 1895, Ignac Fischer’s company became part of the Zsolnay factory in Pecs. The mark on the puzzle jug was used from about 1867 to about 1895, even though the pieces look much older.

Q: I am trying to find out what my silver tray is worth. It is oval and has a rope twist rim. There is a mark on the bottom with a three-leaf stem, a crown and a standing lion over two more lions and a star. The mark also has old-English-looking letters: EBM & S.

Answer: The letters on your tray are actually EGW & S, which stand for E.G. Webster & Son of New York City and Brooklyn. The Elizur G. Webster firm started in New York City in 1860. In 1864, Webster partnered with William Dupree and the firm became Webster & Dupree. After a few changes in partnerships with William Dupree and Webster’s brother Adelbert Webster, E.G. partnered with his son Fred H. Webster in 1886, and the firm became E.G. Webster & Son. E.G. died in 1900. His son continued the business until 1928, when it was sold to International Silver Co. In 1981, it was sold to Oneida. Your tray is silver plate and the pattern is No. 210. The mark dates it from 1886 to 1928. Medium-sized silver-plated serving trays in good condition are worth $35 to $50.

Q: I have an antique buffet that I bought 30 years ago at an antiques shop in Florida. It has two long drawers and two cupboards with interior shelves. There is a paper label that says “Fulton Street at Hoyt, Abraham & Straus, Brooklyn” and “No. 445-1” is burned into the wood. I’d like to know more about the buffet and its value.

Answer: Abraham & Straus started in 1865 as Wechsler & Straus. The name became Abraham & Straus in 1893 after the Straus family bought out Weschler. It became part of Federated Department Stores in 1900. The name Abraham and Straus continued to be used until 1995. The number is probably the model number. Your buffet was made in the first half of the 20th century. Many reproductions of earlier styles of furniture were made before 1960. A buffet would sell for about $750-$1,000 depending on style and condition.

Q: Is there any value to an old box of phonograph needles? I have an unopened tin that contains 200 needles. It says “Columbia medium tone needles” on the lid. It says “Brilliant” above that and “Use each needle once only” below. It’s yellow with brown and white and has music notes on either side of the writing.

Answer: Tin phonograph needle cases appeal to people who collect phonographs, music memorabilia or advertising items. The tins are very small, about 2 inches across, and often have attractive graphic designs lithographed on the top and sides. Your tin is from the 1920s and sells online for about $15. The unused needles are also wanted by those who play their old records.

Q: Can you tell me the approximate value of old newspapers and magazines? I have the full copy of The New York Times newspaper from Saturday April 15, 1865, with the headline “Awful Event, President Lincoln Shot by an Assassin,” as well as a newspaper of Kennedy’s assassination. I also have old Playboy magazines from the 1950s-’70s.

Answer: Old newspapers covering major events, like the assassinations of Lincoln and Kennedy, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby, the sinking of the Titanic, the San Francisco earthquake and other major catastrophes, sell for the highest prices. The front page of the April 15, 1865, New York Times sold at auction for $450 last year. A copy of the same issue, with eight pages, sold for $1,200 three years ago. Most Playboy magazines sell for only a couple of dollars. A collection of 30 magazines sold for $76. But beware, many copies have been made of the famous newspapers. Old newspapers yellow and fall apart unless properly stored.

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.

  • McCoy jardiniere and pedestal, slip decorated yellow daffodils, shaded brown ground, 31 x 13½ inches, $235.
  • Teplitz bust, woman, red hair, plumed hat, flowers, ruffled collar, green bodice, wide pink lapels, 15½ x 5½ inches, $350.
  • Dough Box, stand, burl wood, carved, women, holding hands, field, shaped apron, 35½ x 39 inches, $390.
  • Fraternal Order Whisky Bottle, Elk, Central medallion, cut-fluted mouth, enamel, multicolor, 11½ x 9¼ inches, $590.
  • Silver sugar basket, George III, oval, reeded swing handle, leafy scrolls, raised foot, Peter & Ann Bateman, England, 1792, ½ inches, $690.
  • Sewing box, coromandel wood, inlaid, leaves, flowers, central medallion, c. 1810, $760.
  • Polia Pillin bowl, seated nude woman, blue hair, tree, blue bird, brown, cream, 6 x 11 inches, $1,300.
  • Mechanical Bank, organ grinder, bear, brick house, white fence, cast iron, Kyser & Rex, c. 1890, 5 3/8 x 4¾ inches, $4,980.
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Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel answer questions sent to the column. By sending a letter with a question and a picture, you give full permission for use in the column or any other Kovel forum. Names, addresses or email addresses will not be published. We cannot guarantee the return of photographs, but if a stamped envelope is included, we will try. The amount of mail makes personal answers or appraisals impossible. Write to Kovels, King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, Fla. 32803.

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