China painting was an important artistic talent in past centuries. Although single-color transfer designs were developed and used by the late 1700s, they lacked the color and graceful lines that were possible if the ceramics were decorated by hand.

Today, the work of exceptional painters brings much higher prices than other pieces by the same factory.

Shirayamadani (1865-1948) was a Japanese artist at Rookwood Pottery in Cincinnati. Rudolph T. Lux (1815-1868) decorated white porcelain with portraits ordered by important politicians and businessmen in New Orleans, and William Powell (working 1900 to 1950) was famous for painting English birds on porcelains made by Royal Worcester.

In the first part of the 1900s, painting ceramics was a hobby and sometimes a job of talented housewives. There were magazines like Keramic Studio, published by Adelaide Alsop Robineau, that featured pictures and instructions and even furnished patterns. Large makers of dinnerware and decorative porcelains often had a team of young women who put patterns on plates or sometimes painted original landscapes or floral designs.

A Royal Worcester vase from the early 1900s was decorated with a picture of wetlands and two egrets in soft colors and gilded trim. It is marked with the green "Royal Worcester England" mark and the initials "WHB." It also is signed "W. Powell" by the painter. The 12½-inch-tall vase sold in 2015 for $1,180.

Valentine scrapbook

Q: Is a scrapbook filled with valentines from the 1920s worth anything? It's so old the pages are crumbling.

A: Most old valentines sell for $1 to $10 depending on design, rarity and condition. If the valentines are glued to the pages, they are worth even less. Those with moving parts sell for more.

Shopping bags

Q: Are printed paper bags from closed stores really collectible, and are they popular? I saw a D.H. Holmes bag on eBay for $40.

A: Collectors like shopping bags with interesting graphics or from particular stores. Some collectors hang them on the wall like paintings. Paper shopping bags with handles were first made in 1912. Some shopping bags are considered works of art. More than 100 bags were exhibited at the Smithsonian's Cooper-Hewitt Museum in New York City in 1978. The museum now owns more than 1,000 bags. Bloomingdale's won awards for its series of shopping bags designed by well-known artists, designers and architects in the 1980s. You can find vintage shopping bags online and at house sales.

Terry and Kim Kovel will answer as many letters from readers as possible through the column only. For return of a photograph, include a self-addressed, stamped (55 cents) envelope. Write to: The Kovels, c/o King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019. The website is kovels.com.

current prices

Prices are from shows nationwide.

Art glass, compote, footed, turned stem, disk foot, low bowl, green and clear, about 1950, 6 by 6 inches, $30.

Bank, elephant, gray paint, red and gold highlights, Hubley, 4 3/4 inches, $90.

Advertising, dispenser, Malted Grape-Nuts, chocolate drink, yellow, glass lid, about 1926, 7 by 15 inches, $180.

Toy ambulance van, tin lithograph, red cross emblems, driver, crank, white, Lindstrom, 1920s, 8 inches, $355.

Bicycle, velocipede, tricycle, wood frame, handlebars, iron fittings, seat, spokes, red paint, about 1890, 41 by 17 inches, $420.

Animal trophy, bear, brown grizzly, head, wall mount, 1970s, 23 by 17 inches, $570.

Cologne bottle, Myers-Neffe, cylindrical, enamel, gilt, flashed cranberry, stopper, about 1890, 7 inches, $650.

Silver cake basket, swing handle, pierced rim, flowers, lobed, England, 1835, 14 3/8 inches, $1,530.

Armoire, Classical, walnut, stepped cornice, two doors, drawers, about 1840, 101 by 85 inches, $2,690.

Pottery vase, iridescent green, four applied starfish, Paul Daschel, about 1900, 14 5/8 inches, $6,130.