Among the holidays collectors love the most, Halloween ranks second only to Christmas. The older and rarer a Halloween collectible, the higher its price.
Composition or cardboard candy containers made in Germany in the 1920s and ’30s were sold across the United States. They’re collector favorites today. They came in all kinds of shapes, from cats, pumpkins and tomatoes to witches, skeletons and devils.
A painted and flocked composition black cat made in Germany in the early 1920s opens at the neck to hold candy. It sold for $403 at an auction last spring. Other Halloween candy containers were made of pressed cardboard, glass, paper, painted plaster or wood.
Q: I have a walnut love seat with horsehair stuffing. The medallion under one of the stretchers reads, “Shaw Furniture Co., Est. 1780, Cambridge, Mass.” Can you tell me anything about this company?
A: Shaw Furniture Co. of Cambridge — just outside of Boston — was in business as early as 1765 and remained open at least into the 1920s. During the 18th century, Shaw made furniture using convict labor from nearby Charleston State Prison.
Q: I have a milk bottle with a green painted label that reads, “Rockwell Kent, Ausable Forks.” Isn’t Kent an important artist?
A: Rockwell Kent (1882-1971) was a well-known artist who did paintings, pen-and-ink book illustrations, designs for Vernon Kilns dishes, jewelry, fabrics, greeting cards and more. His political activities caused him to be listed as “un-American” by Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s.
Kent lived in New York City and also had a farm in Ausable Forks, N.Y. His dairy used milk bottles like yours in 1927. The dairy closed about 1950.
The bottles are interesting because of Kent’s fame. One sold at a Glass-Works auction this year for $100, about half the price of one of his Vernon Kilns plates.
Q: I have an 1890 Gold Label Knabe upright piano. The inner soundboard appears to be made of gold. Any information would be appreciated. The piano is rosewood and has ivory keys. It’s in good condition and playable.
A: William Knabe opened his own piano company in Baltimore in 1839. After the Civil War, Knabe’s son Ernest worked on promoting the company’s pianos. Knabe pianos are sometimes referred to as “singer’s pianos” because of their mellow tone.
Knabe is now owned by Samick Musical Instruments. A representative for Knabe told us the company has never made a piano with a gold inner soundboard — they generally are made of wood — but they did make one with a plate made of gold-colored cast iron. (The plate is installed over the soundboard.)
To learn more about your piano, find the serial number; it’s usually located on the plate but may be on the soundboard. Once you find the serial number, you can look online or in the Pierce Piano Atlas to figure out exactly when your piano was made.
Q: I found a lovely old vase with “Danesbury Ware” marked on the bottom. What can you tell me about it?
A: Danesbury Ware was made by Joseph Bourne & Son, Ltd., of Denby, Derbyshire, England. Bourne began making salt-glazed pottery at Denby in 1809 and is still in business. At first the company operated under Bourne’s name, but it is now known as the Denby Pottery Co.
In the 1920s, Denby began making decorative and giftware lines called Danesbury Ware.
Q: My grandparents bought a bronze sculpture at the Clichy flea market outside of Paris in the late 1800s. I’m wondering what it’s worth. It’s a 21-inch sculpture of Diogenes and is signed “Marioton.”
A: Eugene Marioton (1854-c. 1925) worked as a sculptor in Paris for about 50 years. Roughly 400 bronzes are attributed to him. Most of them are full figures of men.
His “Diogenes” was originally sculpted about 1885 and was cast by E. Colin & Co., a Paris foundry. The sculpture shows the Greek philosopher Diogenes (404-323 B.C.) holding a lantern in his right hand and a walking stick in his left. He’s searching the world for an honest man — something he is said to have done (but he never did find one).
The value of your sculpture depends on its authenticity and quality. If it really dates from the late 1800s, it was probably a cast authorized by Marioton himself. And if it’s in excellent condition, that’s another plus. Have an expert look at it. It could be worth a few thousand dollars.
Tip: Never hang an antique fabric on a line to dry. The weight of the wet fabric could tear it.
Editor’s note: Ralph Kovel, who co-authored this column with his wife, Terry, died suddenly Aug. 28. Terry Kovel, aided by her family and staff, plans to continue the column.
Terry Kovel’s column is syndicated by King Features. Write to: Kovels, (Las Vegas Review-Journal), King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019.