This oak 19th-century “cave a liqueur” holds four decanters and 16 liqueur glasses. It is decorated with silvered mounts of hunting dogs. The 11-inch-high box sold at New Orleans Auction Galleries for $4,250. (Cowles Syndicate Inc.)

This oak 19th-century “cave a liqueur” holds four decanters and 16 liqueur glasses. It is decorated with silvered mounts of hunting dogs. The 11-inch-high box sold at New Orleans Auction Galleries for $4,250. (Cowles Syndicate Inc.)

Don’t confuse the vintage cave a liqueur with a tantalus

Both have decanter bottles, both have drinking glasses, both can have locks — but they’re not the same thing.

Antiques are given many names, often changed to be written in a new language or used in a different way, and there can be confusion. Is a “cave a liqueur” the same as a tantalus? Both have decanter bottles; both have drinking glasses; both can have locks; and both are used to serve liquor to guests, one usually before dinner, the other during and after a meal.

In the past, formal service of alcoholic drinks, especially at banquets and special-occasion dinners, was important. The tantalus bottles held liquor, a distilled alcoholic drink like scotch. And it should be easy to remember that a cave a liqueur held — what you would expect — liqueur, an after-dinner fermented sweet drink like brandy, flavored with fruit or spices. The names sound alike but are spelled differently.

The two containers and contents follow formal rules of design. The tantalus has decanters in an open rack with tops that are locked, opening only with a key. The tantalus was named for Greek King Tantalus, who was condemned to stand in a pool of water in Hell and never be able to get a drink. The cave a liqueur holds small decanters and glasses suitable for the small after-dinner drink. Both of the serving boxes were large, often made of wood with added brass or other metal decorations and gold-painted accents. They were very much in style from 1850 to 1900.

There are many jokes about the locked liquor supply, but it seems possible that the locks were meant to keep the household help from taking drinks and leaving empty decanters or adding water or other liquid.

Q: I’d like information about a “Marine Band” harmonica. It says “M. Hohner” over a wreath with a picture of a man’s head in it. It reads “A440” on the front and “C” on the back. The trademark, two hands holding a circle with a six-point star and the words “GESETL.” and “GESCH.” in the circle, is on the other side. It also shows medals or coins with names of cities and dates from 1871 to 1881. How old is it? What is it worth?

A: Matthias Hohner was a clockmaker who began making harmonicas in Trossingen, Germany, in 1857. “GESETL.” and “GESCH.” are abbreviations for the German words meaning “protected by law” (trademarked). The years shown on the harmonica are for awards. Hohner started making the Marine Band harmonica in 1896 and is still making it. Your harmonica is in the key of C. The designation “A440” was added in the 1930s to show that it is tuned to the International Pitch Standard. Your harmonica probably was made before World War II. Hohner has made over 1 billion harmonicas, including 40 different models of Marine Band harmonicas. Most old harmonicas sell for $10 or less.

Q: I have several calendar plates in mint condition from the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. How can I find out how much they are worth and how to sell them?

A: Calendar plates were popular between about 1906 and 1929. Many were given away by stores and other businesses as advertising. Some list the year in the center surrounded by a wide border picturing a calendar “page” for each month. Others have a scene or attractive picture in the center. There was renewed interest in yearly calendar plates in the 1970s to ’90s. Calendar plates are still being made but aren’t as popular now. Check websites to see what plates like yours sell for. The year is as important as the picture when determining price. Most sell for $5 to $30.

Q: I have a vintage Reddy Kilowatt pin that belonged to my father, who died in 1954. It’s 1 inch long and almost an inch wide. I’m not sure if it qualifies as vintage advertising. Is it worth anything?

A: Reddy Kilowatt, a character with red lightning-bolt arms and legs and a round head with a lightbulb nose and electric-outlet ears, was created by Ashton B. Collins Sr. for the Alabama Power Co. The character was used to promote using electricity and first appeared in a newspaper advertisement in 1926. Reddy Kilowatt’s image was updated by cartoonist Walter Lantz, the creator of Woody Woodpecker, in 1946; he was given a bigger smile and whites were added to his eyes. His hands were changed so he wore four-finger white gloves instead of the five-finger safety gloves he originally wore. At the peak in 1957, over 200 electric utility companies used the character in their advertising. The use declined in the 1970s, and Reddy Kilowatt is used by only a few utility companies today. Reddy Kilowatt pins, earrings and tie clips were made. The pins sell online for about $20.

Tip: All Vogue and Ginny dolls are marked. If you own an unmarked doll, it is not a real Ginny.

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. Kitchen, chocolate mold, three Dolly Dingle dolls, hinged, signed “Weygandt,” 10 inches, $35.

Telephone, candlestick, polished brass, cylindrical stem, domed base, hard-rubber earpiece, marked “Western Electric,” “Pat. Jan 26 15,” 11½ inches, $95.

Doorstop, country cottage, cast iron, painted, arched doorway, three windows, raised shingle roof with dormer, red chimney, red and yellow flowers growing up sides, circa 1930, 5½ by 7½ inches, $155.

Box, humidor, mahogany, dovetailed construction, metal lining, hinged lid, label, Benson & Hedges, 12¾ by 25 inches, $210.

Jewelry, charm bracelet, dogwood flower, rope-twist chain, sterling silver, marked, Tiffany & Co. and 925, 7 inches, $300.

Sewing box, made by sailor, wood, carved, spool holder top, drawer, whale ivory and whalebone knobs, spool picks and decoration, 19th century, 11 by 9½ inches, $375.

Furniture, desk, plantation, Sheraton, cherry, red stain, cupboard top with two paneled doors, hinged writing surface, drawer, turned legs, 1800s, 77 by 35 inches, $435.

Basket, Nantucket, round, vertical bent wood slats with horizontal weave, rolled base and rim, hinged wooden handle, remnants of tag for Ferdinand Sylvaro, early 20th century, 8 by 8 inches, $1,065.

Game board, parcheesi and checkers, two-sided, wood, inlaid squares, diamonds and stars, made by a sailor, Maine, circa 1890, 16½ by 16¼ inches, $1,625.

Sevres, porcelain, vase, stems and leaves, swollen shoulder with raised berries, blue, green and orange, textured white ground, pinched-and-flared neck, marked, 1901, 10 by 5 inches, $2,750.

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