It seems strange today that early wooden tea caddies (special boxes for tea) were made with a lock and key. Tea was a very expensive drink in the 1600s. It gave added energy and after the addition of sugar, milk and sometimes lemon, it had a pleasing taste.

The earliest tea caddies in England were made of porcelain shaped like a bottle with flat sides and a lid. Most were made in Holland.

By the 1700s, there were large tea chests (caddies) that were made of mahogany, rosewood and other attractive types of wood.

The valuable tea was kept in a box decorated with ivory, brass, ebony or silver to show its importance. Most had two or three sections that held a glass liner for the tea.

The tea was served in an important room, so the tea caddy was made to resemble the furniture of the day.

A recent auction sold an English Tunbridge ware tea caddy with inlay picturing Queen Victoria. The caddy was connected to a pedestal, also decorated with inlay. The impressive tea caddy sold for $2,950.

Privy bag

Q: I was just told that there was a bag kept in the privy building used in past centuries. It was quilted from old pieces of cloth and used to save scraps (some say cloth, some paper) to use like we use toilet paper. Is this true?

A: We thought that was a strange question, but we searched our library and finally went online to We wrote about an exhibit in 2009 in Lancaster, Pa., of quilted privy bags. They also had a booklet showing the collection. The bags were used in the privy to hold the pieces of paper that were to be used like toilet paper. Waste went into the hole in the seat to the ground about 6 feet below. Lancaster, Pa., seems to have been the center of this tradition with Amish-made quilted bags. The only price we have seen for this rare item was $995.

Ram's head handles

Q: My mom had a beautiful white Wedgwood bowl with lambs' heads on it. Does it have any value?

A: Wedgwood was founded by Josiah Wedgwood in England in 1759. Wedgwood's Edme pattern is white and includes bowls with ram's head handles. The pattern was made from 1908 to 2014. Bowls with ram's head handles have been made in different sizes, with and without a lid, and sell for $50 to $150.

Bone, resin or plastic?

Q: Is there any way to test to see if an item is made of resin, bone or plastic?

A: Bone and resin are natural products. Bone has small black or brown pock marks called "marrow flecks." It's heavier than resin or plastic. Resin is an organic material made from plants and trees. It may have some tiny bubbles in it. Plastic is a synthetic material and is harder than resin. Although a resin figurine is heavier than the same figurine in plastic, it is not as durable and is more likely to chip or crack if dropped.

Terry and Kim Kovel will answer as many letters from readers as possible through the column only. Write to: The Kovels, c/o King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019. The website is

current prices

Prices are from shows nationwide.

Pewter candlesticks, fluted stem with swags, square base with cut corners, Continental, about 1800, 89 inches, pair $30.

Superman, Dime Register Bank, graphic pictures Superman breaking chains, tin, square with cut corners, $120.

Glass-blown epergne, clear, etched Greek key pattern, eight-point stars on column, baluster, shallow dish, domed foot, Corning, N.Y., 1800s, 14 1/2 inches, $250.

Flintstones toy train, Bedrock Express, Fred and Wilma in locomotive, stone graphics, tin lithograph, zigzag action, metal bell, Marx, box, 12 inches, $415.

Hooked rug, six square panels, multicolored flowers, fruits, birds, black scalloped border, red scroll inner border, 19th century, 107 by 72 inches, $690.

Pottery plate, midcentury, Bull Under the Tree, black design on white, dotted rim, Edition Picasso, Madoura, 1952, 8 inches, $2,125.