Q. Our little pig-shaped flask has a story to it.
My grandfather brought it back from a trip to St. Louis in the early 20th century and bet the boys at the local saloon in Pomeroy that they wouldn't be willing to drink from it. Once they pulled the cork (right under the tail) they all allowed how he was right! It is about 7 1/2 inches long, brown in color and has a lot of writing on it. There is some damage. The family has always thought of it as "Grandpa's funny pig." Now, we'd like to know more about it. Can you help? Thanks. -- Alice in LaCrosse
A. Whle his little piggy hasn't gone to market, the market for him will certainly be strong.
What you have is a rare piece of American folk art stoneware, made by the Anna Pottery of Anna, Union County, Ill. It was run by the brothers Cornwall & Wallace Kirkpatrick. The firm had opened for business by 1859, but your pig was more likely made after 1868 but before 1894, when they closed.
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These pig flasks were typical of Anna Pottery work and each was unique and hand-decorated.
Inscribed on this pig are a lot of words for something that's only 7 1/2 inches long. There's much regional boosterism, particularly for the railroads.
Here's some of what it says : "St. Louis the future capital in the latest & most reliable Railroad & River Guide." Under the pig's chin it says "Chicago Corn Crib." A map of the Mississippi River runs down the pig's spine.
It also is signed "C. Kirkpatrick, by the author." Each of these was made by hand and the signature means yours was made by Cornwall Kirkpatrick.
These are somewhat rare, eagerly sought and quite valuable. Perhaps 10 or so come up for sale in any given year. All are about the same size -- some a bit smaller than this -- and they were made in this brown glaze and from a blue-gray color of clay with blue writing. All of them we've seen have similar "business booster" comments as their main theme.
Your flask has some damage, and the tail is mostly missing. That will keep the value at the lower end of the range for "Anna pigs," as they're called by collectors.
The highest price ever paid for an Anna pig flask at auction in America is just under $24,000. That one was a very special pig, with slogans about temperance and Prohibition and it was in excellent condition. The record-setting flask also was a gray-colored clay with blue scratched decorations.
Last year, the auction firm of Bonhams & Butterfields sold a similar flask to that record setter for $10,000, but it did not have the temperance message.
Just recently one was sold at an online auction by a firm specializing in early stoneware items for $6,500. It, too, was gray clay with blue decoration.
In excellent condition, a brown Anna Pottery pig flask could be expected to be bid up to anywhere from $5,000 to $8,000 at auction.
This flask, with the damage (which can be repaired) would have a pre-sale estimate at a major auction house of between $2,500 and $5,000.
Seen & Sold
The George Washington plate shown in today's What's It Worth is an example of relatively recent "Historical Blue China."
Pieces like this -- showing American sites and and scenes and commemorating famous Americans -- were imported from England as early as 1820. This piece was made by the Royal Doulton Company of Staffordshire, England, most probably to mark Washington's 200th birthday celebration of 1932.
There are bargains to be had at an auction, and this plate is a good example. At a well-advertised estate auction in Idaho last month, this 10-inch plate sold for $10. These can normally be found in shops and at antique shows priced in the $50 to $85 range.
Not only did this plate go for a song, the same savvy buyer at the auction snapped up several other similar examples of Historical Blue China at the same $10 price.
* Terry Maurer, a Tri-Cities personal property appraiser and antiques dealer, is a member of the Certified Appraisers Guild of America. You may submit your antiques and collectible questions to What's It Worth by e-mail to whats firstname.lastname@example.org