It's a carrier, a hod, a scuttle, a pail. Whatever it's called, it's a convenient item used to carry coal to a fireplace. The word "hod" seems to be preferred in England. The term "scuttle" or "carrier" is used in the United States. Coal was used in fireplaces and stoves to provide heat. Some coal carriers were simple metal pails; others looked like pieces of furniture. They were made with some sort of tipped lip that made it easy to pour out the lumps of coal. It also was used to carry ashes away from the fireplace. Today the attractive furniturelike coal hods are used as small tables or magazine racks. An Art Nouveau coal hod with inlay sold at a recent Leslie Hindman auction in Chicago for $310.
In 1992 I bought a buffet that was at least 50 years old. There's a brass emblem inside a drawer that says, "Henry C. Steul & Sons, Inc., Buffalo, New York." Can you tell me something about the manufacturer?
Henry Christian Steul was born in Buffalo in 1859. He and his brother Conrad became partners in a furniture business, Steul Bros., in 1882. Conrad died in 1888 and Henry found another partner, Frank H. Thuman, in 1890. Their business incorporated in 1904 as Steul & Thuman, Inc. The business name changed again in 1920, becoming Henry C. Steul & Sons. So your buffet was made after 1920. Steul & Sons was in business through at least 1937. The company made reproduction furniture, much of it in European Renaissance styles. It concentrated on dining room and bedroom sets. Steul buffets sell for a few hundred dollars.
Q: I have a very old Frister & Rossman treadle sewing machine and wooden cabinet. I have not cleaned or oiled it, but presumably it could be put in working condition. The machine is rusty and "seized up," and it also needs polishing. You have often said in your columns that items in their original condition have more value. Could you tell me the approximate age of this sewing machine?
A: Frister & Rossmann was founded by Gustav Rossmann and Robert Frister in Berlin, Germany, in 1864. It was the largest sewing machine manufacturer in Germany in the late 1800s and made millions of sewing machines. The company was sold in 1925 to Gritzner & Kayser, which continued to make sewing machines under the Frister & Rossmann name. Collectors want the early sewing machine models that have gold trim and fancy decorations. It's the condition of the machine and the case, not whether the machine works, that determines value.
Q: I'm hoping you can give me some information about a dress clip my husband's great-aunt left him. The front of the clip is decorated with colored stones, and the metal clip on the back is etched "Czechoslovakia." There's also a soldered mark, "Isser Singer & Son, 498 7th Ave., NYC."
A: It's likely that your costume jewelry dress clip was made in Czechoslovakia and that Isser Singer & Son was the New York retail store that sold it. It's not uncommon to find a retailer's mark on a piece of costume jewelry. Costume jewelry is becoming more and more popular, so wear the clip with pride.
Q: I have a set of 12 plates stamped "Higgins-Seiter, New York, Patented Dec. 4, 1905." The plates are embossed and painted with different scenes of rabbits. Can you tell me anything about them?
A: Higgins & Seiter was a New York City importer of china and glass. Arthur Higgins, Barton B. Higgins and Col. Seiter formed a partnership in 1887, but the company had been in business for about 20 years before that. Higgins & Seiter was not able to get shipments from Europe when World War I began and went bankrupt in 1915. The plates are expensive today, about $400 each.
Q: I have an Estey pump organ that was made about 1880. An appraiser told me it's worth $700 to $900. I'd like to know the history of the company.
A: Estey Organ Co. was a successor to S.H. Jones & Co., which was founded in Brattleboro, Vt., in 1846. The company made melodeons, reed organs and a strange instrument called a seraphim, sometimes called a hydrodaktulopsychicharmonica. The ownership and name of the company changed several times. Jacob Estey became part owner in 1853. The name of the company became J. Estey & Co. in 1865. The company made more than 500,000 reed organs and more than 3,000 pipe organs. Estey went out of business in 1960. A list of serial numbers that will help date your organ are listed on the Estey Organ Museum Web site.
Tip: Don't use gold- or silver-decorated glasses if the trim has turned chalky gray. This is a source of lead poisoning.
Terry Kovel answers 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, addresses or e-mail 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., 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.
Limoges clover plate, red clover with green leaves, gold rim, Coronet Borgfeldt mark, 8 1/2 inches, $40.
St. Patrick's Day postcard, woman in green dress holding flowers, "And It's O, the Green Shamrock," postmarked March 13, 1911, $42.
Dennis Day "Shillelaghs & Shamrocks" record album, Dennis on cover, 1961, $60.
Tape measure, frog figural, green eyes, gold-tone body with blue and green enamel work, Rosenfeld by Florenza, 2 3/8 x 1 7/8 inches, $80.
J.R. Hewitt Saddle Maker sign, paper, saddles, harnesses and trunks, image of storefront, Springfield, Mass., c. 1880, 19 x 11 inches, $125.
Pig candy container, dark green, flocked, pink mouth, pale blue and white glass eyes, Germany, 4 3/4 x 2 3/4 inches, $225.
Cut glass fruit bowl, North Star pattern, signed Hawkes, 4 3/4 x 10 inches, $330.
Icicle Flavored Ice Pops sign, paper, Yankees slugger Roger Maris, orange, black and white, 1960s, 11 x 17 inches, $350.
Crocodile handbag, maroon, detachable toggle handles, wallet holder, latch has Celine insignia, c. 1970s, $1,680.
Regency library table, mahogany, rectangular top with leather inset, frieze fitted with two drawers, splayed legs with brass caps, 1st quarter 19th century, 30 x 48 inches, $1,695.