Prices steadily going up on vintage ad signs in good shape

Would you believe a whopping $1,080 for this sign from the early 1900s?

A decorator or collector could hang this vintage sign in a living room or kitchen. Unusual advertising pieces are considered folk art or “interesting” and “decorative” — although in the 1950s ads were only used in kitchens, playrooms or lavatories. Today they are featured as art, which is why this sign sold for more than $1,000. (Cowles Syndicate Inc.)

A decorator or collector could hang this vintage sign in a living room or kitchen. Unusual advertising pieces are considered folk art or “interesting” and “decorative” — although in the 1950s ads were only used in kitchens, playrooms or lavatories. Today they are featured as art, which is why this sign sold for more than $1,000. (Cowles Syndicate Inc.)

Vintage advertising signs, figures, toys, printed textiles, food tins and labeled bottles are all selling at higher and higher prices. Large signs with pictures of flags, Lady Liberty, figural packages, tins, toys and almost anything with a famous company logo that is in great condition is selling over estimate at auctions. Online bidding has made it possible to offer advertising pieces to an international market with many bidders.

This tin black and white sign in a wooden frame was used to advertise a man who repaired phonographs and sewing machines in the early 1900s. The eye-catching, 30-by-21-inch sign auctioned for $1,080 in Massachusetts at Eldred’s Auctioneers.

Q: I’ve noticed on a number of the pieces of china I have that in addition to the company hallmark, there is a short group of handwritten numbers or letters as well. Do you know why they are there and what they signify?

A: Numbers or letters can give you a lot more information about the piece if you know the codes. They are used to indicate the shape or mold number, the type of clay or glaze used, the design number, catalog or product number and size. Most are company product codes not explained to the public. Other marks to look for are letters that indicate the artist. Not all companies use these marks, and those that do have their own system. If you know the maker of the pottery, you may be able to find information on what the other marks mean by searching online.

Q: I recently found some Fenton carnival glass and have been trying to determine the value. I’ve looked all over the internet but haven’t been able to find half of these pieces anywhere. Can you help with identification and appraisal?

A: Fenton Art Glass Co. started in Martins Ferry, Ohio, in 1905. The company decorated blanks made by other companies. In 1907 Fenton opened a factory in Williamstown, West Virginia, and began making glass. The company stopped making art glass in 2011 and assets were sold. Fenton Peacock glass was made in several colors. Amethyst Peacock was reissued in the 1970s. Prices for carnival glass vary widely depending on color, pattern, rarity and condition. Pieces have to be seen to determine the value, but you can get some idea of what things are selling for by checking sold prices at carnival glass auctions. Try contacting the Fenton Art Glass Collectors of America Inc. ( to learn more.

Q: I’m looking for the value of Royal Albert Old Country Roses dinnerware. I have a complete set and can’t find any information about it. Can you help?

A: The Albert Works was established in Longton, Stoke-on-Trent, in 1846. The pottery was granted a Royal Warrant from Queen Victoria in 1897 and the name of the company became Royal Albert in 1904. Old Country Roses was introduced in 1962. The company claims it’s the best-selling pattern in the world. Over 150 million pieces have been sold. The pattern is still being made. A five-piece place setting, previously used, sells on online for $40 to $50.

Q: I have a complete set of Uncle Wiggily books by Howard R. Garis. There are nine books, 10 stories in each one, copyright 1943 by John Sherman Bragg. They’re in good condition. Do they have any value?

A: Howard R. Garis (1873-1962), a reporter and writer for the Newark Evening News, began writing stories about a rabbit named Uncle Wiggily Longears in January 1910. A new story was published in the newspaper every day except Sunday until 1947, when Garis retired. He wrote more than 15,000 stories for the newspaper. The stories were first published in a book in 1913. Seventy-nine books of Uncle Wiggily stories were published. Garis was a prolific writer and wrote stories for several other series of books under pseudonyms. Uncle Wiggily books with 10 stories sell for about $5 to $10 each. The price depends on condition and how early it was published.

Q: I’d like information about a lighter that belonged to my great-grandfather. It has a diamond-shaped stamp on it with “MEB” inside. Under that it’s stamped “US Patent, April 2, 1912” and “made in Austria.” What can you tell me about it?

A: This mark was used by M.E. Bernhardt Co. of New York. The company sold pocket cigar lighters, gas lighters, wall lighters, fuse wicks and flints, and claimed to be the largest manufacturer of cigar lighters in the United States in the early 1920s. It imported lighters made in Austria and Germany by Hahway.

Tip: Never carry a marble tabletop flat. It can break under its own weight. Carry it in a vertical position.

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.

Tiffany trumpet vase, glass, pastel, faceted vertical opalescent bands, clear fading to green ground, footed, signed, L.C. Tiffany-Favrile 1886, 9 inches, $83.

Bone clothespins, whalebone, incised lines, wood and acrylic stand, 1800s, each pin 8½ inches, set of six, $390.

Candy container, Easter Bunny, glass eyes, standing on platform, egg and chick in basket, Germany, 9 inches, $840.

Coca-Cola vending machine, Cavalier 51, Drink Coca-Cola in Bottles, 66 inches, $1,230.

Advertising sign, Bollinger Champagne, bottle, ship, S.S. Constitution leaving harbor, oil on canvas, frame, circa 1930, 38 by 53 inches, $1,680.

Chest, Federal, inlaid mahogany, bowfront, four graduated drawers, shaped apron, flared feet, circa 1810, 37½ by 40 by 22 inches, $2,175.

Jewelry, man’s dress set, acorns, malachite, 18K gold, two cuff links, three shirt studs, Tiffany & Co., $2,500.

Bank, Battleship Maine, cast iron, white paint, J. & E. Stevens Co., 10 inches, $3,900.

Toy, Girl Pushing Baby Buggy, on turning track, city street graphics, tin lithograph, key wind, Arnold, 1955, 15 inches, $6,269.

Lamp, Sinumbra, brass, gothic cut glass shades, electrified, miniature, 1800s, 18¾ by 7½ inches, pair, $2,305.

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