“Stop. Look. Listen.” It’s always good advice, especially when there are train tracks nearby.

“Stop. Look. Listen.” It’s always good advice, especially when there are train tracks nearby.

Cast-iron sign offers 3 simple steps for safety in case a train’s a comin’

Advising people to stop, look and listen, this old sign is more instructive than newer X-shaped railroad crossing signs.

The words “Stop, Look, Listen” might evoke song titles, childhood lessons or everyday common sense. The phrase comes from the 1800s; specifically, from the advent of railroads. Railroad travel was revolutionary, but, like most emerging technologies, it brought new dangers along with its advantages. It quickly became clear that some safety measures had to be taken to avoid collisions at crossings.

The first safety precautions were simple signs. Today, the familiar design is an X-shaped sign reading “Railroad Crossing,” usually accompanied by flashing lights and alarms. Earlier signs were different, such as this cast-iron oval reminding its reader to “Stop Look Listen,” which sold at Copake Auction Inc. for $1,062 against a presale estimate of $200 to $300.

It may have been a very early sign, made at a time when most people didn’t realize how long a braking distance a train required and therefore may have expected an approaching train to be able to stop before it reached the crossing. Instead of simply alerting the reader to what they are approaching, the sign states exactly what to do.

Q: I have 12 German beer steins I received from my great-grandfather. He brought them over from Germany in the late 1800s. I would like to know where I can find out about their value and any information about where to look.

A: Beer steins, like almost anything related to beer and breweries, are popular collectibles. By the 1800s, most German beer steins were made of stoneware and had pewter lids. They also have been made of other materials, like porcelain, pewter, silver, wood or ivory. The most famous German beer steins are known as Mettlach because they were made by the Villeroy and Boch pottery factory in the town of Mettlach. Check the base of your steins for marks. Mettlach steins have a mark that looks like a castle. They also have a date-number code to help identify them. If your steins have “Geschutz” or “Musterschutz” written on them, those are not company names; they mean “patented” or “registered design.” There are many books about beer stein collecting that can help you identify and value yours. “The Beer Stein Book” and “The Mettlach Book,” both by Gary Kirsner, are especially helpful. Look for them and other beer stein books at your local library. You may also want to contact a collector’s club, like Stein Collectors International (stein-collectors.org) for more information.

Q: I have a 48-star flag that a friend gave me at least 10 years ago when we both worked at a thrift shop together. It was wrapped in plastic and I have never taken it out, but it appears to be in fairly good condition. Could you estimate its worth and tell me where I might be able to sell such an item?

A: The 48-star flag was officially used for 47 years, from 1912 (with the additions of New Mexico and Arizona to the United States) to 1959 when Alaska and Hawaii were added to the union. It is the flag design with the second-longest lifespan; today’s 50-star flag caught up with it in about 2007. In 1912, an executive order by President Taft set standards for the design and proportions of the flag. It required the star field to have six rows of eight stars. The rows had to be lined up and all the stars had to be five-pointed, with one point straight up. Some early 48-star flags have slight variations in the design, like staggered rows or stars pointing in a different direction. Some even have stripes of varying widths. Because 48-star flags were in use for so long, there are many available, so they do not necessarily sell for high prices. We have seen them sell for anywhere from about $20 to over $200. Larger flags tend to sell for higher prices, regardless of their age, condition, design, attribution or material. If the flag can be connected to a historical event or figure, the value of course increases. Forty-eight-star flags are sold at many auctions and antique or thrift shops. They often are sold as World War I or World War II memorabilia. We recommend storing textiles in a clean white pillowcase instead of plastic wrapping, if possible. Fabrics should “breathe,” and plastic traps moisture.

TIP: Clean dirt and rust from an old iron piece by spraying it with oven cleaner. Put it in a sealed bag for an hour or two, then rub the spray off with a nylon scouring pad.

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.

Cloisonne, charger, cobalt blue, flowering branch, yellow bird, butterfly, fish scale ground, blue and yellow borders, pink and green geometrics, scalloped rim, 15 inches, $60.

Basket, tray, Northwest Coast Salish, round, coiled, four spokes, alternating brown and black, shallow rim, side handles, 10 inches, $85.

Glass, Venetian, bowl, blue and red swirled stripes, signed, dated, Venini, 1997, 4 by 8½ inches, $130.

Toy, Rocky, caveman, on wheeled disc, vinyl head, lithographed tin body, battery operated, box, Japan, $150.

Auto, banner, Trico, Claireon Vacuum Tuned Trumpets, The Courteous Command of the Roadway, two trumpets, orange, black, white, canvas, 27 by 48 inches, $390.

Stoneware, water cooler, Hygienic, cobalt blue ground, white raised flowers, leaves and labels, metal spigot, Henry W. Bush & Co., Bury Street, London E.C., late 1800s, 20½ inches, $440.

Picture, embroidery, Doves in a Garden, three doves, multicolor arches in background, abstract, frame, Marguerite Zorach, 20th century, 23 by 22 inches, $595.

World War II, parade prop, airplane, P-51 Mustang Fighter Plane, signed by 12 Tuskegee Airmen, foam, plastic, metal, 32 by 36 inches, $675.

Furniture, settle, Stickley Bros., three-section back, upholstered seat and back, nailhead trim, box stretcher base, arms, marked, circa 1905, 38 by 62 by 24 inches, $1,280.

Textile, pennant, U.S. Navy, commissioning, U.S. flag, 24 stars, applique, hand sewn, circa 1830, 90 inches, $2,015.

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