Longaberger Basket Company Going Out Of Business

After riding a wave of popularity for its collectible baskets for nearly a decade, the Longaberger Company has announced it is going out of business. In a message sent to salespeople, published by the Columbus Dispatch, officials of the Ohio-based basket maker offered little details on the closure.

“I am very sorry to have to tell you that Longaberger, at this time, has ceased operations,” the company’s message said. “I’m heartbroken to have to pass this information along, but I wanted to help you to get the information you need now from the website so that you can be prepared as you contact your customers.”

The note advised sales consultants to “please take action as soon as possible” in contacting credit card companies and also advised against attempting to place any further orders.

A ’90s Icon

The fall of Longaberger seemed unlikely in the 1990s, when the company hit its peak numbers. With sales of $1 billion and close to 8,000 employees, Longaberger baskets were one of the hottest home decor and collectible items on the market, according to the Columbus Dispatch.

The company’s office in Dresden, Ohio, which was shaped like one of its signature baskets, saw up to 60 busloads of visitors a day, who’d come and pay homage to the basket maker.

The history of the Longaberger Company goes all the way back to 1919, when J.W. Longaberger started working with the Dresden Basket Factory. Even after changing jobs numerous times, Longaberger always kept his love for handmade baskets.

Fast-forward to the 1970s when his son, Dave, asked his father to make a few baskets to sell locally. They sold quickly and eventually, in 1976, Dave Longaberger opened J.W.’s Handwoven Baskets, which eventually became the direct-sales company, Longaberger.

Sadly, in 1999, at the peak of the company’s popularity, Dave Longaberger died of kidney cancer at the age of 64. That, combined with the public’s changing design tastes, seemed to doom the company. The beloved basket building was sold and financial and family relationship problems plagued the heirs of the company.

What Are They Worth Today?

How about those Longaberger baskets you may have sitting in your house — are they worth any money? Experts say you shouldn’t get your hopes too high.

“The resale market for Longaberger baskets is at the garage-sale level at the moment,” Helaine Fendelman, a brand expert who has written for Country Living magazine, told the Columbus Dispatch recently. “With that said, if a basket sold for $100, $150, what will it sell for at a tag sale? Maybe $20, $25, or someone who doesn’t know or doesn’t care may take $10 or less.”

A search on eBay turns up a Longaberger tissue box for $33:

And a classic basket with wooden top for $20:

We’ll have to wait and see if the company’s demise ends up driving up the baskets’ value. In the meantime, keep those baskets around the house and remember the good old days when we got together with some friends, enjoyed some drinks and placed a new order.

Read the original article here.

Napoleon’s Fetishized Dishes Are the Dark Horse of the Rockefeller Sale at Christie’s

The Marly Rouge Service: a Sevres porcelain iron-red and sky-blue ground part-dessert service made for Napoleon I, circa 1807-09.
Photo: Courtesy of Christie’s

Read the original article on Architectural Digest.

This month, Christie’s auction house is selling art and objects from the David and Peggy Rockefeller estate valued at several hundred million dollars, for charity. The couple’s Picasso, Matisse, and Monet have gotten all the fuss, but David Rockefeller’s mother, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, also collected Napoleon’s spectacular Sevres porcelain dessert service. She passed the Imperial china down to her son, and it now goes on the block May 9 with suggested starting bids circling $200,000.

A certain set of the decorative arts market is dizzy over this. But which owners are mattering more to buyers: Napoleon or the Rockefellers? “It’s a provenance trifecta,” says Helaine Fendelman, longtime board member of the Appraisers Association of America and author of several books on valuing antiques. “Not only David and Peggy and Napoleon, but also the illustrious Abby Aldrich. Rarity? Exclusivity? Beauty? This is the height of porcelain collecting.”

And with, excuse the expression, the dish on the dishes going back centuries, they could fairly be called “historic.”It turns out the ill-fated emperor was something of a china fetishist, annoyed and inspired by the fact that Louis XVI had had a 445-piece Sevres service crafted for himself over a decade. The Sevres factory was actually a national manufactory, explains Jody Wilkie, cochairman worldwide of the Christie’s decorative arts department, so Napoleon, like other monarchs, began to use it upon his ascent to power as “his personal gift closet.” For himself, he commissioned a 256-piece dessert set with a brilliantly colored pattern called “Marly Rouge,” edged in iron red and adorned with delicate, detailed paintings of butterflies and, somewhat strangely, insects such as moths, ants, and bees.

Sevres records are meticulous and show its delivery October 7–18, 1809, to the palace of Fontainebleau. Historians know that the service was personally important to Napoleon because he had bothered, when he had changed travel plans to head to that hunting chateau, to have the new service delivered there instead. Perhaps it had sentimental value: It was that fall and in that place that the emperor told his wife of 13 years, Josephine, that he was divorcing her to marry an Austrian princess.

The Collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller contains 22 of the Marly Rouge pieces, the biggest tranche to hit the market in over a century. That’s about a tenth of the original set, which included a dazzling 188 plates alone, plus items such as sugar bowls decorated with dolphins on the feet or eagle heads.

While it’s a very old-money collecting field today, when Aldrich started picking up the porcelain, Wilkie notes, “in the ’20s, ’30s, and ’40s, it was extremely avant-garde.” That innovation, on top of the famous names and stories connected to it, will carry a premium, she says. The Marly Rouge set goes on the block at about 10:30 A.M. on May 9, and she’s warning potential buyers the auction will be “very, very slow” because so many international collectors and museums have expressed interest.

David Rockefeller shared that passion. Strangely, he too had a thing for insects, collecting from childhood several hundred thousand specimens. He was so prominent in the field that a rare beetle discovered in Mexico was named after him. So he prized the detailed and accurate painting of bugs on some of the pieces.

Did he actually use them? Yes, indeed—a fact confirmed by Martha Stewart, a Sevres collector herself and a longtime friend and neighbor in Maine of the Rockefellers. Reached by AD at the filming of her television show, Stewart, who notes that her taste in china is more conservative than Rockefellers’ and that she favors “19th-century Wedgewood drab-ware,” says the dessert service was a feature at his wonderful dinner parties. (And writing in her latest issue of Martha Stewart Living, she adds that “he admitted that if the conversation at a party ever stalled, he could always bring it back to life” by talking of the royal provenance of the dishes.)

Indeed, history changed over those dishes. Biographers maintain that for years Josephine had argued successfully that it was Napoleon’s failure they had no children, since she already had two from a previous marriage. But then the pregnancy of his mistress in the summer of 1809—accounts differ on which mistress—showed that to be false. In need of an heir and now sure there would be a chance, on November 30, 1809, Napoleon announced his decision to divorce at dinner.

Josephine reacted badly, but there is no record of his wife throwing dishes against the wall. Of course, there are all those missing plates.


Treasures: Piece Was Meant for a Traveling Scribe

This device seems mysterious at first, but its real use is clear.

Dear Helaine and Joe:

We inherited this piece from a family member. We believe it is some sort of incense burner used for religious ceremonies. The longer shaft is 9¼ inches in length and is hollow inside as if it were meant to hold matches, but there is no area on which to strike a match. The bowl has a hinged top with metal rings. It appears to be brass, but one friend thinks it might be gold (we wish!). Any information would be appreciated.

Thank you,

B.F., Hot Springs Village, Arkansas

Dear B.F.:

Excellent guess, but it is way off the mark.

An incense burner used for religious ceremonies is a romantic notion, but in a way, the real use for the piece may be even more romantic and perhaps more exotic.

But like everyone else, these people have business to transact and/or letters to write to loved ones in distant locales. Into this setting comes a traveling Islamic scribe who earns his living reading and writing letters and documents for those who cannot do it for themselves.

In his sash, this scribe carries a case like the one in today’s question. Inside the long, rectangular tubelike box are pens, while the smaller squarish covered box with the hinged lid contains ink. The scribe sits, and the villagers come to him to write their letters and documents. And in return, the scribe receives a small fee.

The scribe is a respected man, a man of letters and his work is vital to his country and his culture. The box that holds the tools of his trade is called a “qalamdan,” which is also spelled “kalamdan,” and it’s a box for storing a pen or pens. The example belonging to B.F. is a traveling scribe’s version, but there are others that are just boxes of varying sizes made from a variety of materials.

Yes, some are made of gold, a few more are made from silver, and still others are just inlaid with gold and silver. Some are beautifully damascened steel, others bronze, but most are made of brass or lacquered papier-mache. The latter variety is often beautifully painted, usually with a profusion of flowers but more uncommonly with a figural component.

The value of the box depends on the age, the materials used and the artistry shown. Most traveling scribe’s pen boxes are rather humble affairs because their owners were just eeking out a living among the poor villagers. A few qalamdan turn up that are either made from precious materials or are artistic marvels. But unfortunately, the piece in today’s question is not one of these.

Qalamdan such as this one are relatively available and have a modest retail value. This one from the mid- to late 19th century is worth between about $150 and $200.

View the original article online.

Treasures: A Nice Example of China Carved Soapstone

While pretty, this figurine is soapstone, not jade.

Dear Helaine and Joe:

I recently read your article entitled “Treasures, porcelain figures look old, valuable, but looks are deceiving,” in our newspaper. I would love to know about a jade statue/figurine that I received from my in-laws. Would you give me some feedback?

Thank you,

M. L. W.

Dear M. L. W.:

It is highly ironic that the titled quoted ended with the thought that “Looks can be deceiving,” because that is very true in this case.

Traditionally, the term “jade” is used to describe two different minerals — Jadeite and Nephrite. Both of these materials have been used since prehistoric times for hardstone carving with jadeite having about the same hardness as quartz and nephrite being a bit softer but tougher and more resistant to breakage.

Nephrite can be found in shades of green, but it can be found also in creamy white (sometimes called “Mutton Fat”), gray, near-black, and yellowish to brownish colors. Jadeite, on the other hand can be found in highly prized and translucent emerald green, blue, red, black, dark green, lavender, and white. Items carved from jade have been treasured around the world — especially in Asia, Latin America and New Zealand.

Unfortunately, the piece in today’s question was not made from jade. Instead, it was carved from a material that is not considered to be a gemstone and one that is softer than either jadeite or nephrite and far easier to carve. It is generally called “soapstone” or less commonly among collectors “steatite.”

Soapstone has a high talc content that can range from about 30 percent to as much as 80 percent. The softer grades of soapstone can feel a bit like a bar of soap when touched — thus the name. The carving belonging to M. L. W. appears to be very typical of soapstone carvings made in China at the turn of the 20th century or slightly before.

This one appears to be a grouping of small vases surrounded by a profusion of chrysanthemum blossoms and leaves. This was meant to be a mantel or table ornament and was not designed to serve a utilitarian purpose — such as holding an actual flower arrangement or long matches for a fireplace.

This appears to be a very nice example of Chinese soapstone carving but vast quantities were exported to the United States and elsewhere and are commonly found. Many are rather simplistic and crudely carved, but this one appears to be nicely done and some of the individual chrysanthemum blossoms appear to be detailed and very well executed.

Unfortunately, M. L. W. failed to tell us the size of her piece and this will prevent us from offering a firm estimation of its value. If the piece is relatively small say four or five inches, the insurance value might be less than $125, but it if is significantly larger, that value could triple. Also, the condition must be pristine or very nearly so in order for this soapstone piece to be of value to collectors.

View the original article here.

Treasures: Mahogany Chair

This is a lovely old chair, but is it a collectible by itself?


Q: I have inherited what I think is a 19th-century mahogany chair. I have done research in the library but cannot find anything that resembles this style.

A: This is indeed a 19th-century chair and it does appear to have been constructed from mahogany. But a careful examination of the photograph suggests the chair back is decorated with strips of burl mahogany arranged in a chevron pattern, and underneath this may be mahogany or some other hardwood.

The chair has slender cabriole legs, side piercings accented with large “C” scrolls and an elaborate crest with scrolls and leaf tendrils.

All this combines to tell us the piece is in the Victorian rococo revival style that was popular between about 1840 and 1865. So, the chair is probably circa 1860. Most likely, the chair plus a matching companion piece would have been used in an entry hall so guests could have a place to sit before being admitted to the drawing room.

What it’s worth: Single chairs are not highly valued in the current marketplace. For insurance purposes, the piece should be valued at less than $100, and at a big city estate sale, it might struggle to find a buyer for as little as $35.

View the original article at the bottom of this page.

Antiques: Painting’s Chips Slash its Value

This small seascape is typical of Whitney M. Hubbard’s work.

Q: I have had this Whitney Hubbard oil painting for many years and would like to know its value. It is small, measuring 8 by 9½ inches. It has a couple of spots where the paint has chipped.

– L.I. Sound by Whitney M. Hubbard, Greenport, Long Island, -.Y. (the “N” is missing) — does not hurt.

Hubbard was born in Middleton, Conn., in 1875. He exhibited at the National Academy of Design, the Chicago Art Institute and the Brooklyn Museum of Art, but the Great Depression hampered his career.

At his death in 1965, his art was not appreciated and sold for only a small amount of money. But art dealer Melvin Kitchin promoted his work, and today it brings respectable if not spectacular prices. Hubbard painted landscapes and marine scenes associated with his home on Long Island. He also painted some portraits, and we found one cityscape of New York City.

What it’s worth: In perfect condition, this beautiful, impressionistic seascape with sailboat might have brought as much as $1,200 at auction. But with the damage, we feel that would be reduced by as much as three-quarters. While we think the damaged spots can be repaired, the job will be expensive, and this will reduce the value of the painting considerably.

View the original article here.

Treasures: First Edition of Rare Book a Valuable Find

This beautifully illustrated book is hard to find, and the first edition is very desirable.

Dear Helaine and Joe:

Do you know anything about this book?

Thank you,

L. P.

Dear L. P.:

Yes, we know quite a lot about this book. But it would have helped if we had more information from the owner. As it stands, we are going to have to make do with what we can glean from the photographs.

First of all, the title of the tome appears to be “An Encyclopedic Outline of Masonic, Hermetic, Qabbalistic and Rosicrucian Symbolical Philosophy” by Manly P. Hall.

It was first published in 1928 by H. S. Crocker of San Francisco.

Manly Palmer Hall was born in Peterborough, Ontario, in 1901 and was a distinguished scholar, philosopher, author, lecturer, astrologer and mystic.

In 1934, he founded the Philosophical Research Society in Los Angeles, which is still in existence (and for more information beyond the few words we can write about the book, we suggest L. P. contact the famous institution).

According to the photograph of the title page sent by L. P., the copy in today’s question is from the “Subscriber’s Edition,” which was the first edition and limited to just 550 signed copies.

The information we could find was unsubstantiated, but we have found reference to examples from this particular edition having been bought a year before the manuscript was turned over to the publisher, and the cost for each copy was originally $75 ($15 on signing up, and $60 thereafter in four easy installments). After publication the price was $100.

This is copy No. 9 of the 550, and Hall signed it twice — once as the author signing a limited edition and again in a dedication to the buyer, which may read “To M. Bane Very Sincerely Manly P. Hall.”

After the Subscription Edition, there was the King Solomon Edition (550 copies), the Theosophical Edition, (200 copies), the Rosicrucian Edition (100 copies) and the fifth edition (800 copies).

The book, which was designed by John Henry Nash, a printer to the Vatican, should be in elephant folio size (approximately 121/2 by 19 inches), and the paper should have an “Alexandra Japan Made in USA” watermark.

There appears to be an information sheet from a bookseller whose name was only partially shown, but we believe it came from Acorn Books, a bookstore founded in San Francisco in 1980 but closed in the recent past.

The sheet tends to verify this is the first edition of Hall’s most important book, but the volume in today’s question does have some problems.

We do not know if it has its original slipcase. And there is damage to the spine in the form of chipping to the title plate.

However, this is a common problem with the book.

We have found the book retailed for as little as $1,500 and as much as $4,500 and feel that an in-person examination would be necessary before a firm price can be established for the rather rare book.

View the original article here.

Cutlery Set is Likely Incomplete

These are very elaborate and beautiful, but are they valuable?

These are very elaborate and beautiful, but are they valuable?

Dear Helaine and Joe:

I purchased this boxed set of six pairs of cutlery (six knives, six forks) in England around 1986 at an antiques store in Sheffield. It is sterling silver with hallmarks and pearl handles. The hallmarks are on the blades. I was told at the time this was a fish set used for eating the fish course. Can you tell me about this type of set and what mine might be worth?

Thank you,

B. S.

Dear B. S.:

Dinner can be a hurried affair in many modern American homes. Some of these dinners do not even require flatware of any nature – takeout chicken eaten over the sink, handheld hamburgers and French fries to name just two. What a pity.

On the other hand, dinner could often be a formal affair in many upscale British homes during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. To begin, the table might have been set with very fancy place plates that were whisked away when the hors d’oeuvres were served. (The phrase hors d’oeuvres means “before the works,” with “the works” being the main course.) This part of the formal meal was served on a more utilitarian, course-specific plate, which in some instances was placed on top of the service or place plate.

After this came the fish course. With this portion of the meal, fish plates might have been laid down, and the star of the course would have arrived on a special platter designed just to hold the fish. There would have been a matching sauce boat, and vegetables might have accompanied the aquatic offering, sometimes in a matching tureen. There might also have been bone dishes at each place to accommodate these pesky obstructions to eating.

With the special plates, platter, sauce boat, bone dishes and tureens would have come specialized utensils. These so-called “fish sets” might have had handles made from ivory, bone, celluloid, sterling silver or silver plate. The blades of the knives were almost always silver-plated on nickel or some white metal to withstand the wear they would receive.

B. S. believes her set is composed of mother of pearl and sterling silver, but she is only half right. The handles are most certainly mother of pearl, but the blades are clearly marked “EP,” which means they were electroplated. There may be sterling silver ferrules between the handles and the blades, but we could not see a sterling mark in the photographs.

The sets are rather commonly found even in the United States, and most complete sets are service for 12. Many (not all) come with a large, fancy, broad-bladed fish knife and matching large fork to facilitate moving portions from the serving platter to the individual plates. We feel the set in today’s question is only a partial set, and originally, there may have been at least six more knives and six more forks in the box.

To conclude the formal meal we have been discussing, there would have been a main course after the fish, followed by a salad course (simple greens and a vinaigrette), a cheese course (in Britain served with fruit and condiments) and a sweet dessert course, all served with specialized utensils and dinnerware. The six fish forks and six fish knives in today’s question with the box is worth no more than $100 to $150 at retail.

Treasures: Fun Conversation Piece was Mass Produced, but Loved by Some Collectors

Dear Helaine and Joe:

I have a painting with a lot of character that hangs in my office. The painting is 4-by-2 feet with a 3 {-inch gold colored wooden frame. It is a lighted black velvet painting signed with the name “Ashbrook” in the lower left corner. I would like to know about the artist and where the painting originated. Also, the year it was done and the story about its creation. Most people do not like it, but it has been a good conversation piece.

Happy to be from the Midwest,

D. G.

Dear D. G.:

Helaine is also happy to be from the Midwest, and we both think the piece is a proverbial hoot and a half. Yes, we understand why most people do not like it, but it is fun and from a time that is attracting more and more collector interest.

We have done quite a lot of research on the name “Ashbrook” with some success. There are those who see these lighted pictures with the name “Ashbrook” and attribute them to Paul Ashbrook, a Cincinnati artist who lived from 1867-1949.

Unfortunately, that is just a wagon load of wishful thinking. Ashbrook was long dead before the piece belonging to D. G. was manufactured. That’s right-manufactured. It was, in fact, mass produced by a company and not created by a specific artist.

We cannot be absolutely sure about the history because the firm’s records are sparse and ambiguous. But we believe the piece was created by Ashbrook Studios, which went into business on Aug. 15, 1974, in Garden Grove, Calif. Reports are they went out of business sometime in the 1980s, but we could not find an exact date or a history of the company’s enterprises.

What we did find suggests Ashbrook Studios silk screened home decor items-often on Masonite, but we suppose black velvet was within their range. Their work is commonly referenced by collectors as being “illuminated paintings” or “light-up” paintings with windows, lamps or lanterns that have small lights behind them.

These vintage light-up pieces tend to be brightly colored depictions of such things as boats, architecture (some with fountains or flamenco dancers), European scenes or views of San Francisco featuring the Golden Gate Bridge, trollies and/or pagodas. We found Ashbrook Studios images of owls with light-up eyes (in the dark, this must have been spooky) and another of Plains, Ga., which must have been manufactured around the time Jimmy Carter (Plains’s most famous citizen) was president of the United States (1977-1981).

Not surprisingly, we found there are collectors who love these pieces. Some of them remembered Ashbrook Studio images from their childhood homes and wanted to purchase similar examples. Such nostalgia is an important motivation in some forms of collecting, and this country barn scene with musicians and a dog might very well resonate with those who remember it or are just interested in late 20th century kitsch.

Most of these seem to be offered for sale in the $150 to $250 range, but we did find one Ashbrook Studios image priced at more than $10,000! Yeah, right.

View the original article here.

Treasures: Cherry Blossom Dish, Ladle is from Noritake

Shaped like an acorn? Maybe, but we think it was probably intended to resemble a melon.

Shaped like an acorn? Maybe, but we think it was probably intended to resemble a melon.

Dear Helaine and Joe:

This acorn-shaped dish and ladle is marked with a blue flower and “Made in Japan.” It originally belonged to my great grandmother of Portsmouth, Va., who lived 1859 to 1935. It has now been passed down to me. I have searched for the trademark but cannot find the manufacturer’s name or its market value. Any information would be appreciated.

Thank you,

C. B., Suffolk, Va.

Dear C. B.:

We are answering this question primarily for two reasons.

One, the piece is complete and charming, and its original use may not be immediately apparent. And two, we can supply the name of a website that might help many readers determine who made their seemingly anonymous pieces of Japanese porcelain.

We were fairly sure who was responsible for making the piece just by looking at it, but when we checked the list of marks for that particular maker it was not there, and we had to dig deeper. Turns out we were kind-of-sort-of right in the first place.

C. B. describes the covered vessel as being “acorn-shaped,” but we really think it is more melon-shaped with a finial that may or may not be a tomato or some other kind of unrecognized garden fruit. In any event, it and the ladle were meant to be used to serve a condiment such as mayonnaise on an American table or buffet from the mid-1920s or early ’30s.

At first glance, everything about the piece says “Noritake.” And in a very real sense it is. In 1904, Ichizaemori Morimura founded the Nippon Toki Kashi Company to export high quality, Western-style dinnerware to the United States. The firm was located in the village of Noritake, near Nagoya on Honshu Island, and the firm later became known as “Noritake.” The letter “M” is often part of the company’s trademarks.

The particular mark on the piece is basically a cherry blossom printed in blue with the words “Made in Japan” underneath.

But if C. B. examines the mark closely, it becomes apparent that the five pedals that compose the flower are actually made of “Ms,” which supposedly stand for “Morimura.”

Clever, but not readily apparent unless you are looking for it and understand what you are seeing. This cherry blossom mark was first used circa 1924 on Noritake pieces subcontracted to be produced by other, independent Japanese porcelain manufacturers. We have found the mark printed in both blue and green.

In summation, the piece was made under the auspices of Noritake, but in a factory whose identity was probably lost in the fires of World War II, when Noritake’s records were destroyed. For more information on marks on Japanese porcelain, we suggest going to gotheborg.com. It’s a wonderful resource.

The value of this very interesting piece is largely sentimental as a family heirloom, but for insurance purposes its worth is in the $85 to $110 range.

View the original article here.