Kovels coffin

Recycling is not new. Attractive boxes that held products like cigars were often reused to hold jewelry or sewing equipment. What the hooded figures on this box represent is unknown, but the box sold for $875 to be used in a 21st-century way.

Homes of the early 1900s in the United States had many matched sets of decorative pieces. There was a coffee and tea service with creamer, sugar bowl and tray. There was usually a desk set with a pen, blotter ends, inkwell, pen holder, letter opener, stamp box and more. And, of course, there was a smoking set that had a box for cigars, cigar cutter, sometimes a cigar holder, humidor, lighter, ashtray, a cigarette holder and a special cigarette case to carry.

When viewed alone, the parts are often hard to identify. A recent auction by Rago sold a pottery box with a lid and corners that featured hooded figures. The size suggests it was originally made to hold cigars. Cigars were sold in standard size wooden boxes starting in 1865. A decorative box often held them on a desk or table. This box is marked Atlantic Terra Cotta Company, an important maker of New Jersey clay tiles from 1907 to 1949. It sold for $875.

Q. I was just given an enameled dish that is 12 inches in diameter. It pictures a church spire and buildings in a very modern style, with the buildings very square. On the back is a gold paper label that says “Dekor Zagreb.” Below that is a rectangular paper label that looks like “Ruckin.” It has a hanger attached to the back, probably when it was made, so it can be hung. What can you tell me about it?

A. Your bowl was made in Zagreb, formerly Yugoslavia, now Croatia, where enamel plates, candlesticks, tiles and other wares are a major business. The rectangular label reads, “Rucni rad,” meaning “handcraft.” Dekor was a government-operated company in the early 1950s in Zagreb where artists could obtain space to work. It was later privatized, then went out of business. There was an art school in Zagreb that taught enameling. Hundreds of the plates are offered online, some enamel on copper, others on steel. Copper plates are the earliest; steel has been used since the 1960s. Many have a slightly rolled edge, which might indicate the metal is a standard size and shape used for other things, like pot lids (with a handle attached by screws). Most plates are inexpensive, $20 to $30, but a few are being sold for $100 or more. It depends on the artist. Enamel plates are still being made and exported to many countries.

Q. I’d like to know the maker of a silver baby’s cup I bought at a house sale. It’s marked on the bottom with a star with the letter “G” in the middle of it.

A. The star with “G” mark was used by A.T. Gunner Mfg. Co., a company in Attleboro, Massachusetts, that made sterling silver hollowware and flatware. The company was founded by Albert T. Gunner in 1920 and closed in 1975.

Q. I have a set of Mickey and Minnie Mouse cowboy salt and pepper shakers marked “Disney, Made in China.” They’re both wearing cowboy hats. The pepper shaker is Mickey standing next to a cactus, playing the guitar. The saltshaker is Minnie sitting on a barrel, listening to him play. What are they worth?

A. Walt Disney and his brother, Roy, started the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio in Hollywood in 1923. Walt came up with the idea of a little mouse cartoon character in 1928. Mickey and Minnie Mouse debuted in the short film “Steamboat Willie,” which premiered on Nov. 18, 1928. These salt and pepper shakers aren’t very old and sell for $9 to $20 for the pair.

Q. My wife recently purchased a box of records that contained a couple of the one-sided, brown Berliner Gramophone records featuring the Haydn Quartet. I’m unable to find any market price for this type of record. Can you advise me if there is a market for these recordings?

A. The Haydn Quartet was one of the most popular singing groups in the early 1900s and had several top hits. It was originally called the Edison Quartet and started recording for Edison Records in 1896. They changed their name to the Haydn Quartet when they began recording for other companies. In 1894, the Berliner Gramophone became the first company to make disc records instead of cylinder recordings. The Haydn Quartet made at least 35 recordings for the company beginning in 1897. The recordings are on 7-inch single-sided shellac records. Berliner stopped making records in 1900. The group changed the spelling of its name to “Hayden” in 1910 and disbanded in 1914. Some Berliner recordings of the Haydn Quartet have been reissued on long-playing records. Contact a local shop that sells vintage records. Ask if they know a place that buys and sells these old recordings. They are rare, hard to find and wanted by a small group of collectors.

TIP: Rub tartar-control toothpaste on your scratched snow dome paperweights. It will remove the smaller scratches.

Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel answer questions sent to the column. By sending a letter with a question and a picture, 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 photographs, but if a stamped envelope is included, we will try. The amount of mail makes personal answers or appraisals impossible. Write to Kovels, The Daily Times, King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803.

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