Antique Appraisals

What’s It Worth?: Picnic hamper has nearly 100 years of family history

What’s It Worth?

The Labor Day weekend signals the end — or almost the end — of summer. The last chance for family camping, water skiing and picnicking.

While that’s true in many parts of the country, here in the Mid-Columbia we can always look forward to the possibility that summerlike weather may continue for another month, maybe longer.

So, the nearly 100-year-old family picnic basket reviewed in today’s What’s It Worth? just might get a few more uses this year.

Q. Our family used this picnic basket in Eastern Oregon in the 1920s — LaGrande area. It appears to be in very good condition. What can you tell us about it and, other than family sentiment, does it have any value? — Michele in Richland

A. Your picnic basket — or “ hamper,” as they are sometimes called — is certainly a survivor from a long-gone era. While not a common item, they are seen in the marketplace from time-to-time. Most however are not as old as this example.

These baskets come in many styles and shapes. Traditionally, they are woven wicker. Some, such as this one, are suitcaselike.

Old picnic baskets with all their original components in place are rare. Almost always, at least a few items once fitted to the interior have gone astray over the years.

Michele’s family example is mostly complete. The pair of handled metal boxes for carrying sandwiches, cakes or pies and such are still there. As are the utensils and metal “graniteware” plates mounted to the lid.

This is a picnic case for six, because there are forks, spoons and knifes for that many people. The knives and forks appear to have either Bakelite or celluloid handles, which adds value to this set.

Along each side of the main (lower) compartment is a narrow space where a thermos would have been held in place.

That the handle has been reinforced with a piece of rope only adds to the charm of this hamper.

These are still being made today, and modern picnic baskets can be had for less than $100. More collectible hampers from the 1970s might bring several hundred dollars, particularly if complete.

Much older baskets also can be worth several hundred dollars and up. They were produced by such famous firms as Fortnum & Mason in Great Britain, and we have seen a hamper for 12 by that company sell at auction for almost $1,000.

Q. I have what seems to me to be an unusual serving dish. The bottom is marked Czechoslovakia and the number 8019. There is also a round mark I can’t quite make out. Can you help with identification? — Pat in Kennewick

A. This is a majolica item, a special type of shiny tin or lead glaze on pottery. Majolica was made in the United States, England, Spain, Mexico and many other places. The methods go back to the Italian Renaissance of the 15th and 16th centuries.

Pat’s piece of majolica is clearly marked as being made in Czechoslovakia, and that’s a great help in dating it. The nation of Czechoslovakia was not formed until just after World War I.

In 1918, the new country declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It was peacefully dissolved into the Czech Republic and its sister state of Slovakia in 1993.

Most of the marks on this item are straightforward. The impressed number 8019 is a shape reference. “Czechoslovakia” is clearly where it was made. But that round mark, which would usually be a maker, caused us some confusion.

The impressed circular stamp reads Czechoslovakia as well as the initials “L.D.B. & Co.” We searched high and low for a 20th century Czech manufacturer with those initials and came up empty.

It turns out that “L.D.B. Co.” was not a maker but rather an importer. Headquartered in New York, the little-known company imported household items from all over Europe, including Germany, Bavaria and Czechoslovakia.

This attractive item designed for table service would be fairly priced today at between $20 and $40.

Majolica is one of those areas of antiques and collectibles that has not recovered from the economic downturn. Fifteen or 20 years ago, a nice majolica piece like this would have been worth as much as $75.

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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