Christmas punch bowl that is decorated with holly and held by the famous puppet character Punch auctioned at Skinner’s in Boston for $3,075 (Cowles Syndicate Inc.)

Punch bowl featuring punchy puppet picks up thousands

If you were getting ready for the traditional Christmas party in 1860s England, you might have been searching the storage cupboards for the holiday punch bowl.

Colorful, decorative majolica serving pieces were popular then, and George Jones made some of the best. Starting in 1866, he made covered dishes for cheese, game pie and even sardines. Special dishes were made for honey, cake, oysters, butter, berries, biscuits and other foods. All were decorated with raised flowers, leaves or figures glazed in bright colors.

Jones was joined by his sons in 1873 and the company name was changed to “George Jones &Sons.” George died in 1893, the company was sold in 1929 and the name was changed by 1951. Early pieces are marked with the overlapping letters “GJ” in a circle until 1873, when a crescent with “&sons” was added.

Majolica lost favor and was considered “kitsch” until about 1970 when it began to be used by decorators on the East Coast.

Today, George Jones majolica is expensive. The amusing Christmas punch bowl that is decorated with holly and held by the famous puppet character Punch auctioned at Skinner’s in Boston for $3,075.

Tip: Most old majolica pieces have a colored bottom. The newer pieces have white bottoms.

Q: I have a cube puzzle titled “The Night Before Christmas” made by McLoughlin Brothers in New York. It consists of 20 cubes, 21⁄2 inches on an edge, that depict various Christmas scenes based on Clement Moore’s poem. Santa is shown in a green coat with a red belt and fur trim. The puzzle is 4 cubes by 5 cubes.

The copyright date reads “18—.” The last two digits are obscured. What is the copyright date? The puzzle has been enjoyed by four generations of children, and it shows. It’s in good enough condition so that all six scenes are shown in detail. What is the approximate value?

A: The copyright date is 1889. The pictures made by assembling the cubes are from the children’s book, “The Night Before Christmas,” published by McLoughlin Brothers. This Santa Claus cube puzzle sells for over $2,000 in almost perfect condition.

Q: While preparing for home renovations, we found a few dozen vintage beer cans carefully preserved in our attic. Many of the cans were opened from the bottom, preserving the “pop top.” They are all cans from the mid-1900s. How can we determine the value and best venue for selling?

A: Beer cans with aluminum pull tops were first made in 1962. Iron City Beer was the first beer in cans with ring-type pull tabs. The ring tabs came completely off the can and were discarded. The Sta-Tab was invented in 1975 and was first used on cans of Falls City beer.

The price of old beer cans varies from under a dollar to several hundred or more for a rare and desirable can. There are several sites online that list beer cans and their value, although most of them are sites that are selling beer cans, so the prices will be higher than what you can expect to get. By checking several sites, you can get an idea of value.

If there is an advertising or breweriana show in your area, you can check out prices there and perhaps can sell them to a dealer. Check out Brewery Collectibles Club of America ( for a list of events.

Q: I inherited my grandparents’ table, buffet and bookcase. I think they’re walnut and they haven’t been refinished. They were in my mother’s basement for over 40 years and there is some mold on them. What is the best way to treat these pieces without damaging them?

A: To avoid breathing mold spores, be sure to wear a dust mask and safety goggles. Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter and brush attachment to remove any loose mold. Then, clean the surface with a solution of dishwashing detergent and warm water. Scrub gently with a sponge, cloth or brush, being be careful not to soak the wood.

You can use bleach or a mold killer, but be sure to test it on an inconspicuous place on the furniture before using it. Rinse with a clean cloth dipped in water and wrung out. Dry the furniture with another clean cloth. If mold remains, the spot may need to be sanded. A combination vacuum-sander should be used. After the wood is completely dry, you can polish it.

Q: How much is a book called “National Encyclopedia of Business and Social Forms” worth? It was published in Chicago by G.W. Borland &Co. in 1882. The book has a leather cover.

A: You can buy an 1880 edition of this book for $30-$85. The 1882 edition with hard cover, not leather, sells for $15-$37.

Current prices

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.

Game, Scrabble, crossword, 100 wood letters, board and four wooden stands, 1950s, 14 1/4 x 7 1/2 inches, $20.

Advertising can, A&P Egg Nog, ready to serve, tin lithograph, cylindrical, red, white and blue, 1960s, 1 quart, 7 1/2 x 3 1/3 inches, $55.

Mittens, white rabbit fur, front and cuffs, red leather backs, cream felt liner, women’s, 1960s, 12 1/2 inches, $80.

Christmas tree stand, metal, faux tree branches, tripod feet, silver patina, c. 1905, 5 1/2 x 10 inches, $125.

Quimper, inkwell, letter holder, wood, two wells, two letter slots, scroll openwork dividers, carved flowers, ceramic lids, c. 1905, 8 x 8 inches, $200.

Mercury glass ice bucket, figural red apple, lid, brass stem finial handle, green, clear glass interior, 1920s, $700.

Architectural roof finial, zinc, patina, tapered post, spear tip, flower shaped collar, square flared foot, Belgium, 1800s, 38 x 13 inches, pair, $905.

KPM chocolate pot, flower bouquets, blue bell flowers, gilt trim, swirl texture, loop handle, lid, finial, marked, German, 1800s, 7 inches, $1,200.

Library Cabinet, wood, catalog card filing, 120 drawers, pullout shelves, lower cabinet, paneled, c. 1910, 74 x 40 inches, $3,995.

Ice cream mold, Santa figure, pewter, peaked hat and long coat, round base, France, c. 1905, 20 inches, $5,000.

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