The invention of the light bulb in 1879 changed our lives. For the first time, it was possible to have lamps with a light that pointed down. Designers made lamps in many shapes, including some that resembled old candlesticks or other familiar forms. The tradition continued with Art Nouveau designers of the late 1890s. They made bronze lamps that looked like bats or dancing women twirling scarves and cameo glass lamps that appeared to be groups of mushrooms. Lamp bases were made from vases, urns or figurines. By the 1930s, lamp bases were concocted by placing an antique of any shape on top of a small stand. A metal rod hidden by the antique was used to hold the wiring, the light bulb and the shade. Everything - from apothecary jars to Meissen figurines - was used. Manufacturers of metal bookends or doorstops also made metal lamps in the shape of animals, birds or boats. By the 1950s, lamps of modern design had thin rods as the base and irregular or cone-shaped shades in bright colors. At the same time, all of the old lamp types remained popular. There now are even more types of lamps, because there are more types of light bulbs and lighting devices. Although ceiling strip-lighting is in style, lamps still continue to be used to light the house.
Q: My mother-in-law left my wife an old wooden bank shaped like a delivery truck. The unpainted wood is decorated with an oval black decal that reads "Armour's Quality Products." The truck is 8 inches long and 4 1/8 inches high and has moving wheels. Can you estimate age and value?
A: Your bank was an advertising premium for Armour and Company, originally a meat-processing operation founded in Chicago in the 1860s. Armour used oval labels as early as 1877 and introduced canned meats in 1879. The company's line of processed canned foods expanded in 1912 to include condensed milk. Later, Armour added soups, peanut butter, fruit, vegetables and jellies. The famous "Armour's Star" trademark was first used in 1931. Since your bank doesn't picture that mark, it probably dates from the 1910s or '20s.
Q: I inherited a set of Haviland china from my mother, who got the set as a gift from the wealthy family she worked for. The set includes service for 10, plus some serving pieces. The handles on cups and dish covers are shaped like seashells and have gilt trim. The china dishes are white and are painted with small, pink flowers. Each piece is stamped "CH Field Haviland Limoges, CFH/GDM." How old is the set and what is it worth?
A: Charles Field Haviland (1832-1896) was born in the United States but moved to Limoges, France, in the early 1850s to work for his uncle, David Haviland. By 1868, Charles owned his own porcelain manufacturing company, and in 1876 he took over of the Alluaud factory, one of the oldest porcelain factories in Limoges. When he retired in 1881, Gerard, Dufraisseix and Morel took over his business but continued to use his "CH Field Haviland Limoges" decorating mark. They also added their initials to his CFH white-ware mark. The marks on your dishes date them to 1882-90. The age, quality and size of your set make it very desirable to a Haviland collector. It could sell for more than $700.
Q: My father has three unused and unpunched 1901 beer stamps that say "Beer Stamp Internal Revenue." In the center there's a picture of Thomas Jefferson and the words "Series of 1901, Half Barrel, 80 Cents." All I have been able to find out is that a tax-paid revenue stamp had to be posted over the stopper on every barrel of beer that left a brewery between 1866 and 1951. Are the stamps worth anything?
A: There are collectors of beer-barrel tax stamps who would buy your stamps. Most stamps found today were canceled with a series of punches when the stamps were used. Your unpunched stamps are more valuable than canceled stamps. In 1901 the tax on a barrel of beer was reduced from $2 a barrel to $1.60, so one 80-cent stamp would cover the tax on a half-barrel. The country's first federal tax on beer was levied in 1862 to help finance the Civil War.
Q: A few years ago, we bought six Victorian-style silver-plated napkin rings made by the International Silver Co. Each ring is held by two little cherubs. The flat base that holds the cherubs and ring is marked "Original made by Meriden Britannia Co. circa 1878." So I know my napkin rings are copies, but are they worth the $60 apiece I paid for them?
A: Reproductions of Victorian napkin rings have been made for decades. International Silver Co. was founded in 1898 by a group of New England silver manufacturers, including Meriden Silver Plate Co. We have seen International's 20th-century copies of Meriden's 19th-century napkin rings selling for $25 to $100. A Meriden original could sell for 10 times as much or more.
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.
¢ Waihee Dairy milk bottle, picture of Hawaiian island on front, square, red pyro, 1/2 pint, $20.
¢ Bing and Grondahl tray, carved water-lily and lily-pad design, blue, green and gray glaze, marked, 10 1/2 inches, $70.
¢ Nurse ramp walker, black hair, open mouth, arms swing at sides, white hat and apron, 1939, Wilson, $85.
¢ Cecil the Talking Doll, plush, green felt, red accents, plastic eyes, pull-string mechanism, 1960s, Mattel, 14 inches, $135.
¢ Buster Brown Shoes clicker, celluloid, Buster and Tige in color, early 1900s, 1 1/4 inches, $170.
¢ Charlie McCarthy Majestic radio, brown Bakelite, metal figure of Charlie sitting in front, 1940s, 6-by-7-by-6 inches, $675.
¢ Muller Freres vase, flared rim, spherical body, mottled orange and purple, purple foot, etched mark, 12 inches, $700.
¢ Pasty Lou doll, composition, socket head, bobbed hair, button nose, Effanbee, 1935, 21 inches, $735.