Sometimes an antique or collectible is so amusing or so lovable that it finds its way into the home of a person who does not admit to being a collector. There are all degrees of collectors - from those who want one huggable teddy bear to those with whole rooms devoted to the display of a single type of antique, like glass bride's baskets or battery-operated toys. Some designers seem to tap into the emotional side of collecting. Hummel figurines, Martinware pitchers, Holt Howard pixie condiment containers and almost all cookie jars seem "cute" or "lovable" or "funny" and sell well. The four Martin brothers made stoneware in London from 1873 to 1923. Charles was the business manager, and Robert Wallace, Edwin and Walter designed and made the pottery. They made many imaginative, grotesque vases, spoon warmers and jars. The most well-known today are the bird-shaped jars with covers and the double-face jugs. The jugs were modeled with a human face on either side. They were made starting in 1885. "Face" jugs were inspired by Janus, the two-faced god of Rome. Many of the early jugs had faces like satyrs. The later faces were often caricatures of political figures. Some faces grimaced, some smiled, some seemed evil and others appeared friendly. A single jug often had a menacing face on one side and a lovable one on the other. A few face jugs pictured women. To save money, the handles of the jug became less looped and more rectangular through the years. That made room for more pieces in the kiln. The jugs inspired many other designers. Similar pottery was made by Doulton & Co. and American southern folk art potters. Martinware has an incised or impressed mark of the brothers' last name, date and pottery location.
Q: I inherited a maple dining-room set (hutch, buffet and table with six chairs) that originally belonged to my grandmother. The label on the bottom of the table reads "Hale Company Incorporated, East Arlington, Vermont." Can you tell me something about the maker and also how I could go about selling the set?
A: Henry Hale opened his furniture manufacturing company in Arlington, in the 1870s. It grew into a large, successful enterprise and stayed in business until 1992. You can probably estimate the age of your set by figuring out when your grandparents bought it. It is always easier to sell furniture locally. Advertise online or in your local newspaper.
Q: I collect old advertising signs. How can I tell if a sign is metal or porcelain?
A: Old advertising signs were made of all sorts of materials, including paper, wood, cardboard, iron, celluloid, tin or porcelain enamel on metal. Porcelain enamel is not porcelain, although collectors often use the word "porcelain" to describe these signs. Porcelain enamel is a durable glass coating that's applied to a metal backing, then fused to the metal at a high temperature. Porcelain-enamel signs can weigh more, look shinier and have brighter colors than tin signs. Both tin and porcelain-enamel signs can be die-cut or embossed. Look for clues on the back of a sign. Most porcelain signs were coated on the back in a color between light gray and blue-black, but the coating has probably chipped. Look for chips at the edges, too. Be careful if you're shopping for old advertising signs. Many have been reproduced.
Q: I would like to know about the history of my old bottle. It's labeled "E.F. Kunkel's Bitter Wine of Iron."
A: Any bottle marked with the word "bitters" or "bitter" either in the glass or on a paper label is called a bitters bottle. Bitters was, simply, gin mixed with some herbs to make it a "patent medicine." In the United States, "medicinal" bitters mixtures were sold starting in the 1860s. They were advertised as treatments for everything from bad breath to heart ailments. E.F. Kunkel of Philadelphia sold his bitters in the 1870s and '80s. He used clear, square bottles and rectangular aqua bottles. A bottle like yours, in good condition, would probably sell for about $100. The U.S. government passed the Pure Food and Drugs Act in 1906 to curtail the most outlandish claims of the patent-medicine marketers. But bitters continued to be sold as a health supplement for another couple of decades.
Q: My grandmother left me a Golden Star treadle sewing machine. It must be close to 100 years old. I would like to get it going again, since it's in good shape. How do I go about doing this?
A: Golden Star was a model made by A.G. Mason Manufacturing Co., an Ohio manufacturer in business from about 1903 to 1916. After that, the company became a subsidiary of the Domestic Sewing Machine Co., then a brand owned by White Sewing Machine Co. of Cleveland. You can find restorers of antique sewing machines in your local Yellow Pages phonebook or online. We list some on our Web site,
The old cord on a vintage phone adds value. Green cords are best. Other old forms are twisted cords, brown cords or patterned cords called rattlesnakes.
The Kovels answer as many questions as possible through the column. By sending a letter with a question, you give full permission for use in the column or any other Kovel forum. Names and addresses will not be published. We cannot guarantee the return of any photograph, but if a stamped envelope is included, we will try. The volume of mail makes personal answers or appraisals impossible. Write to Kovels, (Lawrence Journal-World), King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.
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.
Depression-glass cocktail mixer, Sportsman series, cobalt blue with white ship, 4 1/2 x 4 1/4 inches, $65.
Built Rite dollhouse set, heavy cardboard, assembled, second floor with veranda and patio, Art Deco house, Warren Paper Prod., c. 1940, 11 x 14 inches, $110.
Advertising clock, "Drink Brownie Chocolate Soda," square, image of Brownie holding bottle of soda, Pam Clock Co., 1950s, 3 1/2 inches, $140.
Rin Tin Tin cavalry rifle ballpoint pen, with mailer and flier, Nabisco premium, black plastic, "Rin Tin Tin" in gold, 1950s, 3 1/2 inches, $170.
Cast-iron doorstop, lilies of the valley, floral arrangement in wicker basket, embossed leaves, Hubley, marked "189", 10 x 7 inches, $275.
Handwerck bisque-head girl doll, blue sleep eyes, open mouth, pierced ears, nurse's outfit, white cotton apron and hat, c. 1925, 22 inches, $385.
Sampler, alphabets, flowers, trees, Biblical subjects, England, 1850s, 12 x 16 inches, $445.
Sleigh bed, Empire, mahogany, scrolled panel, c. 1830, 37 x 60 x 79 inches, $900.
Paris porcelain cabinet cup and saucer, Empire-green ground, loop handle, serpent-head terminal, griffins, lotus flowers, lamb's tongue, marked, c. 1812, $1,055.
Sterling-silver Edwardian tea tray, oval with pierced rim, reeded border, two handles, Goldsmiths & Silversmith Co., London, 1905, 28 3/8 x 16 3/4 inches, $3,055.