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Archive for Sunday, November 30, 2003

Bizarre, unattractive pitchers attract collectors

November 30, 2003

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Pitchers and teapots have always been favorites of collectors.

Figural pitchers are especially interesting in a display. The fame of the maker of the pitcher or the importance of the person or event pictured usually explains high prices.

But sometimes a bizarre, comic or unattractive pitcher will attract a collector. A 12-inch-high German figural pitcher was offered for sale in New Hampshire. The pitcher is shaped like a seated lady holding a muff. She is wearing a ruffled dress, glasses, a hat and a scarf. On the front of her skirt are the words "Die Tante halte stets in Ehren Tuh auf ihr Wohlein Tasschen leeren." That means, roughly, "In honor of your health, Aunt drinks constantly until the cup is empty."

I inherited an old cedar chest. The inside was in good shape, but the plain exterior was beat-up. I refinished the outside and put new copper straps on the top. It's beautiful now, and I would like to learn something about the maker. The bottom is marked "Roos, 967 W. 20th St., Chicago."

Edward Roos & Co. was founded in Chicago in 1916, but not at the address on your chest. The company was reorganized as Ed Roos Co. in 1918 and opened a large factory in Forest Park, Ill. It went out of business in 1951. The Chicago address on your chest was probably a retail outlet. At one point, the Roos firm claimed to be the largest manufacturer of chests in the world. Roos made many styles of chests, some of them elaborately decorated. Your plain chest is probably a later style. Refinishing usually decreases the value of a piece of furniture, but don't worry. Most Roos chests sell for less than $300, and yours was not useful in the condition in which you received it.

My collection of advertising paperweights consists mostly of metal figurals and paper ads mounted under magnifying glass. I have now found an unusual, flat, milk-glass paperweight advertising a West Virginia lumber company. The ad appears to be a colored decal printed right onto the glass. Can you give me any information about this type of paperweight?

We can't be sure about the manufacturer of your paperweight. It might have been a West Virginia firm called the Vitrolite Co. Vitrolite was the brand name of a thick, nonporous structural glass that, from a distance, looks like marble or porcelain. Opaque sheet glass was being manufactured in the United States by the early 1900s. A Chicago sign-maker persuaded some workers at the Opalite Tile Co. of Pennsylvania to join him in forming a business that became the Vitrolite Co. in 1910. Advertising paperweights were one of the small products made by Vitrolite. The company also manufactured signs, store countertops, back bars, tabletops and stools that advertised products. Other manufacturers of architectural glass during the first half of the 20th century included the Marietta Manufacturing Co. of Marietta, Ohio, and the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co. of Pittsburgh. The glass's popularity waned by the 1950s.

My mother found an old brass belt buckle buried in the yard of our family farmhouse in Kansas. The front is embossed with a likeness of Abraham Lincoln, an eagle, other U.S. symbols and the words "In Memory of Our Dear President." The back is embossed Official Funeral Plate issued to all United States Congressmen, Washington, D.C., Made from captured heavy Confederate Guns." Is this a piece of history or just junk?

The buckle is, indeed, junk. It is one of several notorious fake brass buckles that have been confusing collectors since the late 1960s. An English firm called Deane and Adams sold the buckles. All of them are Western-style modern concoctions and are not copies of authentic old buckles. The fakes included a whole line of Wells Fargo, American Express, Ku Klux Klan, Mickey Mouse, Coca-Cola and patriotic buckles. The fakes, identified as fakes, sell for about $25 each today.

I have been buying silk scarves marked "Vera." I understand she designed other fabrics. Can you tell me about her? The colorful, happy designs are so appealing that I want more.

Vera Neumann started designing and making linen place mats in New York City in the 1970s. She formed a business with her husband and F.W. Hamm, and sold a large order to a New York department store in 1972. The company was soon making Vera-designed tablecloths, napkins, scarves, aprons, potholders, dish towels and glassware. Vera also designed dinnerware for Mikasa, sheets for Burlington Industries and wallpaper and fabrics for Schumacher. Most of the designs were colorful abstract flowers. Almost all were marked with her first name and a small ladybug. Her company continued -- and she continued as its designer --until she died in 1993, at the age of 85.

Tip

Never store silver in plastic wrap, inside newspapers or with rubber bands. They will all cause discoloration.

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