This Mettlach Earlyware mustard pot sold at Fox Auction Co. in Iowa for $90. (Cowles Syndicate Inc.)

This Mettlach Earlyware mustard pot sold at Fox Auction Co. in Iowa for $90. (Cowles Syndicate Inc.)

Ceramics collectors pay highest prices for pre-fire pieces

Earlyware pieces were made before 1880. They were formed in a mold, often to look like a tree trunk.

Mettlach, Germany, is a town known for manufacturing beer steins at the Villeroy and Boch factories since about 1842. They made all types of pottery.

It started in 1809 when Pierre-Joseph Boch established a company in the remains of a cathedral built in 786 A.D. To avoid destroying the trees used for the factory’s fuel, a coal-burning kiln was developed by 1816. Famous artists were hired to create the designs. There were eight V&B factories making ceramics.

In 1836, Mettlach merged with Villeroy & Boch, forming a company run by Eugene, son of Pierre-Joseph. Modern improvements continued. They adopted new styles, new products like tableware, and new types of ceramics. After a fire destroyed the factory and records in 1925, they reproduced many old items.

Collectors since the 1970s pay the highest prices for the pre-fire pieces. “Earlyware Relief” pieces were made before 1880. They were formed in a mold, often to look like a tree trunk and sometimes tan colored. Molded pieces resembling vines were added and colored green or brown with platinum accents. Mettlach marks tell the story of a piece, with as many as nine marks on a piece.

Q: About five years ago, I bought a Madame Alexander doll at a sale. It came in the original box, which reads “Josephine” and “1335.” She’s 12 inches tall and is wearing a long chiffon gown trimmed with embroidered ribbon and lace, a gold crown and jewelry. Everything is in perfect condition. Is the doll worth anything, or should I let my great-grandchildren play with her?

A: Beatrice Alexander Behrman and her sisters founded the Alexander Doll Co. in New York City in 1923. The name “Madame Alexander” was trademarked in 1928, and Beatrice started using the name for herself as well as for her dolls. The company was sold in 1988 when Behrman retired. It has been owned by Kahn Lucas since 2012. Josephine is part of Madame Alexander’s Portraits of History series of dolls made from 1980 to 1986. She represents Empress Josephine, Napoleon’s first wife. Dolls like yours are plentiful and sell for under $30.

Q: We’d like to know what the record album “Tales of Uncle Remus for Children, from Walt Disney’s Song of the South” is worth. It’s from the movie soundtrack and was produced by Capitol Records. There are three two-sided 78 RPM records.

A: The movie “Song of the South” was produced by Walt Disney and released in 1946. Capitol Records produced an album of the soundtrack in 1947 in a book-style set. In 1949, a boxed set of 45 RPM records was produced. Other versions were made later and sold under different labels. Price varies depending on condition of the album cover as well as the records. The original Capitol Records sets like yours sell for $10 to $128 depending on condition.

Q: I inherited a large collection of cigar bands. Is there any interest in collecting these? I’d like to sell them but haven’t a clue how to go about it. There are three cartons full of photo albums with the bands under protective sleeves, labelled alphabetically. Many bills of sale are included. All are in excellent condition.

A: Gustave Bock, a cigar maker in Cuba, began putting paper bands with his signature on them on his cigars in the 1830s. By 1855, most other cigar makers were also banding their cigars to advertise their brands and their “superior” qualities. Collecting cigar bands was popular in the early 1900s but isn’t as popular now. The pictures on the bands and their condition determine value. Elaborate designs, colorful images, embossing or gold trim add value. Look for dealers or auctions that sell cigar-box labels and other tobacco-related collectibles. Some cigar bands sell for up to $80. Your albums of bands would sell for more in a cigar advertising auction. If the cigar bands are pasted to the pages, they are almost worthless.

Q: I’d like to find the value of an antique German Bible that belonged to my grandmother. The cover is wood and leather with metal clasps. It says “Heilige Schrift” on the front. The pictures in the Bible have parchment covering them. Can you tell me what it’s worth or where I can investigate further?

A: The German words “Heilige Schrift” translate as “Holy Scripture.” The Bible is the best-selling book of all time and billions of copies have been sold. Most Bibles printed after the mid-1800s sell for only about $10 to $20. Those with ornate bindings, gilt-edged pages, full-plate illustrations, or other unique features sell for more. If the illustrator is well known or the Bible belonged to a famous person, it can add value. Some German Bibles have sold for high prices. A 1770 Bible by Martin Luther, with a leather-covered wood cover, brass corners and copper-plate engravings sold at auction for more than $400 a few years ago. Some other German Bibles sold more recently for over $100. A book dealer who specializes in rare books might be able to give you a general idea of what your family Bible is worth after seeing it.

Tip: Never try to polish or clean bronze-colored bookends. They have a bronze coating and collectors like the patina. Cleaning lowers the value.

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.

Noritake cup, yellow bird with little chick, perched on flowering branch, Mother’s Day 1973 in gilt letters on bottom, slightly flared shape, 3 by 3½ inches, $15.

Limoges trinket box, painted lid, “To Mother With Love,” bouquet of flowers, leafy sprig band, gilt metal ribbon and bow mount, signed on bottom, Chamart, Limoges, France, 1950s, 1½ by 2½ inches, $95.

Inkwell, Zodiac pattern, patinated bronze, six sides, angled corners, molded panels with zodiac signs and interlocking knots, glass liner, marked Tiffany Studios, 3¾ by 6½ inches, $275.

Toy, sky rocket, Douglas B-335, wings marked with U.S. Navy & U.S. Air Force insignia, tin, lithographed, pilot in plastic bubble, Bandai, Japan, box, 6 by 18 by 4 inches, $340.

Iron boot scrape, wrought, floral design with curved sides, Newport, Rhode Island, 18th century, 16 by 14 inches, $460.

Clock, Purina Chows, Sanitation Products, double bubble type, metal and plastic, Arabic numerals on red and white checkerboard ground, decal on back, Advertising Products, Inc., Cincinnati, Ohio, 15 inches diameter, $550.

Pair of fireplace andirons, each a figural dog, whippet, seated, patinated bronze, elongated body and neck, collar with impressed diamond decoration, curled tail helps form base, marked M.E.K., circa 1920, 22 inches, $750.

Jewelry, bracelet, curved sterling silver links, alternating with amethyst cabochons, marked “Jewels by Antonio [Pineda],” and “Taxco / Mexico,” 1950s, 1 by 6½ inches, $1,060.

Silver, Mexican set of teaspoons, Amarres Disco or Heavy Disc pattern, shafts with wire banding and ball tips, marked, William Spratling, each 5¾ inches, 12 pieces, $2,000.

Furniture, screen, Gustav Stickley, leather, brass studs, oak frame, with trestle base, circa 1910, 35 by 31 by 11 inches, $2,500.

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