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Certain Weller Pottery Brings High Prices

March 03, 2001|RALPH KOVEL and TERRY KOVEL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

American art pottery has been going up in price for the last 15 years. One of the most popular types is Weller pottery, first made in 1872 in Fultonham, Ohio. The company moved to Zanesville, Ohio, in 1882 and began making art pottery in 1893. The factory closed in 1948.

Some pieces sell today for thousands of dollars, but many pieces made in the 1920s-40s still sell for reasonable prices. Collectors have selected several types of Weller as the "stars" that command high prices.

The iridescent glazed Sicardo ware; the early Dickens and Eocean pieces decorated by artists with figures, animals or birds; and pieces made with incised designs sell best. Coppertone, a green and copper glazed ware, garden figures and large jardinieres are also expensive.

But molded pieces with raised flowers or branches are still affordable. Weller is almost always marked with its name, so it is easy to spot at garage sales. Look for a bargain.

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Question: My pewter plates are marked "-- Ralenthorp--Philada." There is also an eagle holding arrows above the words. I have a set of six plates and have been unable to get any information about them.

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Answer: The mark on your plates is "R. Palenthorp." His stamped mark often had an extra line crossing the first letter P and an extra wiggly line at the end that could be mistaken for an E. Tracing a maker by mark is often difficult because letters can be blurred or misread.

There were a number of pewterers working in Philadelphia in the early 1800s. Robert Junior used the mark with his name and an eagle in an oval from 1817 to 1822. Robert Senior is listed as working from 1822 to 1826. For some unknown reason, Robert Senior worked after Robert Junior.

A set of American pewter plates from the early 19th century would be very valuable. Depending on condition, a single plate could be worth more than $500.

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Q I just bought a glass vase at a flea market. It is yellow, white and tan and has a raised pattern of flying geese. I was told that it is Phoenix ware. Where was it made?

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A The Phoenix Glass Co. of Monaca, Pa., was started in 1880. It made lampshades for oil lamps as well as other lamp parts. From about 1930 to the 1950s, the firm made art glass called "Sculptured Glassware." Your vase was made in the 1930s. It was available in several color combinations.

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Q My mother collected early-1900s recipe booklets--the kind that advertise a name-brand product. Most of the collection consists of Jell-O brand recipe folders that must be close to 100 years old. When was the brand first sold? Are the booklets collectible?

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A The Jell-O brand name dates to 1897, when Pearl B. Wait started packaging flavored gelatin using a name his wife invented. The next year, Wait sold the name and formula to the Genesee Pure Food Co.

Genesee's owner, Francis Woodward, ran an advertising campaign to make Jell-O a household word. By 1901, Jell-O display ads were appearing in cooking magazines and two-page Jell-O recipe folders were offered free in grocery stores or by mail request. General Foods, which now owns the brand, continues to use recipe booklets to market Jell-O. People do collect old giveaway recipe booklets. A 20-page Jell-O cookbook from the 1920s sells for about $45.

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Q My antique sewing machine has an inverted-U-shaped top and a crank handle. The brass label on the base reads "Willcox & Gibbs Sewing Machine Co., New York." Can you tell the age and value?

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A Willcox & Gibbs was founded in 1857 and made the first practical single-thread chain-stitch machine for household use. The style of your machine dates it between the 1850s and 1900, but the brass label was used near the end of the century. The machine is worth about $500.

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Q We are restoring a 1920s house with a shower in the bathroom. Can we use a glass door?

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A Showers were built into 19th-century homes, but the first showers had oiled-silk curtains. It was not until the 1930s that glass enclosures were used in any but very expensive homes. By the 1920s, the shower-tub with a plastic curtain was popular. Sliding glass doors built over the tub were not common until the 1950s.

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Q I have inherited two all-white porcelain figurines that my great-aunt called Parian ware. Can you explain?

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A "Parian" refers to a ceramic material that looks somewhat like the white marble mined on the Greek island of Paros. Parian is actually an unglazed, low-fired combination of feldspar and china clay that was first used in England in the 1840s. By the early 1850s, well-known firms such as Copeland, Minton and Wedgwood were producing Parian figures and gift ware. Have your figurines appraised by a local expert. They could be very valuable.

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.

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