Appearance of antiques not always indication of value

By Terry Maurer, What's It Worth?May 18, 2014 

One of the universal rules of antiques is, "Just because an item is unusual, appealing and old, that doesn't mean it is valuable."

Here are two cases in point in today's What's It Worth?

We respond to readers' questions about a 19th century teapot and some early 20th century drinking glasses. Both fit the "unusual, appealing and old" part of the rule.

Q. My mom and I got these tumbler glasses from a friend years ago.

Recently, my mom wanted me to find out if they are worth anything. I have searched and searched and have found nothing on them. I hope you can help! I know the characters on the glasses are from The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens. On the bottom of the glasses, very faintly, is "CZECHO SLOVAKIA." Please help! -- Lisa in Kennewick

A. It is relatively easy to date these tumblers. The Czechs and the Slovaks did not come together to form an Eastern European nation until the end of World War I.

Thus, these could not have been made before 1918 and likely weren't made during or after World War II.

The Czech and Slovak cultures had been known for centuries for their production of high-quality glass items. Famous firms included Loetz and Moser; their work was considered among the best anywhere. Each company's work is sometimes confused with Tiffany.

These pieces were made by a factory that we cannot identify. Most Czech glass, if it is marked at all, just reads "Czechoslovakia." The spelling was often split into two words, as on these tumblers.

Dickens' drinking glasses, most often in the form of tumblers but occasionally with stems, were also made in England during the Victorian era. Produced there between 1840 and 1900, they started to appear shortly after Charles Dickens published The Pickwick Papers in installments in 1837.

The most recent sales record we found was for a set of six English tumblers, earlier than Lisa's by 50 years or so. They auctioned for less than $10 apiece.

These unusual glasses would bring even less than that, emphasizing how glassware, in general, has tumbled in price during the past 10 or 20 years.

Q. This silverplate teapot came to us through an uncle. I've always liked it, but we seldom use it. Can you tell me something about the history and a possible value? -- Sue in Corvallis, Ore.

A. In the 19th century, there were hundreds of silversmiths and silver companies in America.

One of the largest and most successful was a group of companies run by the Rogers brothers of Hartford, Conn. They started in business in 1820 and owned many silver producers in the northeastern United States. They made silverplated goods and Sterling silver items. All the firms had "Rogers" in their name.

This silverplate teapot was made by Rogers Smith and Company of New Haven around 1875.

All the brothers' varied operations eventually were incorporated as part of the International Silver Company, which was formed in 1898.

This design is very appealing. It features a "Japanesque" -- or Oriental -- influence in the chasing. The four feet are in the form of stag's heads. And the handle is very much like the work of famed English designer Christopher Dresser, who was a leader in the "Aesthetic Movement."

Now considered to have been decades ahead of his time, Dresser used clean lines -- like in this handle and the pot's square finial -- a radical break from Victorian designs heavy with ornamentation.

His work had long-lasting international influence and is widely collected today.

Unfortunately, while this is old and certainly appealing, it is also silverplated, not Sterling silver. That makes it much less valuable than one might think at first glance.

After all, it has a lot going for it. The influence of a famous designer, Oriental theme, animals incorporated in the work. But, the marketplace will not much care. Value is no more than $75.

Both the tumblers and the teapot fit squarely under the rule we stated at the beginning of today's column.

They are old, appealing and unusual. But they simply are not very valuable.

-- 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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