Sunday, October 6, 2002
Silver cups and silver mugs were popular gifts in Victorian times. The metal had a known value, so it was considered a valuable gift.
Silver was decorated in many ways, with engraving, fanciful handles, raised decorations or added trim.
Most silver cups were given to newborn babies and engraved with the baby's name and birth date. (Of course, it could not be used by the baby until she was old enough to drink from a cup.) Other cups were given as wedding or anniversary gifts, or to honor a member of an organization who had done a good job.
The style of the cup hints at its age. Very plain cups are from the 1840s. Elaborate examples are from the 1890s. But the best way to determine age is by the mark.
Almost all 19th-century sterling silver was marked. Most pre-1850 silversmiths stamped the maker's name or initials on a piece. Other marks were used that resembled the popular English marks of the time -- a small head, hand, bird or letter. Later, company names or locations might have been used.
Pieces marked with the word coin, standard, quality or premium were made of coin silver in the mid-19th century. This was a slightly lower grade than sterling, but it was solid silver, not silver plate.
"Sterling" was used in America after about 1860. Plated silver had entirely different marks. The marks were usually elaborate company emblems with the word quadruple or plate.
Plated and solid silver cups often look similar, but the prices are different.
Solid silver cups are worth $200 or more. Plated pieces are valued at $50 to $100.
Q. I have a chair marked "E.W. Vaill, Worcester, Mass." It is upholstered with what looks like a carpet with fringe. The chair can fold up. Can you tell me the age?
A. Vaill was in business in 1861 and was still working in 1891. The firm made many types of chairs for use inside or outside on a porch. The chairs were comfortable, portable and inexpensive.
Q. I have a set of six old Fiesta nested mixing bowls. The largest, 10 inches in diameter, is yellow. Each one is an inch smaller than the next, and, in size order, they're turquoise, light green, yellow, cobalt and red. They have been passed down to me, but I am not interested in keeping them. Do they have any value?
A. Homer Laughlin's Fiestaware is a collector favorite. New Fiesta dinnerware sells at department and specialty stores. Fiesta mixing-bowl sets were made from 1936, the year Fiesta was introduced, until 1943. A set included seven bowls. You are missing the largest, 111/2 inches in diameter. It is the size collectors have the most difficulty finding. All of the bowls came in the original Fiesta colors: red, cobalt, yellow, light green, ivory and turquoise. Your set, even without the largest bowl, is worth about $750 to $950.
Q. I found a very old sand pail in a box of things in my grandparents' attic. It's tin, with a multicolored lithographed picture all around the pail showing children playing on a beach. The pail is in good condition but has a couple of minor rust spots. Can you tell me its age and value? I can't find any marks on the pail.
A. The big clue to the age of your sand pail is its decoration. One- or two-color tin lithography was in use by the turn of the 20th century. Even when additional colors were added during the next couple of decades, the pictures were separate vignettes on the front and back. By the 1930s, graphics were used all around a tin pail. So your pail could not have been made earlier than the 1930s. By then, several major American toy makers, including Chein, Marx and Ohio Art, were making lithographed tin sand pails. Sand pails from the '30s, if in good condition, can sell for more than $100.
Q. My grandmother's toaster is very old and looks nothing like modern ones. It's electric and has the original cord. It still works. You put a piece of bread in a swinging door on either side of the heating element. When one side is toasted, you have to turn the piece around so that the other side can be toasted. The bottom is marked with 1913 and 1915 patent dates and the words "Universal, made by Landers Frary & amp; Clark." Is there a market for this?
A. Old toasters, like other early kitchen appliances, are collectible. Your toaster, made of nickel-plated steel, was first sold in 1928. The earlier patent dates relate to the years the toaster's mechanisms were registered with the patent office. Your toaster is called a "reversible type" because you have to reverse the toast in order to brown both sides. Landers Frary & amp; Clark's history dates back to 1829. The Connecticut company started using the trade name "Universal" during the 1890s. Both the company and the trade name were acquired by General Electric in 1965. Your toaster is valued at about $50.
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