Staffordshire potters in 19th-century England liked to depict humorous people in everyday activities.
The figurines were the only way to see what a brave lion tamer or important political figure looked like. There were no photos and few prints.
Sometimes the antique pieces confuse today's historians because the activities are unfamiliar. A large toby jug with a removable hat-shaped lid seems to be picking his nose. But study reveals he is sniffing his pinch of snuff in the days before cigarettes.
Snuff is ground or pulverized tobacco leaves. The habit started in Brazil and America, moved on to Spain, and was popular in Europe by the 17th century. Snuff was put on the back of the hand, then pinched by the thumb and finger and held near the nose to be inhaled into each nostril to get a nicotine "hit." It is often made with a scent, medical additions, or flavored with spices, fruit and flowers. There is even snuff made with herbs, but no tobacco.
Today, snuff often is taken by mouth, not the nose. Collectors like the snuff boxes popular in the 19th century. They are small and the lid makes a tight seal to keep the day's supply of snuff dry. Examples in gold, silver, porcelain, glass and even horn are collected. There are also large snuff "mulls" used to store snuff. The most unusual are large rams' horns decorated with silver.
Norman Rockwell poster
Q: I'd like to know the value of a 1918 Norman Rockwell poster I have. It's 14 inches high and 10 inches wide and says at the top "And Now the Fighting Fourth." It pictures a Boy Scout showing off the patriotic badges pinned to his shirt. Below that it says "Women's Liberty Loan Committee of New England." What is it worth?
A: This picture, called "Boy Showing off Badges," first appeared as the Aug. 17, 1918, cover of the Literary Digest. The Fighting Fourth refers to the Women's Liberty Loan Committee's Fourth Liberty Loan Campaign, which began in September 1918. This poster was the only one Norman Rockwell did for the World War I. It sells for $450 to $900, depending on condition.
Edison Home phonograph
Q: I'd like to know the value of my great-grandfather's 1903 phonograph. It has an oak case with a domed lid with a handle. There is a scrolled decal banner on the front with the words "Edison Home Phonograph" on it. I also have some wax cylinders in containers and a small and large horn, and the key. The phonograph works. Who'd like to buy it? What should we ask for it?
A: Thomas Edison invented the phonograph in 1877. The first Edison Home phonograph was made from 1896 to 1901. Your Model A Home phonograph is sometimes called the "Suitcase" model because it can be carried like a suitcase. Early wax cylinders held 2 minutes of recording. Later, 4-minute cylinders were made. Edison made disc phonographs beginning in 1913 and cylinders were no longer used. Phonographs with horns were also discontinued that year. The Model A Edison phonograph sells online for about $450.
Q: Several years ago, my husband was given a "fluter" by a patient, who had a large collection of irons, as a thank you for his care. It's made of iron and has two rollers, a crank handle, and a clamp to attach it to a surface. It's marked "Crown" and "Pat. Nov. 2, 1875." What is it worth and who would buy such a piece?
A: Fluters, or fluting irons, were used in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to press ruffles into collars and clothing. There are several different types of fluters, some with rollers like yours, and some with flat or rocker bottoms. The protrusions made "flutes" or ruffles when the iron was pressed against the dampened cloth. This Crown brand fluter was made by the American Machine Co. of Philadelphia. The patent was issued to Hermann Albrecht for his "improvement in fluting-machines." Fluters sell at tool auctions and online for $50 to $100.
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.
Prices are from shows nationwide.
Bronze figural crab, standing, on hind legs, open claw, cast, Thailand, 1900s, 10 by 12 inches, $80.
Hat rack, Victorian, oak, hanging, three folding hooks, brass collars at joints, 1892, 22 1/2 by 9 1/2 inches, $175.
Kettle, apple butter, copper, iron swing handle, early 19th century, 16 1/2 by 24 inches, $205.
Candelabrum, three-light, English Rose pattern, sterling, flowers, scroll chasing, weighted, 12 1/2 inches, pair $210.
Rooster weather vane, copper, directionals, stand, 1900s, 36 by 79 inches, $220.
Regency table, mahogany, hinged fall-leaves, tuck-away, column supports, stretchers, about 1920, 27 by 43 by 34 inches, $260.
Stoneware crock, cobalt blue bird, flared rim, lug handles, impressed Riedinger & Caire, Poughkeepsie, N.Y., 1800s, 3 gallons, 10 1/4 in. $300.
Weller vase, Sicard, raised design, floral etching, 11 1/2 by 5 inches, $780.
Daum vase, Orchids, Pate de Verre, green and yellow frosted glass, relief leaves, signed, 20th century, 21 by 9 inches, $1,465.
Brooklyn Bridge toy, connecting sections of lithographed paper, wood form, rope pull system moves cars, hand-crank powerhouse, 48 inches, $3,245.