Antique Appraisals

What’s It Worth?: European bowl meant for Middle Eastern markets

What’s It Worth?

This small linen bag is from a famous Canadian milling firm. Does fame equal value?
This small linen bag is from a famous Canadian milling firm. Does fame equal value? Contributed photo

Items made in foreign countries are the subject of readers’ question in today’s What’s It Worth?

There is a very interesting pottery bowl made in Holland but meant to be sold elsewhere and a small cloth bag that comes from just north of the border in Victoria, British Columbia.

Q. More than 30 years ago, a great aunt gave me this antique bowl as a wedding present. It is well marked and perhaps you can tell me more? — Ann in Kennewick

A. This is a piece of pottery made in Europe — specifically, Holland — for export to Muslim nations.

In the decades prior to World War I and up until the 1930s, hundreds of thousands of ceramic items intended for daily use were exported by European potters to the Middle East.

Two clues are readily apparent that this small bowl was involved in that trade.

First, part of the marks on the back are in Arabic. And, while perhaps not as obvious, the blue design on the bowl is more Islamic than European. That design is more subtle than many exported pieces from this period, which may include stars and a crescent moon or simple flowers and leaves.

Agents for many European pottery firms did a brisk business not only in the Middle East, but also in other Muslim regions, including Singapore.

This bowl was made by the firm of Petrus Regout, which by 1836 was operating out of a steam-powered plant that was capable of making ceramics that could compete with the best products in the world.

Petrus Regout was named for its founder and was originally called the Sphinx Pottery. The company stayed in business under various names until the late 20th century.

Other European firms making pottery for the Islamic market were in England, France, Belgium and Portugal. Most of the items were of strong earthenware and consisted of bowls, cups, large dishes and plates.

Ann’s little bowl — it is 2 1/2 inches deep — certainly fits that category. Designed for everyday use, it appears to be in excellent condition.

A similar bowl by Petrus Regout with European designs would sell in the $20 to $30 range.

Made in about 1900, this bowl for export to the Middle East would be of more interest to specialist collectors and would be fairly priced in the area of $100 to $125.

Q. While vacationing last summer on the Olympic Peninsula, I came across this 10 inch by six inch linen bag at a flea market. It appears to be unused and is in excellent condition. The markings are colorful - in orange and red - and the only clue I can find to where it may have been made is the use of “Ltd.” It is obviously a bag for pearl barley. Can you tell me where it was made? — Judy in Richland

A. This is a neat little item and part of the interesting history of Victoria, British Columbia.

While we don’t know for certain who made the bag, we do know it was to be used for pearl barley, a product of the hugely successful Brackman-Ker Milling Company. The “Ltd.” stands for “Limited,” the Canadian equivalent of our “Incorporated.”

Henry Brackman, who made a fortune in the Cariboo Gold Rush of the early 1860’s, founded a milling business in Victoria in 1877. The first product was rolled oats.

Brackman partnered with one of Victoria’s leading citizens — David Ker — in 1879 and the business really took off.

It wasn’t long before Brackman-Ker Milling was expanding throughout western Canada. They moved their plant from North Saanich (north of the city) and constructed a building that is still standing today near the downtown area.

The Ker family, in particular, is well documented in the history of Victoria. It was David Ker who lobbied the Canadian Pacific Railroad to build a tourist hotel in the city. That building still stands today, and you can have tea at The Empress Hotel facing the harbor.

The family’s history is chronicled in historian John Adams’ 2007 book, The Ker Family of Victoria, 1859-1976: Pioneer Industrialists in Western Canada.

All that being said, and even with the historic connection to a prominent family, there is not a great deal of value in this little bag. $5 to $10 is what we’d expect to see in a shop or at an antiques show.

Terry K. Maurer, Tri–Cities personal property appraiser, is a senior 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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