English jar, U.S. clock common items with interesting stories

By Terry Maurer, What's It WorthMarch 22, 2014 

In this edition of What's It Worth? we'll look at one of those items whose "type" -- a food container -- is common, but the age is old. There is also an unusual 19th century clock that ran for one day -- if you wound it every day.

Q. This pair of small jars -- the decoration is different on each one -- came down to me in my family as having held quinine. They have a diamond-shaped mark on the bottom, with numbers and letters. Do you know their use and a possible value, please? -- June in Kennewick

A. It took more than a little looking to identify what these 4-inch jars were originally used for, and it was not quinine.

The mark is English and is a registry mark. Since 1842, decorative art designs in England have been required to be registered with the British patent office.

This registration is for the design of the item, not the item itself. Very much like America's design patents.

The diamond-shaped version of the mark was used in two styles from 1842-83. Beginning in 1884, these marks were replaced by the letters "Rd No." a series of numbers, and a letter indicating the year in which the design was registered.

The British system is quite comprehensive and covers items made of ceramics, metal, wood or glass.

Specifically, this mark tells us the design was registered Aug. 19, 1856. The coding also identifies the material as ceramic, although to hold them one would think they were glass. The high-fired finish is quite smooth and feels like glass to the touch.

These are mustard jars, a relatively common antique popular with English collectors today. The gold-colored design of hunting scenes was applied with the transfer process. They are not hand-painted.

While these were made to hold mustard, there's some historical evidence which indicates similar jars actually once held bootleg quinine.

During the American Civil War, Southern sympathizers would try to smuggle quinine to Confederate troops by placing the medicine in the bottom of a jar, adding a layer of wax, then topping it off with marmalade. Anyone inspecting the jar would see the marmalade and be likely to pass it through the lines.

Quinine -- historically a fever reducer, pain killer, scurvy medicine and longtime drug of choice for malaria -- was in short supply in the South during the war.

These jars have some damage and repairs. A collector might be interested in the $25 range each.

Q. This little clock has been in my husband's family for decades. It is 14 inches high and has a wonderful nautical theme, with oars, anchor and the like. What can you tell us? -- Joan in Richland

A. This novelty clock made by the Ansonia Company is the kind of thing a man would have on his desk. This is an example of the "fancy" version.

Here's a little background on the firm that made it. Ansonia was founded in Connecticut in the early 1800s, sold a lot of brass clocks, flourished and eventually moved to New York.

Ansonia was a major clockmaking concern for a long time, but by the 1920s, they had begun to falter. In 1926, Ansonia was sold to a company in Russia.

Your clock was made at the firm's large Brooklyn factory about 1890 and was one of two distinct versions.

This "Navy" model features a flying pennant (partially detached on this clock), an anchor and a long gaff hook. The "Army" model featured stacked rifles, a trumpet and a clock case in the shape of a drum.

The difference between the plain and fancy Navy clocks is the rhinestones surrounding your clock's dial. Those faux jewels add value for today's collectors.

This clock -- with a small mechanism behind a 2-inch dial -- only runs for 24 hours, then needs to be wound.

There are some condition issues, such as the pennant at the top (which should be professionally repaired) and the worn finish.

When offered to the public 125 years ago, this clock was priced at $12.50. In today's market, one in good condition will sell for $350 to $400.

-- Terry K. Maurer, 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 email to tchwhatsitworth@gmail.com.

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