Q: I inherited these items from various family members, and I am hoping you can tell me something about their possible value. The piggies in a poke are 4 inches wide by 3 inches tall. It is just a knickknack and has no markings. This piece was given to me by a great-aunt who died in the 1980s. The other piggies are salt and pepper shakers. There are no chips or cracks.
A: Sometimes we have to choose what to concentrate on when we write a response. In this case, we are going to pass over the teapot and the tureen — both of which are attractive — but we cannot decipher the mark on the teapot and the tureen is only marked with pattern numbers.
The teapot appears to be second quarter of the 20th-century American and probably worth in the $35 to $50 range, while the tureen is European, possibly French, and from the first quarter of the 20th century. Value? Probably $100 to $125 because it is attractive and useful.
Now on to the main event: the pigs. The three little piggy salt and pepper shakers are beyond cute with their flirty eyes and saggy overalls, two with painted blue stripes, one with painted flowers. We took a close look, hoping they might have been made by Shawnee pottery, but the little porkers do not appear to have been made in one of the company's molds.
The three pigs were probably made third quarter of the 20th century. Their country of origin may have been either Germany or Japan. But without a mark we cannot be sure which (we favor Japan). In any event, the three should probably be valued at around $10 to $12 each at retail.
The piggies in a poke, however, are German in origin and are part of a collecting group known as "pink pigs," which is part of a larger collecting group called "fairings." Fairings are generally small, inexpensive pieces of porcelain that were either given away at country fairs or sold for just a few pennies each. In the case of some pink pig items they were emblazoned with the names of cities and/or tourist locations (such as Niagara Falls) and sold as souvenirs in gift shops.
Fairings can be found in the form of small dresser boxes and figures, but examples found in the form of pink pigs can be toothpick holders, chamber sticks, match holders and ashtrays. Mainly, they were just little novelties meant to amuse and sit on a cottage mantel. Some can be in the form of a telephone booth marked "Public Telephone Call Office" that looks suspiciously like an outhouse, while there is a rather macabre one of a mother pig pushing a cart with three piglets inside and a poem that reads, "Hushabye Baby/Don't you cry/You'll be a sausage/Bye and bye."
Collectors of pink pigs can find examples riding in an early automobile, playing piano, posed beside a bean pot, sitting on a sofa or mailing a letter. The pigs in a purse you own is not uncommon and was probably made sometime between the end of World War I and the beginning of World War II. The pink pig fairing has a retail value in the $50 to $65 range.
Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson have written a number of books on antiques. Do you have an item you'd like to know more about? Contact them at Joe Rosson, 2504 Seymour Ave., Knoxville, TN 37917, or e-mail them at treasuresknology.net. If you'd like your question to be considered for their column, please include a high-resolution photo of the subject, which must be in focus, with your inquiry.