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Archive for Sunday, April 1, 2012

Kovel’s Antiques: Even ‘joke’ items have tremendous value

April 1, 2012

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April Fools’ Day is the day for jokes, but so are many other days.

Our ancestors enjoyed jokes any day of the year. By the 1850s, potters were making puzzle jugs with holes that let liquid dribble down a shirt front and beer mugs with a ceramic frog or snake inside waiting to appear when the beer was gone. There were bronze figures that came apart to show a different figure inside, and odd ceramic birds that were really bottles with heads that could be removed.

One famous American potter made pig-shaped bottles with a saying on the rear that started, “In a hog’s ...” And there were numerous bottles by the German firm Schafer and Vater that were shaped like comic men and women.

But the best joke for children of the 1930s involved a tobacco tin. Prince Albert was a very popular brand of tobacco first made in 1907. It was named for the future king of England, Edward VII (called “Albert” by his family), and his picture was on the front. It was packaged in a rectangular red tin container with a flip lid. Since many tobaccos were sold in bags, not tins, it was special.

The ultimate joke, still quoted today, is a child’s call to a drugstore: “Do you have Prince Albert in a can?” The druggist’s answer, “Yes,” was followed by the young prankster’s response, “Then let him out,” followed by peals of laughter. The brand also used Chief Joseph, a Nez Perce Indian chief, as an advertising symbol in 1913-14.

A large tin sign picturing both the chief and a Prince Albert tobacco tin sold recently for $8,400, proving that Prince Albert tobacco is no joke.

I now own some beautiful cut-glass pieces that belonged to my grandparents. After a recent move, I discovered that one of the bowls had split in half. Is it possible to fix this?

It probably is possible, assuming the split is clean and in a cut, not clear, part of the glass. The monetary value of the bowl is lost, but its sentimental value, appearance and use can be saved. If the bowl is large and you’re worried about repairing it yourself, look online for a professional who repairs glass.

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