Collectors find crocks still widely available

March 6, 2011 

Readers of What's it Worth have asked questions about some intriguing old items this time around. Both are American, both utilitarian and each will find value in the marketplace today. Let's go back to an era when people pickled in stoneware crocks and used a pocket knife to whittle.

Q. We have a few stoneware crocks and jugs. This pair were used by my grandmother in the 1920s and 1930s. Can you give us some background and values, please? -- Marilyn in Kennewick

A. Stoneware is collected across the country and there even are specialist collector groups interested in different companies and individual potters.

These two crocks are the type commonly used for making either pickles or sauerkraut and each may have had a lid at one time.

Production of stoneware in America dates back to colonial times, with a pottery known to have been working in Charlestown, Mass., as early as 1742. Works by famous early potters can bring thousands of dollars. All stoneware was handmade and strong and nonporous until about 1890.

With the start of mass production, stoneware became more available and more affordable. There were potteries all over the country, and in Canada. Some of the best known in our region were in Spokane, such as today's example from Spokane Pottery Co. and in Medicine Hat, Alberta.

The Redwing company of Red Wing, Minn., is the best known producer and one of those collector groups -- the Red Wing Collectors Society, Inc. which specializes in this stoneware. You can find the Society online at www.redwingcollectors.org

On the market, you would find your 2-gallon Spokane crock going for $50 to $75. About 12 inches high, the four-gallon Red Wing will sell for as much as $150. It was made between 1909 and 1915.

Condition has to be perfect. These items were made in the hundreds of thousands and there are many out there for collectors to choose from.

Q. Some years ago, while clearing out an ancestor's home in Tulsa, OK, we came across this carved walking cane in the back of a closet. No one in the family knew anything about it -- whose it was or where it came from. The shaft features the carved heads of every president from George Washington through Grover Cleveland. Can you help with any information? -- W. H. in Moscow, Idaho

A. Canes have been used for centuries. Pharaoh Tutankhamen had a collection of gold canes and French author Voltaire dressed up his fancy wardrobe with one of his 75 canes.

Over the centuries there were plain canes and what are called "gadget" canes, with hidden second functions. It could be a gun cane with a pistol concealed in the handle, a fan cane for milady or a cane with a hidden flask for a needed nip.

This cane has no secret function. It is a hand-carved wood American cane that would be classified as folk art, which is one of today's hottest collecting fields.

Folk art can be many things -- native paintings, hand made toys, tooled leather works, for example. One definition of folk art is "... art produced by an indigenous culture, by tradespeople, peasants and/or untrained artists."

Nearly all folk art is unsigned, as is this example. And where it was made is a mystery, too. What we can pin down is an accurate date.

Decorated with a dog's head handle, auspicious symbols and featuring well-worn paint and wonderful patina, this cane was made between 1884 and 1888.

Grover Cleveland, the last president whose likeness graces the shaft, was elected president in 1884 and defeated in 1888. Four years later, he gained the presidency again. Because he appears as the last figure, and the man who succeeded him -- Harrison -- is not on the cane, those four years in the 1880's are when it was made.

This is a fabulous item, one that would interest serious folk art collectors across the country. And, they would have to be serious, because the value range is $4,000 to $6,000. At a hotly-contested auction, it could go for even more.

-- Terry Maurer, a Tri-Cities personal property appraiser, is a member of the Certified Appraisers Guild of America. For possible use in a future column, direct questions on your antiques and collectibles to What's it Worth? by e-mail tchwhatsitworth@gmail.com

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