In today’s What’s It Worth? an ice bucket that’s not merely an ice bucket takes center stage. And we want to find some readers who will be going to the Antiques Roadshow in Spokane next month.
Q. What can you tell us about our ice bucket? The penguin decorations the sides are certainly attractive and it works quite well. Is it old and does this have any value? — Sig in Kennewick
A. While this is a classic of Mid-Century Modern design, it also calls to mind the earlier Art Deco period.
Made by the West Bend Company of Wisconsin, it is 10 inches wide from walnut handle to walnut handle and was a very popular item when introduced in about 1950. It is still not only sought by collectors today — in good condition these are every bit as functional now as they were back then.
West Bend is certainly an American success story. Founded in 1911 by seven Wisconsin businessmen, it became a giant in the small appliance business.
They started small, making a water dipper and small appliances made of aluminum. It all began in a tiny former button factory the partners rented for $8.50 a month.
In the 1920s, the company really took off. West Bend introduced the first drip coffee maker. It was the grandmother of all modern coffee machines.
By the 1960s, West Bend was making products as varied as electric shish kabob makers and as innovative as the first nonstick cooking surfaces.
Although the West Bend brand still exists, the company was absorbed into Focus International Products a few years ago.
While this works great as an ice bucket, it has a second life. The “Penguin Hot & Cold Server,” as it is called, also keeps things warm. Many people use them for dinner rolls and breads.
In today’s market, a Penguin in excellent condition will sell for between $30 and $40.
Q. A friend told me my small ceramic blackbird is really a pie bird. I’d never heard of that. Can you give me some background and maybe a value? — Mary in Kennewick.
Yup, it’s certainly a pie bird — also called a “pie vent” or “pie funnel.”
They are placed in the center of a pie before baking, to act as a vent allowing steam to escape and to support the pastry, which minimizes sogginess. Most pie birds are about 4 or 5 inches tall.
In the Victorian era, pie vents were first used in deep-dish meat pies. Bird-shaped vents were made in England as early as 1910 and they caught on in America. Vast numbers were made in this country from the 1930s through the 1960s. The most common shape was a little blackbird, like this one.
Still, they came in many forms and were manufactured by some big-name potteries. In America, Shawnee had a little bluebird and Cleminson made a rooster. Famous ceramics designer Clarice Cliff did
a very stylized blackbird for Wilkinson Potteries of England.
They became hot collectibles in the 1960s and ’70s. Of course, widespread collector interest and value can lead to imitations. By the early 1990s, reproduction pie birds — mostly made in Taiwan — were flooding the market.
What you have is almost certainly one of those reproductions and has low value. Something in the range of $5 to $10 would be about right.
Going To The ‘Antiques Roadshow’?
The popular public TV series Antiques Roadshow is coming to Spokane on June 6 and What’s It Worth? wants to follow along and document the experiences of some of our readers.
We can tell you from personal involvement with Roadshow productions that it is a fun and fascinating day.
If you have been lucky enough to receive tickets to the Spokane taping and are interested in having your experience be part of a future What’s It Worth?, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Admission to the Roadshow is by ticket only.
No tickets? You won’t get in.