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Fish Server Evolved From the Scimitar


Fingers were the earliest serving spoons and forks. Later, shells or carved horns were used. By the Middle Ages, serving pieces included a carving knife with a broad blade, a skewer and perhaps a fork. These pieces gradually became the ornate serving sets of the 18th century.

Fish was often boiled, and the fish server most favored was a flat "spatula" perforated so the water would drip away from the meat.

The blade of the fish server, often called a fish slice, was patterned after the Oriental scimitar. It gradually changed shape, becoming more rounded and less like a knife. The fork was paired with a fish slice about 1830.

By the 1850s, the fish serving set and the cake serving set were similar. Sets decorated with cutout fish were used for a single purpose.


Question: My house is filled with blond wood furniture that we bought in 1954 at a store in Oakland. We have a desk, two dressers, two end tables and a coffee table with wrought-iron legs. The furniture was out of style for a long time, but I understand it's becoming popular again. What is my furniture worth?


Answer: Collectors of 1950s furniture and decorative accessories look for pieces by famous designers, including Americans George Nelson and Isamu Noguchi. It is important to check the marks or labels on your furniture. Many manufacturers made chairs, tables, desks and dressers similar to famous designs. If your pieces are not labeled with the name of a well-known manufacturer or designer but are sturdy, well-constructed and in good condition, they will sell. Only the best designs by the best makers bring top dollar.


Q "There's a saying old and musty/Yet it is ever new/'Tis never trouble, trouble/Till trouble troubles you" is printed on the side of my 8-inch blue-and-white pitcher. The marks on the bottom include a lion holding a globe and the words "Jones, McDuffee & Stratton, Boston." What can you tell me about it?


A Your blue-and-white transfer-printed pitcher was made in England between 1898 and 1919. The motto about trouble was used on many English pitchers. Jones, McDuffee & Stratton was a Boston retailer that sold American and European pottery and porcelain from the early 1800s until about 1953.

The "Lion & Globe" trademark on the bottom of your pitcher was registered in 1898 by Hawley Bros. Ltd., an English pottery in Rotherham, Yorkshire, England. The mark was used by Hawley Bros. until 1903, and by their successor, the Northfield Hawley Pottery Co., until about 1919.


Q I have owned a tall, clear glass Coca-Cola bottle for at least 23 years. The bottle has straight sides and an unusual, wide lip about 2 inches below the mouth. On the front of the bottle are the words "Drink Coca-Cola." The brand name is in script and is acid-etched in white inside a scrolled circle. How old is the bottle, and what is it worth?


A You have a Coca-Cola syrup bottle that dates from the 1920s. Coca-Cola syrup bottles were sold to soda fountains around the country. Soda "jerks" mixed a little of the syrup with carbonated water to serve a 5-cent glass of Coke. Your syrup bottle would be worth $500 if you had its original cap. Without the cap, it is worth $250.


Q My grandfather left me an old portable wire recorder marked "Webster Chicago." It still works. I understand that this type of machine was used before the invention of tape recorders. Can you help me with the history?


A The wire recorder, which used magnetic steel wire to record sounds, was invented in 1898 by Danish scientist Valdemar Poulsen. Poulsen called his invention the Telegraphone. It was not commercially successful because it had limited range and lacked a good method of amplification. However, the invention did lead to research in the areas of electricity, magnetism and acoustics and to the development of magnetic tape by the 1920s.

Scientists continued to experiment with magnetic wire recording. Machines such as yours were being made by the 1940s. Widespread production and sales never happened because American GIs returning from Europe reported that the Germans had made great strides in developing methods of tape recording. American engineers realized the advantages of the German methods and poured their energy into developing magnetic tape technology for recording and broadcasting.

The name "Webster" on your recorder may be connected with one of the early 20th century American researchers in acoustics, Arthur Gordon Webster.

For a listing of helpful books and publications, include a self-addressed, stamped (55 cents) envelope to Kovels, Los Angeles Times, King Features Syndicate, 235 E. 45th St., New York, NY 10017.


Current Prices

Figures are recorded from antique shows, flea markets, sales and auctions throughout the Unites States. Prices vary because of local economic conditions.

* "I Love Lucy" comic book, No. 26, 1960, $25.

* Jolly Time Popcorn pail, No. 1, images of boys and girl, Good Housekeeping seal, red ground, white writing, 1927, 5 by 4 inches, $55.

* Limoges candy dish, roses, scene on cover of boy playing with dog, 7 by 5 3/4 inches, $105.

* Arranbee Littlest Angel doll, plastic head, sleep eyes, brunet saran wig, 1954, 10 inches, $155.

* Kerosene lamp, white onyx, frosted spherical shade, electrified, circa 1885, 29 1/2 inches, $245.

* Sterling silver flatware cocktail fork, Lilly pattern, by Whiting, 1902, 7 pieces, $385.

* Gaudy Welsh sugar with cover, pinwheel pattern, 6 1/2 by 7 inches, $425.

* Steuben figurine, rooster No. 8074, 1955, 9 1/2 inches, $990.

* Cast-iron garden bench, double-arched top, down-swept arms, pierced and arched apron, late-18th century, 62 inches, $1,045.

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