Our ancestors were clever and could make many tools, containers and cooking utensils from wood or iron. It was not until the mid-19th century that helpful gadgets like iron apple peelers with gears or other complicated tools were invented. Hundreds of patents were issued for improved household inventions.
But during the 17th century and in rural areas, talented wood craftsmen created one-of-a-kind utensils for home use. Bowls, scoops, baskets, ladles and boxes were carved from wood harvested from nearby trees. The shape of the tree sometimes inspired the work.
At a recent Skinner auction, a wooden drying rack was auctioned. It was made from a single large branch with five upright “rods” for holding the drying fabrics. The largest branch had a hole at the top where it could be hung from a nail on the wall. It was primitive, but useful. The drying rack, made in the 18th century, sold for $6,500, because it was such an unusual relic of the early days of do-it-yourself tools.
Q: I would like to know what a set of silver teaspoons is worth. The set has been in my family for more than 140 years. My great-great-grandmother received it as a wedding present from family in the Netherlands, and it has been passed on from generation to generation. One teaspoon and the sugar spoon both have “EPNS” on the back.
A: The initials “EPNS” stand for “electroplated nickel silver,” and mean your teaspoons are silver-plated, not sterling silver. Your set of teaspoons has great sentimental value, but not much monetary value. Silver-plated flatware is hard to sell, and it is not worth as much as sterling silver.
Q: I have four Boehm porcelain birds given to me in 1972. Some have the horse’s head mark with “Boehm” and “Made in U.S.A.” Others have a feather with “Edward Marshall Boehm.” I have a cygnet swan on a lily pad, a black-capped chickadee on a holly branch, and male and female Canadian geese. Which are more valuable?
A: Edward Marshall Boehm (1913-1969) was a veterinarian’s assistant until 1950, when he and his wife, Helen (1920-2010), opened a studio in Trenton, New Jersey. Edward designed and made porcelain sculptures while Helen promoted the business. In 1953, they bought the Osso China Co. in Trenton and renamed it Edward Marshall Boehm Inc.
At first dishes were made, but the company is best-known for its elaborate, lifelike bird figurines. After Edward died in 1969, Helen continued to run the business and a feather was added to the marks. In 1970, Helen opened a Boehm subsidiary in Malvern, England. She sold the company in 2003, but it’s still in business in Trenton under the name Boehm Porcelain.
The 1950s and ’60s were the heyday of collecting Boehm wildlife and bird figures. Their value peaked in the 1970s, and they don’t show any sign of going that high again. Each of your figures is worth about $100 to $275, regardless of mark.
Q: I have a Pairpoint pickle castor, but I don’t have the glass insert for it. Will this drastically reduce the price? Should I try to find a suitable piece of glassware and marry the piece or sell it as it is?
A: Pickle castors were popular in about 1890. A silver or other metal frame held a glass jar, which usually had a silver or silver-plated top. The holder had a handle and a hook that held a pair of tongs. Replacement frames and glass jars have been made.
You may be able to find a replacement glass jar online, or at antiques shows and shops. A replacement glass insert won’t add enough to the price to cover the cost of the glass and your time. Original pickle castors with colored glass insets sell from $100 to $250.
Q: I have an Edison GEM lightbulb from about 1905 with the sticker still on it. Can you tell me its approximate value and who would be interested in this?
A: The letters GEM stand for General Electric Metallized. The GEM filament was invented by Willis Rodney Whitney, the director of the General Electric research lab in Schenectady, New York. GEM lightbulbs were made from 1905 to 1918, when production stopped to conserve fuel during World War I. There are collectors who want any unusual lightbulbs. Look for sources online that sell vintage lightbulbs. Most will also buy them. GEM bulbs sell online for $10 to $15.
Q: My mother-in-law gave us a beautiful green Hull baking dish, and I’m trying to get some information about it. It looks like something I’d love to bake with, but I’m not sure if I can still use it and if so, what temperature would be safe. It reads “Oven-Proof Hull USA No. 28-8” on the bottom.
A: Hull pottery was made in Crooksville, Ohio, from 1905 to 1986. Hull began making “oven-proof” pottery in the 1930s. This 8-inch baking dish, with its handle and lid marked “No. 28-8,” usually is described as a Dutch oven. It should be safe to use in the oven at normal baking temperatures, usually not higher than 400 degrees. It sells online for $19 to $24.
Tip: Clean your jewelry with jewelry cleaner or detergent suds and warm water. Brush the back to remove soap residue or other dirt from the back of the stones.
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.
Cabinet card, black-and-white photograph, father and daughter portrait, bevel cut board, oval cutout, 1878, 4 x 3 inches, $20.
Milkshake mixer, single serving, metal with stainless-steel cup, square white base, electric, Arnold No. 15, 1920s, 18 inches, $75.
Card game, The Merry Game of Old Maid, color illustrations, 17 pairs of cards, cardboard box and instruction card, c. 1880, $125.
Birthing chair, wood, vinyl covered seat with metal studs, narrow plank splat, cutout crest, carved, midwifery, late 1800s, 30 inches, $160.
Store display, Dr. West’s Miracle-Tuft, figural toothbrush of first models sold, ruby-red Bakelite with nylon bristles, 1950s, 18 inches, $245.
World War I souvenir, pillowtop, silk with embroidered flowers, American and French flags, eagle, lace border, ribbons, c. 1910, 17 x 18 inches, $360.
Nautical lantern, brass, square caged case, arched top with turned wood handle, electrified, 1940s, 15 x 6 inches, $425.
Aquarium, steel frame, molded metal rose blossoms, swags, original glass, cone shaped feet, c. 1905, 15 x 20 x 14 inches, $515.
Sand pail, Kewpie Beach, Kewpie Castle, Scootles Tourist, tin lithograph, Rose O’Neill, 1937, 3 x 3 inches, $800.
Doorstop, “Naughty Puss,” girl examining scratches on arm, standing cat with claws in girl’s dress, cast iron, H. L. Judd, 1920s, 9 inches, $995.