Antique Appraisals

What’s It Worth?: Antiques’ beauty not always tied to value

By Terry Maurer

Doll values have seen dramatic changes in recent years.
Doll values have seen dramatic changes in recent years. Contributed photos

Items that are lovely to look at, antique and collectible are featured in today’s What’s It Worth?

Readers inquire about the background and values of a 9-inch-high English flower vase and a “China Head” doll. Each is more than 100 years old.

Q. I felt lucky to be able to recently purchase this small glass vase with a metal stand at a Tri-Cities estate sale. I noticed it on the sale’s first day, but couldn’t decide whether to buy or not. The next day, on my return, it was still there and the price had been reduced. There are markings on the bottom of the metal stand, but none on the glass insert. Can you identify the maker and give us a value? — Barbara in Richland

A. The style of the metal holder and the glass are Art Nouveau. That alone dates this to the time frame of 1890-1910. Artists working in that period were inspired by natural forms and structure, most particularly the curving lines of plants and flowers. Both the glass and stand are good examples of what was popular back then.

Markings on the base are for John Turner and Company of England, which made all kinds of silverplated items in their Sheffield factory. This particular mark was only used between 1898 and 1910 — right in the heart of the Art Nouveau era.

The glass insert — the folds on the top are pink and the top edge or “lip” is opalescent glass in a cream color — could have been made by any of several British firms. The most likely candidate is Stevens and Williams.

Working from their large factory in Stourbridge (about 100 miles from the Turner shops), Stevens and Williams made all kinds of decorative and functional glassware, including high-quality items like this vase insert.

Unlike the metal stand, the glass is unmarked. Most Stevens and Williams glass is unmarked. The combination of holder and insert is often called a “Posey.”

In a high-quality antique shop, we’d expect to see a price tag between $150 and $200.

Q. My 96-year-old mother inherited this doll from an aunt. The aunt was born about 1880 in northwestern Missouri and sadly died about 1895.

The doll is 20 inches tall. The head, forearms/hands and lower legs/feet are made of porcelain. The body is stuffed cloth. The number “5” is imprinted on the back. My mother remembers that the arms and legs were originally made from leather, so the porcelain appendages may have been added later. Can you provide us some background information on where and when this may have been made? Thanks for your work — Mike in Richland

A. What are generally called “China Head” dolls were made in great numbers, primarily in Germany, starting as early as the 1840s. China heads are also known to have been made in France, Sweden and Canada, along with other countries.

The heads are glazed porcelain and only occasionally did the doll come as a complete doll. Mostly, the heads were sold separately and the buyer either bought a body or, more likely, made one.

Today’s collectors classify them primarily by the hairstyle. There are more than 30 named styles and many variations. Dark hair is more common than blond, which makes this doll a little out of the ordinary.

Doll heads are also classed by flesh color and facial features such as exposed ears, pierced ears, glass eyes, eyelashes and rosy cheeks.

If she had a ribbon in her blond hair, this would be a “Dolly Madison” head. Without a ribbon, we’d call her a “Curly Top” style. These dolls were made as early as the 1870s, so that would fit in with the young owner’s lifetime.

The number “5” is probably an indication of either factory style or size. It does nothing to help us identify the maker.

In fact, the authoritative book, 200 Years of Dolls, notes “Identifying china heads according to manufacturer is nearly impossible.”

As recently as 10 years ago, a doll like this would have had a market value in the $400 to $500 range.

Unfortunately, dolls are one of the areas of the collector’s market that has been hard-hit by the recent economic downturn and the passing of many longtime collectors.

Today, a value of $50 to $75 would be more appropriate.

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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