Treasures: Compote’s Style Not in Fashion, Still Desirable

Dear Helaine and Joe:

We have a vintage fruit compote (at least, that is what we think it is). The metal base is pewter, brass and silver plate. The blue glass is thick and the pictures are hand-painted. The blue glass bowl is 5 inches tall and the diameter is 5 by 7 inches. Can you tell us the age, maker and value?

Thank you,

T. and E. D.

Dear T. and E. D.:

The old song says “two out of three ain’t bad,” and we hope that is right because it’s about the best we can do.

This is a type of glass American collectors generally call “Mary Gregory.” Mary Gregory (1856-1908) was a glass decorator who worked for the Boston & Sandwich Glass company of Sandwich, Mass. The most recent report we found states Gregory worked there between 1880 and 1884.

Gregory is most often associated with white enameled images of children in Victorian dress playing in an outdoor setting with hoops, butterfly nets, bubble pipes or fishing rods. The child on the piece in today’s question appears to be carrying a torch like an Olympian would.

Sadly, Gregory never did this kind of decoration and focused instead on animals and landscapes. The pieces of glass embellished with the white enamel depictions of children were typically made in Great Britain, Italy and Bohemia (now part of the Czech Republic) by anonymous artists.

American glassware in the so-called Mary Gregory style was not made until the mid to late 20th century, primarily by the Westmoreland Glass Company of Grapeville, Pa., and the Fenton Art Glass Company of Williamstown, W.V. In our opinion, the piece was made in the early years of the 20th century (say, circa 1910) in one of the Bohemian glassworks.

The pyramidal edges (gilded at one time), the glass’s color and the metal mount style all suggest continental Europe in general and Bohemia specifically. It is also our opinion that the stand was at one time completely silver-plated, but use and polishing have worn most of the surface away, except for a small area directly under the bowl where aggressive polishing was difficult.

Mary Gregory-style glass is not in fashion with current collectors, many of whom consider it to be just too precious. But this is an attractive example that is rather unusual and desirable. For insurance purposes, value this metal-mounted fruit compote in the $275 to $350 range.

Read the original article online here.

Treasures In Your Attic: Silver-plated centerpiece is attractive find

This elegant centerpiece is silver-plated, not solid silver.

Dear Helaine and Joe:

My daughter’s senior class recently collected donations to sell to raise money for a senior trip. Among the donations are two pieces of silver I think may be worth something. I think the candelabra pictured is the more valuable but would love your input.

Thank you,


Dear T.W.:

Our input will be rather limited since you didn’t show us the other piece of silver. But we can discuss the one pictured, and we feel it is a very attractive piece.

When we get letters discussing silver, we are never sure if the correspondent means sterling silver, coin silver, .800 silver, silver-plated or something else. In this case, the mark tells the story and allows us to identify both the type of silver and the maker.

The mark is shaped like a protractor every high school geometry student used to have tucked away somewhere. The mark is semicircular in nature, and in the arc is written “Meriden B. Co.” A depiction of scales is in the center, and across the straight bottom bar is written “International S. Co.”

The “B” stands for “Britannia,” a type of metal alloy mainly composed of tin hardened with small percentages of copper and antimony. Zinc and bismuth might also be used in the composition, and the resulting metal is similar to pewter (minus the lead).

Britannia metal is a silvery-white substance that was used by a number of makers of silver-plated items during the 19th and 20th centuries (and may still be in use today). The piece was manufactured by the Meriden Britannia Company after it had become a division of International Silver in 1898.

The company was organized in Meriden, Connecticut, in 1852. Initially, the company made Britannia hollowware, but by 1855, they were manufacturing silver-plated wares as well. In 1862, Meriden added the very familiar “Rogers Brothers” trademark to their list of brands (the mark tended to read “1847 Rogers Bros.”).

Meriden also produced silver-plated nickel silver items, as well as silver-soldered hollowware. In 1895, Meriden bought out Wilcox & Evertsen, which was located in New York City, and moved the company to Connecticut. The division produced sterling silver hollowware and in 1897, flatware was added to the line.

The silver-plated centerpiece in today’s question is elegant and was done in a style that suggests turn of the 20th century, circa 1910. It is neoclassical in its design and the pieced cover on the center portion is there to allow for flower arranging. Or if the cover is arranged, the center bowl could be used to contain fruit.

Silver plate is not very popular with collectors, but the centerpiece appears to be in great condition and is very attractive. It should be valued for insurance purposes in the $250 to $350 range.

Read the original article online.

Treasures In Your Attic: Bigger is Usually Better with Vanguard Abstract Works

Is this piece of abstract art one of a kind?

Dear Helaine and Joe:

I rescued a painting from a storage unit I purchased. I am not a collector and would like to sell it. It is signed “Lee Burr” and has a label on the reverse reading, “Vanguard Studios Inc.” What is its value?

Thank you,

B.S., Waterloo, S.C.

Dear B.S.:

Lee Raymond Burr (not the actor known for portraying Perry Mason on television) was born in Los Angeles. He and his brother Stuart started Vanguard Studios in Beverly Hills because they felt the average American family should have an opportunity to own a “real” oil painting on canvas.

Pursuant to this goal, the duo hired freelance artists to work on a day-to-day basis depicting a variety of subjects. Lee Raymond Burr began painting original art on canvas, which was then replicated by a crew of copycats.

Burr often traveled to Europe to purchase paintings at auction, bring them home and have his crew of eight to 10 artists create “original reproductions.” As the business grew, Burr hired American artist Harry Wysocki as chief designer and Argentine artist Aldo Luongo as part of his staff.

Burr used a number of different names on the canvases his workshop produced, including Lee Burr, Lee Reynolds and Lee Raymond Burr. The studio also went by slightly different designations, including Vanguard. Sometimes it was called Stuart Studios in homage to Burr’s brother.

Whatever the name on the front of the canvas, Burr did not paint the individual pieces himself. As the sort of frontman, Burr allowed his “students” (i.e. employees, copyists) to use his name (or a variant) on the works they produced. The subjects most often depicted were cowboys or Native Americans on horseback, landscapes, flowers, romantic scenes of Europe and America, and abstract images such as the one in today’s question.

To eliminate variations and inconsistencies, Burr created an assembly line system for painting production. Each canvas was hand-painted with a two-color ground. Black lines for the master design would be silk-screened onto the canvases, and then an artist on the production line would add hand-painting to fill in the outlined spaces as indicated in the master design (it was a bit like a child’s coloring book).

Numbers written on the back of the canvases referred to the painting master, while the initials were those of the studio artist. Interestingly, all the master paintings seem to have been destroyed. The Vanguard pictures were sold through the Vanguard showrooms, often to furniture stores and interior decorators.

Burr sold his interest in Vanguard in 1974, but the company continued in business until the 1990s. Vanguard canvases ranged in size from 50 square inches to 10 by 12 inches. Since we do not know the size of the canvas, all we can say is Vanguard abstract works sell between $200 and $1,800 depending on size, condition, and their aesthetic/decorative quality. Bigger is usually better.

Read the original article here.

Treasures In Your Attic: Decoys appear to have been repainted, decreasing value

These decoys were made on Long Island, New York.

Dear Helaine and Joe:

I purchased these decoys at a flea market on Cape Cod in the 1980s and cannot seem to find a match online for the brand name “Hard,” which is stamped into the bottom of each. Are you able to assist with any information?

If so, thanks,

R.E., Wayne, New Jersey

Dear R.E.:

We would like to have ducked this question because we know so little about hunting decoys. But with more than a little help from our friends — namely, Russ Goldberger of RJG Antiques in Rye, New Hampshire — we are willing to take a proverbial shot at it.

The photographs told us these were a pair of cork-bodied decoys, but beyond that, we were at sea. The type of duck depicted does not go “quack.” But the females make a discordant sound that gives it its name: “scaup.”

More specifically, the cork birds are depictions of lesser scaup, which are sometimes called “little bluebill” or “broadbill” after the shape and color of their beaks. The name “scaup” also might have come from their diet (clams, mussels, and oysters), since that’s the Scottish word for the crustaceans.

According to Goldberger, the decoys were made on the South Shore of Long Island, New York. They have pegged wooden heads and bodies made from cork, which Long Island hunters often salvaged from recycled life vests and life rafts.

They appear to have been made about 1950, and the maker was probably John Boyle of the Incorporated Village of Bellport, New York. (Suffolk County, Long Island). The Boyle family came to Brooklyn, New York, in the 1860s and established itself in the sail-making business, but John H.B. Boyle had little interest in the family business and moved to Bellport, Long Island in the 1920s.

There Boyle established himself as a hunter and maker of decoys both for himself and for his friends. According to the Ward Museum of Salisbury University in Salisbury, Maryland, Boyle patterned his black duck and broadbill decoys after the work of George Robert of Mastic, New York. Boyle is credited with helping organize the 1923 Bellport Decoy Show, which is thought to be the first decoy show held in the United States.

Our specialist Goldberger also tells us the “Hard” mark refers to Aaron Hard, the gunner who owned the group of decoys (called a “rig”) and branded them with his name. The name also appears on Mason Brant decoys, but the pair was not made by that prestigious Detroit factory.

Unfortunately, the duo of decoys in today’s question appears to be repainted and their tails look to be chewed up. If the photos we have are deceiving and the pair is not repainted, the value might be as much as $200 for the pair. But if they are indeed refurbished, that value would drop to approximately half that figure.

Read the original article on the Santa Maria Times.

Treasures: Heirloom Vase Likely Made in 1880s or 1890s

This 1800s vase has some wear, but still has a value of about $100-$125.

Dear Helaine and Joe:

The vase in the photos belonged to my great-great-grandparents on my mother’s side. I speculate that it was an 1850s or 1860s wedding gift. The thin glass has some swirl marks on the body, the white and gold are applied to the surface and the gold color is “pebbled.” It appears there was a lip of gold that is totally worn away. The vase has no chips or cracks. I have also included photos of a chair that was brought to the U.S. by the same couples in hopes that its style might help identify the age of this vase.


J. C. M.

The above letter is the condensed version of the inquiry sent to us. It was so long and so detailed we could not possibly include the whole thing unless it was continued in the next newspaper.

The picture of the chair did help, but the vase’s decoration and style were really all we needed to establish a timeframe. Over the years, we have learned family history is a poor guide to an object’s age, and we tend to discount this type of anecdotal evidence.

Over a long period of time, cherished family heirlooms tend to get older and more monetarily precious than they actually are. Usually, an older relative endeavors to impress a younger person of how much he or she should treasure a beloved family memento, and stories with a kernel of truth at their center tend to grow and expand.

The vase is indeed an old one, and it is probably of Bohemian or German origin. But there are two things that make us believe the piece was manufactured closer to the 1880s or 1890s range.

First, the chair pictured is in the Eastlake style, which was based on the work of British architect, furniture designer and tastemaker Charles Locke Eastlake. Designs such as this one are loosely based on Eastlake’s “Hints on Household Taste in Furniture, Upholstery and Other Details,” published in 1868.

Eastlake style manufactured furniture was not really popular until the late 1870s and into the 1890s. The style persisted in the United States until around 1900.

Second, the vase’s sensuously curved lines and naturalistic depiction of plant life is in the Art Nouveau style. Art Nouveau originated in France and is associated with the 1890s to about 1910. In Germany, the style would have been called “Jugendstil” or “Sezessionsstil.”

In conclusion, we do not believe the vase could have been made any earlier than about 1890, and it was made to be mainly decorative. Unfortunately, we do not know the size, but if it is in the 9-inch to 12-inch range it should be valued somewhere between $100 and $125, partially because of the serious and unsightly wear to the gilding.

At left, this 1800s vase has some wear, but still has a value of about $100-$125.

View the original article online on NJ Herald.

Treasures In Your Attic: Saxony Spinning Wheels Fairly Common

This is called a Saxony wheel.

Dear Helaine and Joe:

Can you tell me anything about the history of this piece? It used to be in my mother-in-law’s house, but she gave it to my husband and me for safekeeping. How valuable and unique is it?

Thank you,


Dear M.B.:

This is a spinning wheel that is often called a Saxony wheel by collectors and by enthusiasts who still use such a device to spin fiber into thread and yarn. Once upon a time, most homes in the United States had one, because homeowners did not just run down to a nearby store to purchase their everyday clothing, bedding and floor coverings.

To be sure, commercially available thread and yarn was available in the United States after the middle of the 18th century. But if a person happened to live in the country, the tendency was to be self-reliant and make household textiles essentially from scratch.

A wide variety of antique spinning wheels are available to the collector. One familiar type is called the “great wheel” or “walking wheel,” and it typically stands about 5 feet tall and was used to spin cotton or wool fibers. It was called a walking wheel because the operator stood and moved about as necessary and operated the wheel with a hand or even a stick.

The “castle wheel” looks a lot different than the spinning wheel in today’s question because it is arranged vertically with a small table on top of the legs, and above that, the wheel and the flyer assembly. There is also a “Norwegian wheel,” which is similar to the piece in today’s question, except the table is horizontal, not slanted as it is in a Saxony wheel.

There are other types of spinning wheels, and the ones mentioned above are just a quick look at varieties often found in the American marketplace. As for the history of M.B.’s example, she should ask her mother-in-law if she is still living. If she has died, M.B. might ask other relatives about what they know about the Saxony wheel.

If the information is not available, the history is probably lost in the mists of time because it is not remarkable enough to tell us much about its specific origins. The sausage turnings on the legs and spokes suggest that it was probably made in the late 18th or early 19th century.

Saxony spinning wheels are fairly common and have become something of a cliche that is avoided by many younger collectors. In the past few years, spinning wheels like this one have been selling in the $60 to $100 range at auction with a few fancier models selling for as much as three times more.

For insurance replacement purposes, M.B. should value her Saxony spinning wheel in the $100 to $150 range.

Read the full article on the Santa Maria Times.

Treasures: Lionel Barrymore Prints Were Mass-Produced

These are gold-toned, but do they glitter in the eyes of collectors?

Dear Helaine and Joe:

Please tell me the value of these gold etchings of Lionel Barrymore sketches and how to go about selling them for my mother.

Thank you,

J. K.

Dear J. K.:

This is not the first time we have addressed the issue of the gold-toned images that carry the “signature” of the great actor Lionel Barrymore in the margin. We discussed this issue about five years ago, and unfortunately, they have not become of more interest to collectors in the intervening half-decade.

One of the prints belonging to J. K.’s mother is titled “Point Pleasant,” the other “Point Mugu.” We are not quite sure where Point Pleasant might be located because most of the images Lionel Barrymore created were from locations in California and New England, but there are Point Pleasant locations in California, New Jersey, Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Point Mugu, on the other hand, is easy to locate. This is located in Ventura County, Calif., near the city of Oxnard. The name is thought to be derived from the Chumash (a seagoing Native American people living in Southern California between about Malibu and Morro Bay). “Mugu” is said to be from the Chumash word “Muwu,” which means “beach.”

Lionel Barrymore was born April 28, 1878, in Philadelphia. His parents were actors Georgiana Drew and Maurice Barrymore, who had been born Maurice Blythe. Young Lionel wanted to be an artist and sometime in the mid-1890s went to Paris to study art.

He returned to the United States in the early 1900s to enter the family business of acting. He had his first role in a Broadway play in 1907, and his first credited film role came in 1908 with the silent film “Paris Hat.” Lionel Barrymore was not really happy with acting and could be found drawing between scenes on movie sets.

He did produce some etchings during his lifetime, and these can be valuable. But the images in today’s question were mass-produced years after the actor’s death in 1955 by Brown and Bigelow, which is a company best known for its production of calendars and promotional materials for entities such as insurance companies. Estimates of the prints’ age vary from the late 1950s to the 1970s.

Although it is a bit fuzzy in the photographs supplied by J. K., we believe the Brown and Bigelow logo is in the lower-left corner of these images. The “Barrymore” pieces normally came in sets in a portfolio. They must have been printed in rather large numbers because they are available both online and in antiques malls across the country.

At least one of the prints appears to be damaged. We definitely see four longitudinal creases in the Point Mugu example, and these will make the image practically worthless. The Point Pleasant example may be in good condition, but its monetary value for sales purposes is probably less than $50.

Read the original article online on the NJ Herald.

Treasures: Lily-Bet Handbag was a Florida Phenomenon

Roses seem to bloom on this vintage Lily-Bet bag.

Dear Helaine and Joe:

My mother purchased this purse many years ago. A label is stitched on the interior pocket, which reads “Designed by Lily-Bet” and “sold at beach resorts, Filbert Imports of the Palm Beaches.” Does the purse have sufficient value to sell, or should I gift it to my niece?

Thank you.

J. S.

Dear J. S.:

In the not-too-distant past, collectors eagerly sought out handbags made from such materials as Lucite, and hand-painted beach bags were popular. And right now, when some vintage handbags made by Prada, Louis Vuitton, Ferragamo, Burberry, Givenchy, Judith Leiber or Valentino come up for sale, they can bring prices in the hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

Lily-Bet handbags are really a Florida phenomenon. The enterprise was part of Filbert Imports of Palm Beach, Fla., and they are thought to have purchased plain, undecorated purses from Stylecraft Miami, JR Florida and other foreign and domestic sources.

Lily-Bet took the plain bags and embellished them in a variety of methods that included hand-painting and appliques. Some of the bags decorated by the Lily-Bet work force — who have been likened to the china painters of the late 19th and early 20th centuries — were Lucite, some were made from vinyl and some were a combination of both materials, such as a vinyl body with a Lucite handle.

The Lily-Bet example in today’s question appears to have a vinyl-covered body with a brown tortoiseshell Lucite handle. The vinyl purses tended to be white, frosted white or black.

Other than box bags like this one, Lily-Bet produced clutch bags, totes and some that looked like briefcases with handles.

J. S.’s box purse appears to be lined with a madras or perhaps paisley-esque material that is reminiscent of the late 1950s/early ’60s. The cream/yellow roses with green leaves are boldly painted. It’s the sort of bag a fashionable lady might have carried while visiting a Florida resort on that state’s east coast (the bags were also sold in the resort areas of Clearwater and Sarasota on Florida’s west coast).

The inset mirror affixed to the top of the bag has a wire twist surround that is both a tad exotic to match the lining, and rather attractive. The pocket might once have held a comb or a face powder compact. Beach bags, as they are sometimes called, have fallen in value rather dramatically in the past decade or so.

At one time the piece would have retailed in the $225 to $275 range, but there are now so many of these available for sale on the internet and elsewhere that prices have fallen considerably.

Right now the range in value on a bag such as this is in the neighborhood of $25 to $75. Negative factors that impact the value are stains, signs of wear and odors that unpleasantly remind the nose of a house full of felines.

Read the full article online on the NJ Herald.

Treasure Hunt

DEAR HELAINE AND JOE: Attached are three photos of an antique doll. Family legend says it belonged to my husband’s great grandfather, who was born in Easton, Pa., on Christmas Day in 1843. The first of my husband’s family came to America 20 years after the Mayflower, so the doll could be older. The face and neck appear to be porcelain and the clothing and body are leather. Have you ever seen anything like our doll before and do you know anything about ours?

— M & T. C.

DEAR M & T. C.: First of all, we want to dismiss the reference to “20 years after the Mayflower” as not being feasible because dolls of this type were simply not made in the 1640s. Approximately 200 years had to pass before children were entertained by playthings such as the one in today’s question.

This is commonly called a china head doll, and it is said they first appeared about 1836. The dolls came in a variety of styles and had wood, cloth or kid (leather) bodies. Some had porcelain extremities (arms and legs); others had less detailed limbs made from wood or leather.

The size range was three to 40 inches. Most examples had painted black hair, but a few did have bald pates covered with wigs. It is interesting that collectors tend to classify these china head dolls by their hairstyles. For example, dolls from the 1840s often have their hair styled into a bun, braid or rolled at the back of the doll’s head.

The 1850s saw the wigs mentioned earlier, but the doll may also have what is called a “covered wagon” hairstyle. For this, there is a center part with a flat top and curls around the head. In the 1860s, the hairstyle might be called a “Jenny Lind” — a middle part with painted hair pulled back into a bun with a high forehead.

The variations seem to be endless. There is the “Queen Victoria” hairstyle (her ears are showing), “Lydia,” “Sophia Smith” (straight sausage curls), “Alice in Wonderland” (headband), “Countess Dagmar” (elaborate curls, even on forehead), “Mary Todd Lincoln” (pulled back, snood), “Adelina Patti” (rolled hair with extensive curls) and “Dolly Madison” (curls and molded ribbon), just to skim the surface.

We really cannot see the hairstyle on the doll clearly enough to make an exact designation, but we feel that it is from the 1840/1850 period and that M. & T.C.’s family history is probably correct or nearly so. But the last 160 or 170 years have not been kind to this doll. She has been through a lot, and the pictures seem to indicate she is all original but in three or four pieces.

It is extraordinary she still has on her original oil cloth clothes, but the skirt may be a later repair or addition. We really feel like she should be kept as a family heirloom and left alone — no need to remove the twine from around her waist or the thread around her neck. No need to reattach the head to the rest of her body. Just leave her as is. Cherish her because she is priceless. Monetarily, her value is in the $250 to $350 range.

Read the original article on the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.

Treasures: Coralene Vase Likely from Czech Republic or Germany

This is a coralene vase, but who made it?

Dear Helaine and Joe: I am looking for information on a vase I bought that is supposed to have been made by Thomas Webb and is decorated with coralene beading. It is acid-stamped “Webb Patent.”

Could you please examine the photo? It is more than 10 inches tall and about 6½ inches at its widest. The top is ruffled Burmese, as you can see for yourself.

– R.S.

Answer: We do not get many inquiries about Victorian art glass, so when we received today’s question, it got our attention right away. We read the letter with some excitement, but as the pictures appeared on our computer screen, our reaction quickly went from “oh, boy!” to “oh, no!”

R.S. is completely right about at least one thing. This is indeed a coralene glass vase, meaning that the bulk of the decoration consists of tiny beads affixed to the surface of the glass in such a manner that they do not rub off without a great deal of effort.

The first patent for coralene glass was issued to Arthur Schierholz of Plauen, Thuringia, Germany on July 7, 1883, and called for beads to be applied to a syrupy enamel. Then the piece was heated until the enamel melted, and the beads became permanently affixed to the surface of the glass.

A number of other glass makers adopted this technique, including Thomas Webb of Stourbridge, England and the Mount Washington Glass Co. of New Bedford, Mass. When the word “patent” is found on a piece of coralene glass, it is often postulated that the word “patent” refers to the Schierholz patent of 1883.

Unfortunately, the mark photographed by R.S. that reads “Webb Patent” appears to be an out-and-out fake and does not resemble any genuine Webb mark reported either by the company or by collectors.

One other issue that needs to be addressed is that R.S. mentions a “ruffled Burmese” top, but this is not the case either. Burmese is a heat-shaded glass that shades from a salmon pink to a soft yellow and was first patented by Frederick S. Shirley on Dec. 15, 1885. The ruffled top on the piece belonging to R.S. appears to be a solid raspberry shade that does not resemble true Burmese in any way.

The piece shown here appears to have a clambroth body with a raspberry top created by the “die-castaway” method. It was handblown, but the rough, broken pontil scar located on the base is not consistent with the work done by Thomas Webb. Also, the quality of the coralene decoration found on this vase is not up to Webb’s standard.

The piece was probably made in Bohemia (modern-day Czech Republic) or perhaps in a glass producing region of Germany. It appears to be circa 1900, and if it is in excellent condition, it should have an insurance replacement value in the $175 to $225 range on the current market.

Read the full article online on Reading Eagle.