Treasures In Your Attic: Hall clock is from Scotland

This Scottish tall case is a little younger than the owner thinks.

This Scottish tall case is a little younger than the owner thinks.

Dear Helaine and Joe:

The face of this clock has M. Ferguson Mauchline as the maker. I was told it was made in the late 1700s. It is a tall case clock made from walnut with a flat top and an ornate hand-painted dial of the four seasons. The top painting shows a hunting scene with the title “Death of a Stag.” Can you give me the approximate date this clock was made and the approximate value? Are you interested in purchasing it?

Thank you,


Dear H.D.:

The first issue that needs to be dealt with in this letter is that we never, ever, under any circumstances purchase — or offer to purchase — an item that we are asked to evaluate in this column. It is unethical, pure and simple.

Taking it a step further, it is a very bad idea to sell an item to the person who appraises it. Or in this case, offers to suggest a price based on a photograph and information supplied by the owner, which is not an appraisal but an opinion. An appraisal is a formal process that involves seeing something in person, carefully examining it and then doing research to determine a value for a stated reason (i.e. for sale, for insurance, etc.).

These are important rules that govern our impartiality and we do not get the opportunity to state them often enough.

With these issues out of the way, we think we have discussed a similar clock made in the Scottish village of Mauchline once before, but it was a long time ago, and a revisiting this subject will not hurt and may help those who did not see our earlier response.

It is important to understand where this clock was made and not just when. The place of origin is in the Scottish Civil parish of East Ayrshire. In 2001, it had a population of just a little over 4,000. It traces its history back to 1165, when the High Steward of Scotland granted land to the Cistercian monks of Melrose. They built an abbey, the ruins of which are now known as Hunters Tower or Mauchline Castle.

The town of Mauchline is known for the making of curling stones (yes, the ones used in the sport of curling), the production of sandstone, the making of small boxes (with pictures of famous places, representations of Scottish tartans or actual ferns glued on) and the making of clocks. Some of the boxes are called “Mauchline ware” by collectors, others are called “tartan ware” and still others “fern ware.”

Clockmaking was big in Mauchline in the 18th century, but it declined in the 19th and that is when the tall case clock in today’s question was made. Notice, we did not use the term “grandfather clock,” because this is not the proper term for this sort of timepiece. Tall case, long case or hall clock is correct.

Little is known about the maker of this clock, but it was probably Montgomery Ferguson, who worked in Mauchline circa 1837 to 1850. These dates are confirmed by the style of this clock with its elaborated painted dial, which is quintessentially Scottish from the first half of the 19th century. Value? Probably in the $1,000 to $1,500 range for insurance if it is working.

View the original article here.

Treasures: Gumball machine has flavorful history

This gumball machine appeals to some collectors.

This gumball machine appeals to some collectors.

Dear Helaine and Joe:

I am curious about the sale value for my Parkway Machine Corporation gumball machine. Any ideas?

Thank you,

C. M.

Dear C. M.:

Who among us would imagine that chewing gum has ancient origins?

Many cultures around the word used various substances as chewing gum.

In the recent past, a chewed wad of birch resin was discovered by archeologists on the Swedish island of Orust. It was estimated to be 9,000 years old.

We are sure there are librarians and schoolteachers familiar with the laborious process of digging out old pieces of gum from under desks and tables who do not find that hard to believe.

If you were Greek from ancient times, you might have chewed mastiche, derived from the mastic tree.

If you were Mayan, the preferential chew would be sap of the sapodilla tree (chicle).

If you were Native American, it would be the sap from spruce trees. In fact, it was this latter sap that formed the basis for the chewing gum industry in the United States.

It is said that the first commercially available chewing gum in the U.S. was made in 1848 by John Bacon Curtis and was called “State of Maine Pure Spruce Gum.”

The first patent on chewing gum, however, was issued on July 27, 1869. It went to Amos Tyler, but he never actually manufactured his product.

One last note before moving on to C. M.’s gumball machine: It was Mexican dictator Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna of Alamo fame (or infamy) who introduced chicle from the sapodilla tree to Thomas Adams, who tried to make rain boots and toys out of it before flavoring it in 1869 and taking the first step toward modern chewing gum.

Over the years, there have been many ways to buy chewing gum.

One of the most visible is the gumball vending machine, which could (and can) be found in parks, small stores, transportation hubs (Thomas Adams, for example, placed them on New York City subway platforms), restaurants, public buildings and a variety of other places.

The gumball machine was introduced in 1907. Early models from the 1920s and ‘30s were made from cast iron and had glass globes.

Later examples tend to have plastic tops and cast aluminum bases.

These silent salesmen worked (and still work) 24 hours a day — except during Prohibition, when they were outlawed as gambling devices because in some machines of the day every 10th gumball was free.

The Parkway Machine Corporation was founded in 1938 by cab driver Irv Kovens.

The company repaired vending machines at first but was selling them by 1941.

The company is still in business but has moved to Cockeysville, Md.

We believer C. M.’s machine is late second or early third quarter of the 20th century and similar pieces sell in the range of $75 to $100.

View the original article here.

Treasures: Tantalus set is mismatched but attractive

Are these decanters and glasses original to the box?

Are these decanters and glasses original to the box?

Dear Helaine and Joe:

Attached are photographs of an item for your evaluation. It was purchased in the U.K. in 1976. There are no markings.

Thank you,


Dear J.V.:

This is an elegant mahogany box that contains four decanters and six small glasses. The box itself appears to have string inlay and ball feet. Inside, the pair of decanters in front appear to have cut ball stoppers, but the pair in back are less elaborately embellished and have another type of stopper.

There are six glasses with square bases and the bowls may be flute cut. It looks like there may be room at the top of the swing-out doors for six more glasses, but it is a little hard to be certain from the photographs. Getting to the bottom line, we feel the set has been assembled, which means that the decanters and perhaps the glasses did not start out life with the box.

The front pair of decanters and the back pair are mismatched. The front pair look like they were cut in the so-called “Harvard” pattern and this is consistent with their ball stoppers. The pair would probably be from the late 19th or early 20th century.

The rear pair of decanters have square sections and are a little plain Jane but may have been part of the original set. But be this as it may, the front and the back pair of decanters are out of character with one another and we feel the rear pair may be either older than the front or of lesser quality. In fact, we believe the front pair may be American in origin and the rear pair British.

It is a little hard to be sure about the age of the box. The elegant container is in a form associated with the English Regency (stylistically 1795-1837), and from the wear points we see on the lid, it may be of the period. But it could very well be from the English Edwardian period (1901-1910). Only an in-person examination would tell the tale for sure.

The piece of equipment is often called a “Tantalus,” in reference to the Greek story about the mythological figure who angered Zeus and was forced to spend eternity standing in a pool of water underneath a low-hanging fruit tree. According to the legend, every time Tantalus was thirsty the water would recede so he could not drink. and every time he was hungry, the fruit on the tree would be just out of reach.

A Tantalus in our world is a device holding liquor that was locked so the contents were just out of the reach of servants — visible but unattainable. Some of these pieces were nothing more than cases with a locking bar that ran over the tops of the stoppers so the stoppers could not be removed. Others had one or more glass sides, and still others — such as the one in today’s question — were solid, tabletop boxes.

We feel like the set is incomplete and put together from bits and pieces. Still it is attractive and probably has a retail value in the $750 range.

View the original article here.

Treasures: Statue likely less than 50 years old has decorative value

This statue was probably designed to be used outdoors.

This statue was probably designed to be used outdoors.

Dear Helaine and Joe:

This statue is 50 inches tall to the top of her hand. I got her at an estate sale in Laurel, Md., about 25 years ago. I have found no signature.

She is well made and stands proudly in our living room. It would not hurt my feelings if she turned out to have been made under the tutelage of Harriet Frishmuth. Any information would be appreciated.

Thank you,

B. S.

Dear B. S.:

We are familiar with the work of Harriet Whitney Frishmuth (1880-1980). Interestingly, one of us enjoys her statue “The Vine” when visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the other sees it on every visit to the Frank H. McClung Museum at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

Both places have original castings of this iconic Frishmuth nude in the larger 831/2-inch size, which was first made in 1923.

Frishmuth created the sculpture in 1921, but originally, it was only 111/4 inches tall.

The first sculpture was cast by Gorham Coporation of Providence, R.I., and was so popular that 396 were produced.

The point here is there are a rather large number of Frishmuth sculptures in existence, and one or two might indeed have fallen through the proverbial cracks. But, unfortunately, this does not appear to be the case.

How can we be so sure? There are several factors that contribute to our conclusion.

First, genuine Frishmuth sculptures are typically signed with the artist’s name impressed into the bronze.

Second, the vast majority of genuine Frishmuth pieces also carried the Roman Bronze Works (of New York) or Gorham Corporation foundry mark.

Thirdly, the style of the piece is only vaguely reminiscent of Frishmuth’s work and does not exhibit the elan and spirit of her creations.

Lastly, we have some questions about whether or not this piece was actually cast from solid bronze.

B. S. was very good about sending us a variety of photographs. One of them shows the underside of the piece, and it just does not look like bronze to us. The patina on the surface is plainly artificial and of the sort found on relatively modern reproductions, and the color appears to be off. (This may be a problem with the photograph.)

In addition, the underside has a white cast generally not found on genuine bronzes.

Of course, the white cast could be from cement used to add weight to the pieces so it would not topple over in outdoor conditions. Or it might be where it was attached to a base and used as a garden ornament or at the center of a fountain.

In summation, we think the piece is less than 50 years old, has nothing whatsoever to do with Harriet Frishmuth and is probably made from some sort of white metal, possibly with bronze plating.

It is a little hard to establish a definitive value on this rather monumental piece, but we believe, based on its decorative rather than its antique value, an insurance value would be in the $1,500 to $2,000 range and perhaps a bit more.

 View the original article here.

Treasures: Bohemian Lamp is Delightful

Dear Helaine and Joe:

I bought this lamp at an estate sale. I call it a “Czech grape cluster Murano lamp.” There is only one grape half broken. How much is it worth?

Thank you,

D. A.

Dear D. A.:

This is really a wonderful table lamp with five multicolored glass grape clusters that are very festive and attractive. Many lamps of this type have only two clusters, and the grapes are sometimes only a single shade of white grape green.

We do, however, have a small nomenclature problem with the description. The lamp was indeed crafted in the Bohemian region of what is now the Czech Republic, but Murano, a collection of seven small islands in the Venetian lagoon in Italy, has nothing whatsoever to do with the delightful lighting device.

Glass making was important in both Murano and Bohemia. The Venetians were famous for glass during the Medieval period, but in 1291 all the glass makers were ordered to leave Venice and relocate on Murano because it was feared the fires used to make glass would get out of hand and burn down the town (it was largely made from wood at the time).

The Bohemian glass industry really got its start in the 16th century, when artisans learned that by mixing potash and chalk they could made a clear, colorless glass that was more stable than the glass made on Murano. Over the years, and in the most general sense, Venetian/Murano glass became the high priced product, while Bohemian glass became the more affordable.

In fact, Bohemian glass is often credited with putting some American 19th century glass manufacturers out of business because of the price differential. It should also be noted it was Bohemian glass makers who inspired and pointed Louis Comfort Tiffany toward making his now-famous glass products.

There is no doubt the lamp is Czech/Bohemian, but that does not hurt the piece one little bit. Collectors seem to love the Czech lamps, be they baskets with mounds of glass fruit, flowers lighted from within or lamps with hanging bunches of grapes clustered around a lightbulb.

These were very popular during the 1920s. We feel the piece is circa 1925. There are two issues we need to explore quickly. The first is the quality of the lamp base, which in this case, is fairly pedestrian. Better examples have birds and other embellishments.

The second issue is the half-broken grape. We feel that if the defect can be hidden from easy view, the reduction in value should only be about 20 percent overall. If the lamp were in perfect condition, it should have a retail value in the $1,200 to $1,500 range. But the broken grape-if it does not detract too much from the aesthetic appeal of the lamp-reduces this worth to about $1,000 to $1,200. We hope D. A. got a great deal at the estate sale.

View the original article here.

Treasures: Vase was likely mass produced in 1940s

This little vase is a mystery — just how old is it?

This little vase is a mystery — just how old is it?

Dear Helaine and Joe:

This pretty little vase was my mother’s, but I wonder if it was first her mother’s. Most of the things my mother had were midcentury modern, but this little vase stands out as being different. It is 51/2 inches tall and 5 inches across.

It has a delicate white flower on the front with green leaves with some gold. There is some damage to one of the petals. The bottom of the vase is marked with the number 613, a star shape and “Nancy China” written in script. Can you tell me how old it might be?

Thank you,

J. A.

Dear J. A.:

Yes, we have a reasonable range for when this piece was made, but unfortunately, its current owner may be a bit disappointed because it is not as old as she seems to hopes.

Searching on the web for “Nancy China” several possibilities pop up. There is, for example, “Fancy Nancy,” “Miss Nancy,” “Aunt Nancy,” Daum Nancy,” “Nancy Lewis,” Nancy Gallagher” and on and on and on.

Contrary to popular belief, the web is practically useless in this case. If, for example, you try a site like eBay, a couple of examples do turn up for sale. Unfortunately, the information that accompanies these entries does not answer J. A.’s question (not even close).

A good library, however, does help. A fast check of Lehner’s Encyclopedia of U. S. Marks on Pottery, Porcelain and Clay supplies the data required in this case — kinda sorta. Lehner reports that Nancy China was founded by Gerber Plumbing Fixtures Corporation in Woodbridge, N.J.

We checked and found Gerber is still in business (founded in 1932), and they do indeed claim to have founded Nancy China during the World War II years when there was a downturn in the demand for plumbing fixtures. The problem is Gerber was and is located in Woodridge, Ill., and not Woodbridge, N.J.

This leads us to believe there was a mix-up in the location of the enterprise, but not in the identity of the establishing company or the time of the founding. Gerber’s website does not give the exact time of Nancy China’s formation or the date when it closed, but there seems to be consensus among various sources that this ware was produced for only a short time in the 1940s.

Generally, the products of Nancy China are described as being “artware,” but we think today’s collectors might dub it “commercial artware” because there is a very real aspect of mass production. To be sure, the petals on the flower decorating the vase belonging to J. A. were probably hand-applied, but this is a relatively repetitive task that could be done by a worker as opposed to an actual artist.

The damage on the vase is not all that unsightly, but it is there and would make this piece hard to sell. As is, the insurance value of this early to mid-1940s vase is less than $25.

View the original article online.

Treasures: Butterfly pieces unusual, but not unusual enough to be worth a lot

This glass celery dish was cut using a machine process and finished by a workman. It is probably worth less than $50.

This glass celery dish was cut using a machine process and finished by a workman. It is probably worth less than $50.

Dear Helaine and Joe:

I was wondering if you could tell me about my glass dish. It was given to me back in the late 1950s by a couple who were downsizing. I was attracted to it because I have never previously seen butterflies used in cut glass before. I would appreciate any information you might be able to give me.

Thank you,

M. A. W.

Dear M. A. W.:

There is cut glass made by the laborious process of taking a blown glass blank and then decorating it by cutting V-shaped furrows into the surface using copper wheels, sand and water. The resulting grooves were cloudy initially and had to be polished until the cuttings sparkled like those found on precious gemstones.

This required skilled craftsmen, but unfortunately, the piece in today’s question was not made using this time-consuming method. Instead, the glass was pressed into a mold that produced the pattern of the large leaves and stems that are found on either end of this celery dish.

The clear spots in the large flowerlike images and the spots on the butterfly’s wings were also pressed into the surface by mechanical means. So, the dish was already decorated to an extent when it passed to a workman who quickly engraved in the straight lines that make up the rest of the flowers and the butterflies.

What all this means is the celery dish is part pressed, part cut. It also means it was made after what is generally called the American brilliant period of cut glass, which was approximately 1880-1910, a time when glass was intricately cut the way a jeweler might fashion a jewel.

Such pieces were expensive to create. American brilliant period cut glass required very skilled workmen, as well as lots of time. And glass companies were interested in finding a way to cut costs and make their products more affordable to the buying public. Starting about 1900, cut glass patterns started becoming simpler. As World War I approached, the whole process became simplified using the pressed/cut method described above.

We tend to think of this as being the flower period of cut glass. It was very popular during the late 1910s and ’20s. The pressed-in leaves can be found on pieces made by any number of companies, and the flowers made from simple, straight etched lines are ubiquitous or omnipresent.

Pieces with butterflies are pleasant and a bit unusual, but not unusual enough to make them especially valuable. Cut glass in general seems to be out of favor with a wide variety of collectors at the present moment, and these later production pieces seldom (if ever) fetch significant prices. Rare and unusual examples of American brilliant period cut glass can still bring nice money, but not anywhere near the sums realized 10 years ago.

On the current market, this attractive, circa 1920 celery dish would probably sell at auction in the $10 to $30 range and retail for less than $50. Yes, we have seen similar pieces on the web priced in the $165 range, but we think that is wishful thinking and not real world.

View the original article here.

Treasures: Bronze tiger is a fierce find

Is this mythical beast really as old as reported?

Is this mythical beast really as old as reported?

Dear Helaine and Joe:

The bronze tiger has been our family since I was a child. I am now in my 80s. It was given to my father by an old friend who traveled the world in the late 1920s. The marks on the stomach suggest it was made in the Orient. It has glass eyes that seem to follow you around. It has never been cleaned as has its original patina. Nose to tail it is about 20 inches long. The wooden base is also original and is about 24 inches long. What can you tell me about my tiger and its value at auction?

Thank you,


Dear A.H.

Stalking his prey or defending his territory, this bronze tiger is fierce — but he is far from being unique. A casual investigation reveals there are literally dozens of these that have been sold in venues all across the United States in recent months.

The words “Orient” and “Oriental” are on the wrong side of political correctness, so we will hasten to say the tiger has its origins in Japan. We also believe it is Meiji period (1868-1912) and probably dates to sometime in the late 19th century.

The Meiji era marks the end of the Edo period (1603-1868) and the restoration of the Japanese empire. The emperor Meiji ascended to the Japanese Chrysanthemum Throne on Oct. 23, 1868, and his reign and period lasted until his death on July 30, 1912.

He was succeeded by the emperor Taisho (1912-1926) and followed by the emperor Showa, who ruled from 1926 until 1989. As a rule, objects made in Japan are assigned a time period of manufacture based on the reign one of these monarchs.

Besides being a Japanese Meiji period bronze, this sort of object is also referred to as being an “animalier” bronze. The term references small, naturalistic portrayals of animals such as birds, lions, elephants, dogs of various breeds, horses, cows, crustaceans and certain kinds of bugs (such as grasshoppers, cicada, crickets and the like).

There are also animalier paintings, but the small charming bronze figures of animals come to mind most often. Leading animalier artists tend to be French and include P.J. Mene, Antoine-Louis Barye and Isidore Bonheur. As for the specific artist responsible for making this tiger, we were unable to discover his identity, but the animalier bronze craze did come to Japan and was very popular during the late 19th century.

Turning to selling these at auction, examples in the 19 1/2- to 21-inch long size range, with glass eyes, on a base (generally rosewood) with good detailing appear to have sold in recent years in the $650 to $800 range. But please keep in mind that the market for many Japanese items is a bit soft at the moment. Some examples of bronze animalier tigers of this size and quality have sold for as little as $300. We suspect this was due to wrong auction, wrong day.

Read the original article here.

Treasures In Your Attic: Animals most likely not 2,000 years old

Is this mythical creature 2,000 years old, or somewhat newer?

Is this mythical creature 2,000 years old, or somewhat newer?

Dear Helaine and Joe:

These are photographs of an antique winged lion and winged elephant. I purchased these terracotta animals from an antiques dealer in North Carolina who had traveled in Asia. The animals are in pristine condition. I paid $1,000 each for them and was told at the time they were 2,000 years old. Can you provide me with information about my pieces and their value?

Thank you,


Dear S.H.S.:

It is impossible to evaluate these from a photograph, but examining the images closely we have serious doubts about both the age of these pieces and their monetary value.

If these pieces are 2,000 years old, they would be grave goods. This means they would have been buried for approximately two millennia. On the surface (and yes that is a pun), the patination appears to be too even and consistent to have been caused by exposure to ground water and minerals.

The patination, which appears to be greenish in the photos, is too pat. And that the two survived in completely undamaged condition for 2,000 years is a bit hard to swallow. Yes, it happens, but the upraised trunk on the scaly hybrid elephant/fish/dragon mythical creature of undefined origin is too elevated and vulnerable not to have been damaged over the centuries.

OK, we are suspicious of the surface on these two pieces. But we are also bothered by the bases being almost identical. These are not really a pair. One is 32 inches high and the other 28. That would mean they would look fairly odd standing together. But it is obvious they were made in the same factory.

To be 2,000 years old, these would almost have to be Han dynasty Chinese. Collectors do sometimes find thin green glazes on buff-colored bodies from this period, and animal figures were made. But to the best of our knowledge, they were not like these. We also looked at the scales — particularly those incised on the elephant — and these just look too fresh to our eyes and not of the period.

Our guess and our gut feeling is the figures were made somewhere in Southeast Asia (Thailand?) sometime in the recent past and sold as antiques. However, to be sure, S.H.S. would have to have them scientifically tested, and this can be something of a pain in the neck and wallet.

This test is called thermoluminescence or “TL” for short and was pioneered at Oxford University in England. In the United States, we understand that a Connecticut firm called Daybreak Nuclear, in Branford, does this sort of testing. But there may be other facilities closer to Raleigh, North Carolina.

We understand that the test costs about $500. It determines the last time the piece of ceramic was fired. It will not provide an exact date; just whether or not the object is old or relatively new. S.H.S. might also consult with Raleigh appraiser David Lindquist.

View the original article here.

Treasures In Your Attic: Fulper pottery is still collectible

Console sets such as this one were a fad that faded during the last half of the 20th century.

Console sets such as this one were a fad that faded during the last half of the 20th century.

Dear Helaine and Joe:

This Fulper pottery set was given to my mother around 1950. It has “Fulper” stamped on the bottom of each piece other than the flower frog. Is it still considered to be collectible?

Thank you,


Dear E.S.:

To find the beginnings of Fulper Pottery, it is necessary to go back to 1805, when drainage tiles began being made in Flemington, New Jersey. Some sources say this is the beginning date for the company that would become known as Fulper.

Other sources say the company originated when Samuel Hill arrived in Flemington from New Brunswick, New Jersey, in 1814 and began making drainage tiles like some of his neighbors. Hill died in 1858, and the pottery was purchased by one of Hill’s workers, Abraham Fulper.

Fulper branched out a bit and began serving the community’s needs by making earthenware and stoneware objects that every mid-19th century household needed to go about its daily business. They made canning jars, vinegar jugs, beer mugs, bottles, butter churns and drinking fountains for chickens and other poultry.

This was sufficient for the rest of the 19th century. But in 1910, when William H. Fulper II (grandson of Abraham Fulper) was in charge of the pottery, a ceramics engineer named J. Martin Stangl was hired, and fine art pottery began to be made. Stangl was in charge of this ambitious program and was so successful that the company won several awards at the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition held in San Francisco.

During World War I, when German dolls’ heads were not available in the American market, Fulper filled the void and made heads that are now highly desirable to many doll collectors. By the 1920s, Fulper was producing beautiful art lines, but in September 1929 the factory burned to the ground. Operations were largely transferred to the Fulper plant in Trenton, New Jersey, (formerly Anchor Pottery) and the company was renamed Stangl Pottery.

Limited production of art lines continued in Flemington under the Fulper name until 1935 when production ceased. Therefore, the lovely console set given to E.S.’ mother around 1950 was probably made in the time period after the end of World War I but before 1935, and this leads us to say that the set is most likely to be circa 1925.

We think the set is in a color called Flemington Green (it is difficult to tell for sure from the photos), and there may be a crystalline component in the glaze that we cannot see (it will look a bit like snowflakes). Moving on with the E.S.’ main question: Yes, Fulper pottery is still very collectible, but like most other American art potteries, the prices have fallen in the last few years.

The console bowl should be oval and about 16 1/2 by 10 inches while the candlesticks are probably about 7 1/4 inches across. The retail value of this set is now in the $225 to $275 range.

View the original article here.