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Antiques and Collectibles Questions and Answers

Antiques and Collectibles Questions and Answers


Here I will answer your questions concerning antiques and collectibles, including antique dolls, vintage and antique china, antique porcelain and pottery, antique furniture, antique toys and much more. The questions come from the hundreds of emails I receive each week and even though I don't respond to them individually I will answer the most common questions here on this page. If the question is already answered on one of the other resource and reference pages - How to Value Your Antiques or our Marks page - it will not be addressed here.

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Q: I have some old looking silver forks that are marked Brazil Silver. Can you tell me what this is? A: In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, nickel silver wares were sold under a variety of names, including Brazil Silver, Alaska Silver, Nevada Silver, and Solid Silver. These all tend to be silvery-looking alloys, as opposed to the yellow alloys normally used as a base for plating. They were touted as being a superior alternative to plated wares, because they never "wore through". Old Sears catalogs display a nice variety of these items. Basically they are the same as silverplate, prior to the plating process. Daniel & Arter's Globe Nevada Silver Works was a prolific producer of this sort of thing. Aside from Brazilian and Nevada Silver, they also used the terms Aluminum Silver, Japanese Silver, Indian Silver, Burmaroid and Argenline, among others. These are all basically the same thing.

Q: I have a set of china which I inherited from my grandmother. The only mark on the bottoms is the pattern's name. I'm enclosing a picture of the mark. I have been told [by a museum in England] that it might be Staffordshire. Can you help me find out the manufacturer?
A: I've searched through my reference books, and have done an extensive search on the Web, to no avail. The one thing I might suggest (in spite of the interesting information received from the museum) is that it is not Staffordshire at all, but American. The reason I suggest this is that British manufacturers were religious about putting their registered mark on the back of the piece. Every known Staffordshire pottery can be traced back to its origins, by the marks. (For example, Mason's became Morley became Ashworth became Ridgway became Wedgwood!) A piece that doesn't have a patent mark, Registry mark, or manufacturer's mark, would be very rare. Even in the 18th century, factories all over Europe used unique marks.
On the other hand, American potteries in the 19th century were prolific producers of Staffordshire-style dinnerware. Mostly located in Ohio, western New York State, and Pennsylvania, they often sold their popular dishes through catalogs or department stores. The majority used unique identifying marks to establish their brands, but not all did. Sometimes the department store's name appears instead. And, sometimes only the pattern name appears. For these reasons, I suspect your china is not English, but American, "staffordshire".

Q: I have recently starting collecting red glass and cannot seem to find when it was made. There are no markings on it at all (some pieces don't even have "seams" I was wondering if you could give me some ideas on when it was made and possible where. I usually find pieces at garage sales, flea markets and antique shows. I've tried looking on the Internet but none of the sights mention when it was made. The glass is a deep red color. I've heard the terms ruby and cranberry applied to it but I'm not sure if those are right.       A: While I am not a collector of glass, I know that the deep red glass you own is probably "ruby red", not cranberry, as cranberry is usually a lighter, almost pink shade. It would not be uncommon for there to be no markings as most 20th century glassware for household use came with a paper label or sticker which could be washed off before use. Some hand-blown, and some commercially made glassware might have a raised mark (Anchor Hocking used such a raised mark on its better glassware). Royal Ruby was a tradename that the Hocking Glass Company used for its red glass that it started making in 1938.

Bohemian glassware is highly collectible for the very ornamental quality of its ruby-stained clear crystal, often decorated in gold and etched or engraved in marvelous patterns. This glassware was manufactured between 1875 and 1915. Contemporary "bohemian" glass is now made in Czechoslovakia, Germany and Poland.

You don't say what kind of pieces you have, whether tumblers, goblets, plates or vases, etc. However, here are some excellent websites where you can find more detailed information on the making of ruby glass, and I highly recommend that you search your local library for books on 20th century ruby glassware.

Q: Are the Bookclub editions of books collectible? A: According to Bob Brooke, a noted antiquarian book expert, they are collectible. "There was a time when collectors could easily identify them. They were smaller, looked cheap, were lighter in weight, and each had "Bookclub Edition" on the dust jacket. Today, book clubs try hard to disguise their editions, and with original editions getting junkier, there's often little apparent difference between the two. It's quite common for book-club editions to use the original publishers' first-edition negatives or printing plates. According to Robert Wilson in his book Modern Book Collecting, many book-club editions come from the original publishers in identical format. Either way, book-club editions can bear "First Edition" on their copyright-pages." If you find a circle, square, maple leaf, dot, or star blind-stamped on the bottom right of the outside back cover, it's a Book of the Month Club (BOMC) edition. The great majority have this stamp. BOMC has been doing this since 1948. And BOMC books published prior to that time are very difficult to distinguish from true first editions.

Q: I recently acquired a box full of old liquor bottles and fruit canning jars. How do I find information on them and their prices? A: There are quite a few books on the market specific to bottles and even liquor bottles which have a wealth of information in them. Also, the better known price guides such as Kovel's, Warman's, Antique Trader, Shroeder's, etc. list bottle prices. You can also visit some of the online sites that deal in bottles, do a search on google for vintage bottles, antique bottles, liquor bottle prices and so forth and those sites will come up Digger O'Dell has one of the best sites that I have found.

Q: If a book is not marked First Edition or First Printing how do I know if it is or not? A: One of the keys to verifying that the book is at least a first printing is to look at the "number line" on the copyright page. The lowest number is the printing and the high numbers are the dates of the printings. If you see "1 2 3 4 5 78 77 76 75 74", this indicates a first printing, and in 1974, the second.

Q: Why do some old and very nice antiques sell for little or nothing while other items that are less good looking seem to sell for large amounts of money? A: In addition to rarity and beauty there are several factors that can almost guarantee an antique will sell for a great deal of money, especially at auction. 1)Provenance 2)An important Signature or Manufacturer's Mark 3) Attribution. Provenance is more than saying an item has been in the family since 1811 or having a recently written letter stating ownership, one needs to have documented previous ownership. Who gave what to whom and when. Museum pieces have provenance. A dated letter or document from the time the antique or object was made that describes the item is provenance. As is documenting that the item once belonged to a wealthy family and photos of the item with the family are wonderful provenance. (I once went to a sale where everything that the lady owned had the date she received it, the occassion and from who written on the back... this is provenance.) Attribution is based on style, possibly colors used (Chinese porcelains, Meissen and Sevres), materials in use at the time and signs of age on the piece. A 200 year old table with absolutely no signs of use and modern screws should make you think that it is a reproduction instead of a true antique table. Signatures, manufacturer marks, backstamps and such can be tricky. Most European pottery, porcelain and china pieces are very well marked as is their silver. But there are antiques that are being mass reproduced and unless you are knowledgeable and it easy to get taken. It is not uncommon to find glassware that has had the signature added with a dentist drill. Fake Galle pieces are everywhere, the mark is boldly on the side of the piece instead of blended into the design or on the bottom. Oriental porcelains are other commonly reproduced pieces and unless you are familiar with all of the dynasty marks you will not be able to notice the slight variations between the original antique and the reproductions.

Q: I have a teapot that was purchased from Sears and is made of resin. How much is it worth and how old is it? A: Cold cast resin is a relatively new product so your item currently has no value as far as collectibility. It's age is less than 10 years. If you love it... it's invaluable.

Q: I purchased this depression glass covered butter dish, Sharon pattern in ice blue, at a garage sale. I have only seen the Sharon pattern in pink and amber. Is this a rare color? A: Sharon was produced by the Federal Glass Company from 1935 - 1939. It was made in pink, green and amber with a few pieces in crystal or clear glass. Your piece is a reproduction which was made in 1976 when some of the Sharon pieces were reproduced including colors that were never before created.

Q: My doll is from around 1890, owned by my great-aunt. But it may have been brought over from Germany by her mother, and be as old as 1875. I have a relatives 1875 diary and she describes a dress she is making with pantaloons, petticoat and dress that matches the dress the doll is wearing. What puzzles me is that the "made in Germany" is in English rather than German. Do you have any idea what may be the reason? A: After 1892 goods being imported into America were required to have the country of origin on the item. German doll makers solved the problem by simply incorporating the words "made in Germany" with the rest of their impressed manufacturer mark or backstamp. Therefore, your great-aunt's doll was definitely NOT purchased in a German store. Instead, it was made specifically for export, and was exported to and sold in America, which was the biggest doll market in the world.                   From the Theriault's Website

Q: I have looked all over the Internet for the mark on this pink planter, R.R.P.Co.Roseville inside of a crown. I have found similar marks but nothing exactly like it. Is this a rare mark? Is this a Roseville Pottery mark? A: Your item was made by the Robinson Ransbottom Co. of Roseville, Ohio (see the marks page for information on R.R.P.Co.Roseville mark) my book does not indicate when this mark was used but it is not a rare mark it is just one of several marks used by this company.

Q: What are some tips for spotting a reproduction piece of glass?  A: Use your fingers and rub the glass in long strokes. Reproductions will feel oily (like a fine sheet of cooking oil is on the surface) reproduction glass will also feel gritty because it attracts dust. On old glass look for the imperfections (bubbles) in the glass or mold imperfections also it will not have a slippery feel to it and it should have a nice ringing sound when tapped.

Q: I have a Limited Edition Edwin M. Knowles Doll. What is she worth and how old is she? A: These dolls are modern collectibles and despite the "limited edition" verbage they were mass produced. The dolls were distributed by Bradford Exchange or Ashton Drake with the Edwin M. Knowles name, maybe this is who produced the porcelain that they are made of. These dolls started coming out in the mid 1980's and as far as I know are still being produced. There were several series of the dolls and my experience has been that only the first in the series tend to go up in price, the others stay at about their issue price of $60 - $80. I think that they were limited to a run of about a year in length which means a large number of them were produced. These "limited edition" items should not be purchased for investment purposes but purely because you love them and want to pass them on to others in your family.

  • How do I tell an Old Napkin Ring from a new one? 1) Old Napkin Ring is made of one solid piece, it has no seams. 2) Repro will have a seam in the inside; it will be polished to try to disguise it, and does not have any sharp distinguished lines from the mold. 3) Repro will not be silver plated a base metal is used in an attempt to make it look old. 5) Be careful on repros they are using the almost exact markings of original makers and using Triple and Quadruple plate.
  • How can I tell the old candlesticks from the new ones? 1) The old ones have a filled base-meaning it has a center hole in the bottom that has been filled to keep it from falling over. Note: the old ones had felt on the bottom-you must remove it to check. 2) Modern-(silver) will not have a filled center in the base to stabilize it. They will have a one piece bottom. They will be marked Sheffield, etc. 3) Older pieces were not always marked. 
  • How can I tell if a Staffordshire Dog is old or new?  1) Wear and Tear: (discoloration) painted surfaces will have lost some of the coloring in these areas: nose, eyebrows, top of head. 2) Newer Staffordshire Dogs in shops show no wear and were made at 20th century (newer). 
  • How can I tell the date of a piece of glass by the handles?  1) STICK UP Handles: mean that the handle was applied from the bottom upward dates c. 1890's.  2) STICK DOWN Handle: means applied from the top downward dates c. 1850's.
  • How can I tell the difference between the older carnival glass and the newer carnival glass? The older pieces - pre 1950's were thicker and heavier while the newer pieces are thinner and weigh less. Also some of the new animal on nest figurines have some distinct differences. A good book on glassware can help you with this.
  • What can you tell me about costume jewelry marked Tara? Tara was the forerunner of Sarah Coventry in the 1950's.

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Antiques and Collectibles Questions and Answers





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