Both items we value in today’s What’s It Worth? are metal or have a major component of metal. The smaller of the two could be called heavy metal for its size.
Q. This is a humidor that belonged to my great grandfather.
I am guessing it is from 1870-90s. He was born in Germany and came to Philadelphia as a young man. I believe the top is silver plated. Any information would be appreciated! — Karen in Richland
A. Tobacco humidors were once a common item in the American home and office. Way back when this one was made, the majority of men smoked either pipes or cigars — cigarettes did not become commonly accepted and used until the early decades of the 20th century.
Humidors — containers designed to store pipe tobacco or cigars at an ideal humidity level to keep the tobacco fresh — were made of many materials. Glass, porcelain and stoneware were the most common. Fancy humidors are generally figural. Those designed for home or office use can be as small as a container holding two cigars up to about as big as a large cookie jar.
We see many humidors like Karen’s and they are generally made of common pressed glass with little decoration and feature silver plated screw-on lids. Sometimes the metal was more valuable Sterling silver, so it is good to look closely for a mark. Often they were marked by the manufacturer and prestigious names such as Gorham, Black, Starr & Frost and Tiffany are often seen.
As with anything that is valuable, there are now replicas on the market. The fakes are generally of majolica or tin-glazed ceramics originally made in Austria and Germany. We have not as yet seen replicas of these plainer glass and metal ones, probably because they fall into the lower end of the value range for humidors.
At a shop or antiques show, we would expect a price of between $75 and $100.
Q. My little statue of a bear is bronze and he is quite heavy. At 6 inches long and 4 1/2 inches tall, he weights almost 6 pounds! He is signed and numbered on the base; the artist signature is “A. Voisin.” It came to me as a bequest from my uncle’s estate; he collected many similar things. What can you tell me? — Sue in Pasco
You have a bronze by a very well-known sculptor whose work is held in many museum collections. Adrien Alexandre Voisin (American, 1890-1979) was born in New York, studied at Yale and in Paris, and was head sculptor on Hearst Castle in California.
In 1929, he and his wife moved to Browning, Mont., to live among the Blackfeet people and produce art. The couple were adopted into the tribe.
During that year in Browning, Voisin completed models for a series of 12 busts of Blackfeet and Piegan individuals, including Chief Big Spring, Ke-Ne-Ko-Un and the famous sharp-shooter Dog Gun (E-Ta-Na-Maka). The 12 busts, ranging up to 2 feet high, were later cast in bronze in Paris and exhibited in 1931 at the international Exhibit Coloniale.
The work was a sensation and Voisin became a very popular artist.
Following extensive travels in Europe, the Voisins returned to the United States in 1934. He continued producing Indian bronzes, traveling through Washington, Oregon and Idaho.
For nearly two weeks in 1935, Voisin worked from a studio in Pendleton. There he made many models — later cast in bronze — including the Cayuse Chief Red Hawk, the Indian Queen of the Roundup and Poker Jim, a member of the Umatilla tribe who served as the long-time chief of the Roundup’s Indian encampment.
For most of the last decades of his life, Voisin lived and worked in San Francisco, but also is known to have had a studio in Portland for a time.
He is an important American artist and the Spokane Museum of Arts and Culture has many of his works in their permanent collection.
This piece, called Standing Bear, is one of a series of about 20 small figures of animals Voisin did between 1935 and 1938. It is number 14 in a small run of only 36 bronzes.
His works — Native American figures and animals — are not often seen for sale. We would expect this piece to have an auction estimate of $500 to $750.