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All Ears? This Glassware's Worth a Bundle

September 06, 1997|RALPH and TERRY KOVEL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Corn has inspired decorations on porcelain, furniture, metalwork and paintings for centuries. In the 1880s, corn became a symbol of America.

About 1889, the W.I. Libbey & Son Co. of Toledo, Ohio, made a pattern of milk glass that resembled ears of corn. A tumbler was formed from the ear of the corn with green, blue or red leaves. The corn kernels were made in light yellow, white or light green.

The pattern was called Maize, and pieces are expensive collector's items today. A saltshaker sells for $100 to $200; a celery dish for $275; a condiment set with three shakers for about $800.

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Q: We have some kind of a machine that sits on a table with a treadle underneath. The table and treadle look like the base of an old sewing machine. The machine on top has hoses and pulleys. Do you know what it might be?

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A: You probably have a Graphophone, an early sound-reproducing machine made by the American Graphophone Co.

The company was founded in 1887 in Washington, D.C. The machine was made based on the work done by Alexander Graham Bell and not by Thomas Edison, who had invented the phonograph a decade earlier.

The Graphophone used a single-use cardboard cylinder that was thinly coated with a waxy material to hold the sounds. A treadle provided the power.

The Graphophone never became popular. By 1891, none was being made.

A collector would pay hundreds of dollars for a working example.

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Q: I saw a brightly colored vase with a crackle glaze in a shop. The owner said it was a Persian vase. What does that mean?

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A: It simply means the vase was made in Persia, which has been called Iran since 1935. Early pieces are marked with the name Persia.

After World War I, decorative items from Iran were popular in the United States. The items were sold in gift shops.

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Q: My wife has two Ranger Joe Ranch mugs. One is red, and the other is blue. She also has a 1951 photo of herself posing with Ranger Joe. She remembers that there was a Ranger Joe cereal. Do you know any more?

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A: In 1939, Jim Rex founded the Ranger Joe Breakfast Food Co. in Philadelphia. He said he was tired of watching his kids pour sugar on their puffed-wheat cereal.

Ranger Joe Popped Wheat Honnies were puffed-wheat bits dipped in a mixture of honey and corn syrup.

The company logo was a portrait of a cowboy and his horse that was inspired by the Lone Ranger.

During the 1940s, Philadelphia businessman Moses Berger purchased the company and dreamed up all sorts of promotions to advertise the cereal.

Your wife probably picked up her mugs at a grocery-store aisle display manned by an actor hired to play Ranger Joe. Each mug is now worth $10.

In 1954, Berger sold the business to Nabisco, which renamed the cereal Wheat and Rice Honeys and changed the logo character to Buffalo Bee.

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Q: My mother has some silver spoons in what she calls the "fiddle thread" design. The back of a spoon is marked "John Kitt." There are some small marks, a star, an H and an anchor. The family came from France in the 1600s. We wonder whether the spoons came with them.

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A: Your mother's spoon is in the fiddle shape popular in the mid-1800s. It was not made in France. John Kitt worked in Louisville, Ky., from about 1836 to 1878.

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Q: I have a Hawaiian quilt that my family owned for many years. It was made soon after the missionaries arrived in the islands in 1820 and taught the natives to sew. The quilt is very different from those made in New England.

A piece of fabric is cut into an intricate geometric design, then stitched (quilted) to a solid piece of another color. It reminds me of the snowflakes I cut out of paper as a child. The white snowflake was pasted on colored paper to show the pattern. Can you tell me more about my very rare quilt?

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A: Old Hawaiian quilts are rare and valuable today. It is doubtful, however, that your quilt is more than 100 years old.

The Polynesians who settled the islands knew how to sew before the missionaries arrived from New England. They sewed tapa cloth made from bark and probably made some clothes and possibly quilts from imported cotton fabrics.

Hawaiian quilts are made, as you said, from several large pieces of fabric, not from the small patches often used in quilts from the mainland. Every Hawaiian quilt in good condition is of value today.

If you wish other information about antiques, include a self-addressed, stamped (55 cents) envelope, and the Kovels will send you a listing of helpful books and publications. Write to the Kovels, the Los Angeles Times, King Features Syndicate, 235 E. 45th St., New York, NY 10017.

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Current Prices

Current prices are recorded from antique shows, flea markets, sales and auctions throughout the United States. Prices vary by location because of local economic conditions.

* "McCarthy for President" door hanger, paper, autographed by Eugene McCarthy on front under picture, 1968: $40.

* Catalina Pottery pipe holder, white glaze, red island clay body, hand painting, marked, 1.5 by 4 inches: $60.

* McCoy tea set, Sunburst pattern, teapot, sugar and creamer, gold trim: $140.

* Leather-covered trunk, painted, metal tack trim, camphor wood, 1840s: $370.

* Pressed glass water pitcher, Bellflower pattern, double vine, 8.75 inches: $410.

* Jetsons lunch box, metal, dome, 1963: $475.

* Animated Pepsi Cola clock, windup, ballerina turns in the bottom on every hour with music, brown plastic, Germany, 1920s, 6 inches by 4 inches: $575.

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