A blackball box and marbles used in Ohio in the early 1900s was auctioned at Garth’s for $500. The box had machine-made dovetailing and was decorated with decoupage prints in painted frames. (Cowles Syndicate Inc.)

A blackball box and marbles used in Ohio in the early 1900s was auctioned at Garth’s for $500. The box had machine-made dovetailing and was decorated with decoupage prints in painted frames. (Cowles Syndicate Inc.)

17th-century voters cast marbles instead of paper ballots

You’d be given black and white marbles. To vote no, a black marble was dropped in the box.

As early as the 17th century in America, members of fraternal clubs often voted at their meetings without paper ballots.

Many decisions had to be almost unanimous; just one “no” vote could defeat a project. So, they used a blackball box instead of paper ballots. Each person was given a random number of black and white marbles. To vote no, a black marble was dropped in the box.

The box had a board that covered the voter’s hand and marble so that no one could see the vote. Each marble made a noise when it was dropped, so only one marble could be used. When the box was opened, it was easy for everyone to see the number of black marbles and if the project, motion or request for membership had passed or failed. It was impossible to tell who had used a black marble.

The term “blackballed” is still in use, and the box was saved as part of history. The rules are still in “Robert’s Rules of Order,” a guide to parliamentary procedure, but there are few times when only one vote, not a majority, is needed to make a decision.

An old blackball box used by the Odd Fellows fraternal order was sold at a Garth’s auction recently for $500.

Q: I found a plate marked “Knickerbocker Vitrified China No. 28” in the woods outside of Trenton, New Jersey. The plate is white with a brown tulip in the center, a blue ring and clover border. Can you tell me how old it is?

A: Knickerbocker is a pattern made by Noritake from 1985 to 1987. Noritake porcelain was made in Japan by Nippon Toki Kaisha beginning in 1904. The company is still in business. Knickerbocker plates sell online for less than $10.

Q: I have a light bulb that I have identified as an 1885 Heisler-Bernstein incandescent lamp. Does it have any value? And if so, where would I find a buyer for such a bulb?

A: Antique and vintage light bulbs are classified as “early technology,” an area of collecting that includes electrical apparatus, astronomical devices and medical instruments. Artificial lighting is significant, since its beginning in the 1880s marked the lengthening of the workday and other changes in everyday life. Yes, there are collectors who hunt for early incandescent light bulbs, especially early carbon filament ones from the 1880s to early 1900s with intact filaments, like yours. Some early bulbs bring high prices; a few have sold for over $5,000. Charles Heisler and Alexander Bernstein both owned businesses in the 1880s and early 1900s that developed bulbs and lamps, and their work was influential in making electric lighting practical and popular. Look for an auction house that specializes in early technology or scientific instruments. The website www.bulbcollector.com also has information.

Q: I have an L.G. Wright ruby glass Panel Grape punch set comprised of a bowl, underplate and 12 cups. It is not marked. Did they ever not mark their items? The set is gorgeous, but I don’t know if it’s a repro. Can I ask close to the price you have it listed for in your 2008 price guide? I don’t want to take advantage of any customer with the wrong pricing.

A: “Si” Wright founded L.G. Wright Glass Co. in New Martinsville, West Virginia, in 1937. He bought glassware and molds from other Ohio and West Virginia glass factories. He also had molds made in some of his own designs and had the pieces made at other glassworks. Most of the glass was unmarked. That makes L.G. Wright items hard to identify. Savvy collectors can tell the difference between original Victorian pieces and repros because of the colors and differences in production techniques. The L.G. Wright factory closed in 1999, and the molds were sold. Some firms that bought them are currently making reproductions whose colors and weight are not the same as the originals. Pattern glass is less popular now than it used to be. A Panel Grape ruby punch set sold for $650 in 2007. Asking prices today are from $225 to $300 but selling for less.

Q: I have a piece of antique dental equipment that I can’t find out much about online. The nameplate on it says “Perfection Casting Machine, The Cleveland Dental Mfg. Co.” The patent date is Aug. 22, 1916, and the serial number is 37682. Any information or a point in the right direction to find information would be greatly appreciated.

A: The Cleveland Dental Mfg. Co. was founded in Cleveland in 1893. The company sold dental equipment and supplies. This casting machine was bolted or screwed onto a tabletop and used to mold dental crowns. It isn’t possible to know the date this machine was made without a list of serial numbers used by the company, but the patent date gives a clue to the age. It was probably made between 1916 and about 1930. The factory is no longer in existence. The casting machine might appeal to collectors of old dental instruments or to someone who makes jewelry. The rarely seen machines sell online for about $50.

Tip: If your tea caddy or knife box has a silver or brass keyhole, don’t use a metal cleaner. The cleaner will damage the wood.

On the block

Current prices are recorded from antiques shows, flea markets, sales and auctions throughout the United States. Prices vary in different locations because of local economic conditions.

Stoneware rolling pin, salt glazed, cobalt blue stenciled wildflowers, turned wood shaft and handles, 16 inches, $60.

Hooked rug, cat resting on striped cushion, flower and leaf border, American, 1860-1930, 30 by 52 inches, $150.

Sewing stand, walnut, oval lift top, silk pleated work compartment, removable fitted tray, England, 28 by 15 by 12 inches, $290.

Tiffany & Co. sterling silver bowl, flared and flattened rim, openwork stylized flower and leaf handles, circa 1910, 2⅝ by 11 inches, $370.

Side table, coated black Nero marble top, black pedestal base, spread foot, Eero Saarinen for Knoll, 20 by 16 inches diameter, $580.

Cut glass punch bowl on stand, Hobstar pattern, flared bowl, tapered stand, notched edges, American Brilliant, 12 by 12 inches, $610.

Pickle bottle, cathedral form, four-sided, blue green, indented arches, rolled lip, 7⅜ inches, $1,055.

Fur coat, white fox, on-seam pockets, gray lining, monogram, woman’s full length, 49 inches, $1,190.

Newcomb College pottery vase, scenic, pine trees, full moon, blue glaze, bulbous, folded in rim, Anna F. Simpson, 1918, 7 inches, $2,250.

Tea caddy, George III, tortoiseshell, octagonal, two lidded compartments, 18th century, 5¾ by 6 by 4 inches, $4,270.

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