Question: Do you know anything about "personal toothpicks"? I have one that I found in a drawer of an old vanity. I think it is ivory. It is nicely carved at the top and the point is intact.
Answer: Ivory toothpicks were part of a 19th-century gentleman's grooming kit. Some men carried them in pocket-size holders. Or, the toothpicks might have stood in special holders on a dresser or tabletop. Most of the plain ones were made in the Far East. Fancier toothpicks with carved handles were made in Europe and the United States.
Q Is there any way to clean soda bottles with painted labels without smearing or totally wiping off the labels? I like to dig for old bottles and have found many, but I don't know how to clean them.
A Soda bottles with embossed enamel lettering or applied colored labels (ACLs), like all old bottles, have to be cleaned carefully. If you damage the label, you reduce the value of the bottle. Never use a solvent, and don't rub or scrub across the label.
You can rinse the bottle with water. If it needs more cleaning, soak it in water for an hour and let it air dry.
If the bottle is still not clean, wipe it with a small amount of rubbing alcohol applied to a soft cloth--but never touch the label. Then rinse with water again and air dry. If the label remains dirty, that's OK. It's better to have a dirty label than no label.
Q My mother's silver-plated corkscrew is marked with three crowns. She received it as a wedding present. Will the mark help to tell where it was made?
A The three-crown mark was used as the silver standard mark for Swedish silver for many centuries. You probably have a corkscrew made by Three Crowns Industries of Pottstown, Pa.
The company made "Swedish Modern" design silver-plated pieces from 1947 to 1961. Three Crowns made serving pieces, candlesticks, tea and coffee services, pitchers, trays and bar sets marked with three small crowns. Many pieces were designed by Royal Hickman, who also was a designer for Heisey glass and Haeger pottery.
Q My mother brought back a Lenci doll from Italy in 1960. It is 22 inches tall and dressed as Little Red Riding Hood. The painted doll is made of felt and is dressed in a felt outfit. It is in good condition. Are Lenci dolls still being made? Is our doll valuable?
A Lenci was founded in 1919 in Turin, Italy. They are still in business making dolls. Most Lenci dolls have expressive faces that are made of molded, painted felt. Near-mint dolls made before World War II sell for more than $1,000 at auction. Your doll probably dates from the 1950s. It is worth at least $300.
Q My plate has a picture of a woman's head on the front. There is a gold border. The mark on the back is a wreath and the letters "O. & E.G." and the words "Royal Austria." Who made it?
A The mark was used by Oscar and Edgar Gutherz of Altrohlau, Bohemia, between 1899 and 1918. The company made many pieces that were exported to the United States.
Q I have some antique silver serving pieces that were once used in hotels and on trains. The mark on them reads "silver soldered." What do the words mean? Are the pieces sterling?
Your silver pieces are high-quality, silver-plated white metal or Britannia ware. Britannia metal is a silver-colored metal alloy of tin, antimony, copper and other metals. It is similar to pewter and was often plated and soldered with silver.
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 are recorded from antiques shows, flea markets, sales and auctions throughout the United States. Prices vary because of local economic conditions.
* Labor Day postcard, Reading, Pa., people in street scene, photo, 1907, $50.
* Charlie Tuna camera, plastic, aqua, flash, cartridge-type film, 1971, 10 inches, $75.
* Toy, pastry set, five tin cookie molds, rollers, mortar and pestle, breadboard; box shows children cooking, Pressman, 1930s, 9 inches by 14 inches, $90.
* Hawkes whiskey decanter, golf scene, the 19th hole, flags, greens, golf holes, 1900, 12 inches, $335.
* Metal sewing cabinet, 18 shuttles, 73 tubes with needles, 46 bobbins, Boye Needle Company, 1906, 21 inches by 16 inches, $370.
* Hull Little Red Riding Hood cookie jar, pin roses, gray leaves, $400.
* Majolica figural wall plaque, c. 1880, modeled after Bacchanalian boy, dead fox on shoulder, marked, 15 inches, $435.
* 1919 Coca-Cola calendar, woman in large straw hat holding bottle of Coke, 27 1/2 inches by 13 inches, $635.
* Italian cloth lady doll by Lenci, felt, wide-eyed, side-glancing expression, blue eye shadow, blond wig, ringlet curls, 1926, 14 inches, $800.