We use boxes just about every day. They are handy for storage, much of what we buy at the grocery store comes in a box and they are so commonplace we hardly give them a second thought.
But, there are boxes and then there are boxes.
In today's What's It Worth? we answer readers' questions about their little boxes -- one wood, one metal.
Q. I have a hinged wooden box that has been in the family for a long time. I assume it is a keepsake box or could have held handkerchiefs.
The dimensions at the base are about 11 by 9 inches. It is 2 5/8 inches high. There is glass in the top with a picture of flowers under it, giving it the appearance of a picture frame. When opened, there is a mirror on the top and a removable wooden divider that is centered in the bottom on top of a piece of glass. The bottom of the box has a piece of cardboard held in place with small nails. The original backing has been removed, although pieces of it still cling to the wood.
The top and bottom edges have some small scallops carved in them.
What can you tell me about it? -- Joyce in Pasco
A. This decorative box could have had many functions. While we probably won't ever be able to determine the original use or who made it, we can make some educated guesses about the box.
Holding hankies or small dressing table items would be the start of a long list of possible uses. It could also have held jewelry, a collection of some small objects or been used for dozens of other purposes.
Boxes are very handy that way. A good guess -- considering the interior mirror -- is that it was a jewelry box. It probably spent much of its life on a dresser in a bedroom.
The construction likely dates it to the early part of the 20th century, but it surely could be somewhat older than that.
Value is in the eye of the beholder or potential buyer. We would think somewhere in the $20 to $40 range.
Q. I recently bought this little metal box from an online auction. Six inches long, I thought it looked rather Egyptian in style. On the bottom there is a mark stamped into the metal that reads "L. & M. T. Co." and it is also marked "Nickel Silver Patent Pend." I can't find any silver company with those initials, so don't know who made this. Did I get a bargain? -- Kathy in Kennewick
A. You won't find any silver company with those initials, because L. & M. T. Co. stands for Liggett & Myers Tobacco Company. This box was used as a premium for their Fatima (pronounced "fah-teem-uh") brand of cigarettes.
The Fatima brand goes back to the 19th century and was at one time very popular. It was marketed as an exotic blend of Turkish tobaccos. Liggett & Myers advertised it heavily, including issuing coupons you could redeem for premiums -- like this box. A smoker could also get college pennants and a wide range of other "prizes." It was one of the brands that had a line of baseball cards, which are popular with collectors today.
In the late 1940s, Fatima Cigarettes were the sole sponsors during the first years of the Dragnet radio program. Even with all the mystic Eastern symbolism of the brand, Fatima started to lose market share in the mid-20th century and by the 1980s it was dropped from the L&M line.
This is a very nicely designed, sturdy box that does have a certain Egyptian look -- fitting right in with the brand's imagery and advertising from the 1920s. It could have been used by a smoker for their cigarettes, or -- with its dark blue velvet lining -- would have made a nice jewelry or trinket box.
The design is also reminiscent of the Arts and Crafts Movement. They are not hard to find today -- tens of thousands must have been given away by the company. Prices for an example in good condition, like this one, range upward to $250 in online auctions. However, we have also seen them sell for $25 or less.
-- 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 email@example.com.