Puzzle jugs challenged drinkers to do it right — or make a mess

The drinker had to know which holes to cover and which to drink from in order to draw the liquid up through the handle.

Puzzle jugs provided a drinking game for centuries. Do you think you could drink from one without spilling?

Puzzle jugs provided a drinking game for centuries. Do you think you could drink from one without spilling?

You don’t often see a jug with openwork around the neck. You could pour liquid in (carefully!), but getting it out would make a mess. If you look closely, you can see small holes in the textured rim.

This type of jug is a puzzle jug. They have openings that cause the liquid inside to spill if you try to pour or drink from it like a typical jug. They were popular in the British Isles in the 16th through 19th centuries. Some had verses challenging the drinker or setting a wager.

This pair, which sold for $107 at a Conestoga auction, has plain brown glaze and applied flowers. The secret of a puzzle jug was usually that it had a hollow handle. Remember the holes around the rim? The drinker had to know which ones to cover and which to drink from in order to draw the liquid up through the handle. Get it wrong, and you don’t get a drink — or, worse, the drink spills on you!

Q: I bought this item from an antique dealer in Toronto, Canada. The glass is a yellow-green and has a strange glow. It’s small and has a metal stand about 12-inches high that makes it easy to carry. Can you tell me which types of drinks were meant to be served from this and does it have any value?

A: Your drink dispenser is meant to serve small amounts of a liquor or liqueur. The included set of six glasses are each slightly larger than a shot glass and made for small servings. The strange glow is because uranium was added to the molten glass to make the yellow-green color. It’s called vaseline glass because the color was like the original color of Vaseline. Genuine vaseline or uranium glass will glow under black light. Colored glass became popular during the mid-1800s through the 1930s. Glass manufacturers added a variety of minerals to produce specific colors that would not be used today. The U.S. government seized all uranium during WWII and banned the manufacturing of vaseline glass until 1958. Vaseline drink dispensers have recently sold for $190 to $400.

Q: I’m trying to sell a 10-piece living room set that includes a sofa, three chairs, two end tables, a round table and a desk and chair. It’s Louis XV, made of handcarved walnut. The chairs and sofa have mohair cushions. The furniture was made in the 1930s and is in very good condition. I’m paying to store it and would like to sell the set as soon as possible. I don’t want to sell individual pieces. Do you have a list of dealers I can contact?

A: Louis XV furniture was made in the 18th century. Your living room set made in the 1930s could be Louis XV “style” but is not considered antique. Carved furniture is not as popular today and can be difficult to sell, especially as an entire set. Contact auction houses, antiques dealers or companies that do estate sales in your area to see if they can sell the furniture for you. There will be charges for storage, shipping, sales tax and more. Ask for a list of charges before you decide what to do. Sometimes it is best to donate your set and take the charitable deduction from your taxes.

Q: I bought a box of junk at a garage sale for $5. In it, I found a 1950s- or 1960s-era travel alarm clock. It is in a brown case that snaps shut. It is a Westclox clock with a white face and black numbers. The hands glow in the dark. The clock works and it is now on my desk. I love it! Is it rare?

A: A true blast-from-the-past. Before cell phone alarms, there were wind-up, travel alarm clocks you could shut until they were the size of a small wallet. Quite portable. They are not rare, but they are great discussion pieces. Yours is worth about $40, which is pretty good from a $5 bin of junk.

Q: Ruby-red thumbprint glass always reminds me of my mother. She had a set she loved. I recently saw a set of red thumbprint glasses, but they had a yellow rim. Can you tell me about them? Are they valuable?

A: You saw a set of Viking Glass Georgian rocks tumblers in ruby red with yellow rims. They were probably from the 1970s. They and their all-red counterparts have “thumbprint” bases and wider tops. You don’t see the ones with the yellow rim as much as you do the all-red glasses. A set of four yellow-rimmed tumblers sells for around $50. You can find a set of four red ones for under $30.

TIP: To cover a scratch in a piece of furniture made of dark wood, rub it with the meat of a walnut, Brazil nut or butternut. Eyebrow pencil or shoe polish in a matching shade will also work.

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.

Bavarian porcelain plate, fish center, underwater scene, autumn leaves around rim, gilt highlights, marked, 8½ inches, $30.

Toy, airplane, black, orange wings, propeller, two wheels, pressed steel, Wyandotte, 18-inch wingspan, $95.

Print, woodblock, Hokusai Katsushika, Sanka Hakuu, Thunderstorm Below Mt. Fuji, one of 36 views, 7¾ by 10¼ inches, $150.

Lamp, hanging, electric, glass shade, cylindrical, rows of raised bubbles, Helena Tynell, 10 by 7½ inches, pair, $375.

Jewelry, bracelet, bangle, Whirling Wind, hinged clasp, raised stylized figures, Kachina musicians, purple stone panel, marked, Ray Morton, 7 inches, diameter, $440.

Furniture, bookcase, Biedermeier, mahogany, glazed paneled doors, green fabric lining, four interior shelves, paw feet, 75 by 50 by 16 inches, $510.

Rug, hooked, pictorial, dog and puppy, spaniels, black, white, brown, on red cushion, flowers, leaves, white ground, mounted, circa 1940, 36 by 60 in., $535.

Silver plate bowl, covered, art deco, green glass knob finial, footed, marked, Puiforcat, France, 3 by 5¼ inches, $600.

Clock, industrial, bronze, four stacked dials, seconds, minutes, hour, date, exposed gears, glass globes, round base, marked, L. LeMercier, France, 17 inches, $1,250.

Store, sign, trade, Post Office, script lettering, mustard ground, wood panel, molded frame, mid-19th century, 14½ by 33½ inches, $2,645.


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