Archive for Sunday, July 29, 2012

Kovel’s Antiques: 19th century tobacco jars sported quirky designs

July 29, 2012


Why would a tobacco jar from the 19th century be shaped like a lady in a long, full dress?

Tobacco jars were made in many unexpected shapes, and there are many figural tobacco-jar collectors today.

Most jars were made from 1850 to 1900 in Bohemia and nearby countries. They were made of majolica, bisque, pottery, wood, even bronze.

Most common today are “heads.” Life-like heads of men, women, children, ethnic groups, animals and even a rare fish were made.

“Full figurals” were made that looked like 19th-century ladies, historic figures, peasants, sailors and animals in suits or dresses.

There was humor seen in many of the jars, some very subtle. The lady in a full skirt looks demure and proper, but her ankles are showing below the hem of her skirt. She is flirting. In those days, an ankle was considered erotic. Today, it takes more than a lifted skirt; girls wear ankle bracelets or tattoos to show off a pretty ankle.

Figural jars cost hundreds of dollars today.

I have a pair of heavy bookends with figures of a Chinese boy and girl. The boy is standing on a couple of books and looking over the top of another book. The girl is sitting on two books and reading a book. One bookend says “Fashioned by Ronson” and the other is labeled “Ronson All Metal Art Wares.” It also says “Royal Old Gold.” The figures are gold, and the books are black with gold edges. Can you tell me something about them and what they are worth?

Ronson was founded in New York by Louis V. Aronson in 1886. The company moved to New Jersey in 1887.

Ronson is best known for its cigar and cigarette lighters, but it also made ashtrays, bookends, busts, desk sets, fraternal and religious items, lamps, medals, picture frames, toys and many other things.

Your bookends were made in the 1930s. Similar bookends were made with Dutch children. Zippo Manufacturing Co. bought most of the Ronson assets in 2010. Value of your set: $125.

I have several pieces of my mother’s Guardian Ware cookware, including three triangle pots with lids and a large roaster pan with a lid. What are the pieces worth?

Guardian Ware, also called Guardian Service cookware, was made by Century Metalcraft Corp. of Los Angeles from the 1930s until 1956, when the factory burned down. Pieces were sold at in-home parties the way Tupperware was later sold.

Guardian Ware was made of heavy-duty hammered aluminum. Before World War II, the ware’s high-domed lids were metal. Because of metal shortages during the war, the company started making oven-proof glass lids.

Your triangle pots were designed to be used as a set on a trivet that sat on a burner. That way, three different vegetables could be cooked at the same time.

Guardian Ware is a popular collectible today. Pieces sell online for $5 to $150. Sets can sell for several hundred dollars.

My in-laws left an Abraham Lincoln picture to us, and we’re wondering what it’s worth. It’s mounted in a carved oval wooden frame. The president is on the right sitting in a chair facing left and holding an open book in his lap. Mrs. Lincoln is in a chair on the left and is facing right holding a closed book in her left hand. The Lincolns’ oldest son, Robert, is standing behind his mother’s chair. Their youngest son, Tad, is standing close to his father. A portrait of son Willie, who died in 1862, is hanging on the wall behind the president. There’s a small typed memo on the back of the picture. It says: “Eng’d by A. Robin, NY, Entered according to act of Congress in the year 1869 by G.W. Massee in the Clerks office of the District Court of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.” What is the picture worth, and how can I sell it? Should we reframe it?

What you own is a print made from an engraving. After Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865, the public clamored for Lincoln memorial souvenirs. Augustus Robin, a New York engraver, used a Matthew Brady photograph of Lincoln and Tad as a model to create a steel engraving of the family. The engraving was used by G.W. Massee, a Philadelphia printer, to make copies that could be sold to the public. You own one of Massee’s prints.

Many were probably made, but it’s not likely that many have survived for 150 years. The frame may be original, so don’t reframe it. If you want to sell it, you can try online. It might sell for about $100.

— 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 email addresses will not be published. We cannot guarantee the return of any photograph, but if a


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.