Treasures In Your Attic: Art Deco Boudoir Lamp is in Demand

This lamp may have once sat atop a television set, but it was not made for that purpose.


Dear Helaine and Joe:

I have a vintage television lamp that depicts a ballerina on a marble base with a glass globe on a stand over a lightbulb. The only marking I see indicates it was made by Murano Glass in Italy. It still works. What can you tell me about it?

Thanks for your time,


Dear D.V.:

We are old enough to remember the days when televisions were new in most homes. We were fascinated by Roy Rogers and Howdy Doody, but our parents were a little unsure about the new technology and insisted we would damage our eyes if we watched too close to the glowing tube or in the dark.

Science took a long road to arrive at the televisions that were available for home use in the 1950s. We have seen timelines that actually start in the 1830s and wind their torturous way to televising the New York World’s Fair in 1939. After the end of World War II, an increasing number of us found ourselves glued to the living room television.

Most television lamps were products of the 1950s and ’60s, but we believe the example from D.V. is somewhat earlier and was initially used as a boudoir lamp. Many people would look at this and call it an art deco lamp with a dancing harlequin either kicking a ball or playing with the moon.

We feel the piece may be from as early as the late 1920s, but early to mid-1930s is probably more accurate. We have seen this exact lamp with a different paint job offered for sale with the glass ball identified as having been made by the Pairpoint Glass Company of New Bedford, Massachusetts, but D.V.’s example proves this to be incorrect.

The bubbled glass sphere was manufactured on the Venetian Island of Murano, but the rest of the lamp was probably made elsewhere. The other example of the lamp we have seen has paint that appears to be a verdigris green with brown outlines. Examining the photographs sent by D.V., the paint seems to be original, except we do find the blue eyes to be a bit spooky.

The metal used to make the piece is described as being “bronze,” but we would not be surprised if it turned out to be bronzed pot metal. In any event, art deco boudoir lamps such as this one are in demand, and this one should be valued for insurance purposes in the $500 to $650 range.

View the original article here.

Share Treasures: Etagere is not a Birdcage, but it is Lovely

It’s not a birdcage, it’s an attractive etagere.

Dear Helaine and Joe:

My parents lived all over the world and I remember this birdcage since I was tiny (I am now 62). I must sell it but have no idea of the worth or where I might go to sell it. It is over 5 feet tall and made from wrought iron; it has hand-painted flowers on the vines and glass shelves. There is a light in the top within the tulip-shaped flower. Your help would be appreciated.



Dear S.:

The first email came in labeled “Le cage aux folles” and we laughed. Literally, the phrase means “the crazies’ cage” (or in another insensitive term, “the nuthouse”), but it has come to mean “birdcage” after the name of the gay nightclub in Jean Poiret’s 1973 farce by the same name.

But when we looked at the pictures supplied by S., we did not see a birdcage and wrote her back, “Are the sides enclosed in glass? Is there a door of some sort? How about a feeding dish? Can you elaborate?”

The reply came back: “No sides, no dish, no door. Stunning in person. New house — no room for a kitchen table!!”

We laughed again and immediately took a liking to S. She sounds like a fun lady.

Closely re-examining the set of enclosed photographs, we saw a tall floor unit with four glass shelves. The sides are decorated with whimsically trailing vines going at the sides, and at the top a metal flower conceals a light bulb. After we got the notion of this being some sort of birdcage out of our birdbrains, it immediately dawned on us that this was an etagere.

An etagere is a piece of furniture consisting of open shelves used for displaying small objects — glass, porcelain, family photographs, tchotchkes and so forth. It is usually tall and sometimes and has enclosed cabinets at the base, but this is not a necessary component.

The etagere in today’s question originated in Italy and was probably made in the 1960s. This fits with S. having been born about 1956 and remembering this since she was a “tiny” girl. The piece appears to have been gilded, but the surface has acquired a lovely soft patina over the past half century or so and the metal supports are surrounded by leaves and vines with 3-D flowers that seem to just sprout here and there.

It is a pity S. did not tell us where she lives so we could direct her a little better to a place to sell her etagere. An interior designer might be interested, perhaps someone specializing in mid-20th century Italian design. An auction house that focuses on upscale mid-20th century items might sell this between $200 and $250 on a good day.

There was a time around the turn of the 21st century when these were hot and snapped up by dealers and designers as quickly as they came on the market. Things have cooled down a bit in the past 10 years, but this is such a lovely and high-quality piece we think it should have no trouble finding a new home.

View the original article here.

Treasures: Clear Opalescent Glass is Generally the Least Desirable

This opalescent vase was probably made in the United States sometime in the 1920s to 1950s.

Dear Helaine and Joe:

This vase may have been a wedding gift to my mom when she was a young woman. She is now 83. She recently passed it on to me and I would like to know more about it.

Thank you,

C. R.

Dear C. R.:

In her original letter, C. R. failed to mention how tall her vase happened to be. We wrote back and asked for the measurement because it is an important piece of information when we have to assign a monetary value. Sometimes vases such as this one can be very tall and are sometimes called “funeral vases” because they were often used to hold large bouquets of flowers in funeral homes.

This particular piece, however, is just 11 inches tall, which means it was probably meant for home use.

We feel the piece was made sometime in the 1910s or ’20s by any one of several glass companies working in Ohio or West Virginia. It is called opalescent glass, and believe it or not, it was made using a deadly poison that often figures in old fashioned whodunits.

Opalescent glass was made by forming a parison (an unshaped mass of molten glass, sometimes called a gather) with either clear colorless or colored glass and coating it with a clear layer of glass containing bone ash and arsenic. The glass is then forced into a mold, either mechanically or by hand-blowing, which leaves raised areas on the body of the glass.

When the piece was removed from the mold, it was reheated and the raised areas turned milky white. The process produced a variety of designs that range from spots, dots and stars to stripes and floral decorations. The opalescence can also be found just as a border around the rim.

Opalescent glass was a very popular product made both in the United States and in Europe at the turn of the 20th century. It was made in vast quantities during the first quarter of the 20th century, and several modern glass companies revived it in the late 20th century. It can be found in a variety of background colors that range from blue and green to cranberry, canary yellow and clear.

Collectors tend to prefer the cranberry pieces, with blue, yellow and green glass following behind. Unfortunately, clear examples are generally the least desirable. The piece has a simple loop design with a white rim, and examples with this coloration and design are not difficult to find.

This is a piece of pressed opalescent glass that was probably an everyday part of C. R.’s mother’s home before she was born. Today, a vase such as this one retails in the $45 to $65 range and is much more important as a cherished heirloom.

View the original post here.

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.