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By Terry Kovel, Published March 23 2012

Kovels Antiques: Tricky terms can confuse antique buyers

Seeking information about antiques and collectibles sometimes can be difficult because so many terms have more than one meaning.

A “davenport” in England is a type of small desk. In the United States, it is a sofa. An ad may offer a “Duncan Phyfe” table. A man named Duncan Phyfe was a 19th century New York cabinetmaker. The table offered in the ad may have been made by Mr. Phyfe, it may have been made in his style during the years he worked or it may be a recent piece in the Duncan Phyfe style.

A store may advertise a “Tiffany lamp,” meaning a lamp with a distinctive type of glass shade, but to a collector it means a lamp made and marked by Louis Comfort Tiffany at the turn of the 20th century. “Jade” can be one of two minerals: nephrite or jadeite. Jadeite usually is considered the more valuable stone. And to make it even more confusing, you must look carefully at how the word is spelled. “Jadite” is a green glass made by Jeannette Glass Co., and “Jade-ite” is a shade of green glass made by Anchor Hocking Glass Corp.

A music box sold in October at Cowan’s Auctions in Cincinnati was a Regina “Rookwood” model that brought $17,037. It’s a wooden table-shaped music-box case with a painted design on the front. It has nothing to do with the famous Rookwood Pottery. The name was just a marketing idea. So be careful if you’re searching for some antique terms online. You may come up with unexpected results.


Q: I have an old tin that says “Dunhills Original Pontefract Cakes, Estab. 1760” on the top. Can you give me any information about the company and the age and value of this tin?

A: Pontefract cakes, which are sometimes called Pomfret cakes, are small licorice candies. Licorice has been used for medicinal purposes for more than 3,000 years. Cluniac monks brought licorice plants to Pontefract, England, from Spain during the Middle Ages. In 1614 Sir George Saville sold licorice “cakes” or lozenges as cures for stomach ailments. The lozenges were stamped with a stylized picture of Pontefract Castle. Dunhills was established in 1760 by George Dunhill, a chemist, who added sugar, molasses and flour to licorice extract to make licorice candy. Pontefract cakes were also stamped with a picture of Pontefract Castle. Several companies in Pontefract began making the candy, which was sometimes called “Yorkshire Pennies.” Haribo, a German company, bought majority interest in Dunhills in 1972 and the remaining shares in 1994. It still operates the factory in Pontefract. Your tin was probably made in the 1930s. It could be worth $50 to $75.


Q: We own an antique grandfather clock with a plain walnut and walnut veneer case. The works and face are brass, and the face is engraved “Foden Leek.” Can you give us any information?

A: It’s possible your clock was made in or near Leek, Staffordshire, England, sometime in the late 1700s. A clockmaker named Thomas Foden worked in Congleton, East Cheshire, England, about 10 miles from Leek, from 1753 to 1785. We found other clocks marked “Foden Leek” that have sold online. In any case, you own a nice family heirloom you should keep in working order. If it is an 18th century clock that works and is in excellent condition, it’s worth a few thousand dollars.


Q: Please tell me what my old tin Donald Duck Paint Set box is worth, minus the watercolor paints that were originally inside it. The outside of the lid pictures Donald painting at an easel and Mickey Mouse admiring his work. The inside of the lid has pictures of Donald, Mickey, Minnie Mouse, Pluto and Goofy.

A: Donald Duck paint sets were made by a few different companies. The first ones came out in the 1930s. Some sets were sold in lithographed tin boxes and others in paperboard boxes. Your set would be worth more if all the paints, unused, were still inside. The lithographed tin box is an early one and if the box is in excellent condition, a Disneyana collector would pay $25 or more for it.


Q: I have a Fenton Bittersweet Hanging Heart vase with a certificate of authenticity signed by Frank M. Fenton, Robert Barber and Delmar Stowasser on Aug. 26, 1975. The vase is 8 inches tall and is orange with swirling black lines and black hearts. The bottom is marked “406/705, Fenton, 1975” and “DGS.” What is it worth?

A: Your vase is part of Fenton’s 1975 Robert Barber Collection. Barber joined Fenton as artist-in-residence in 1975 and left the company in 1976. Delmar Stowasser was one of Barber’s assistants. There were nine different limited edition vases in the collection. The numbers on your vase indicate it was the 406th vase in a limited edition of 705 vases. Fenton Art Glass Co. was founded in Martins Ferry, Ohio, by Frank L. Fenton and his brother, John W. Fenton. It is now located in Williamstown, W. Va., and is still run by members of the Fenton family. But it ended production of art glass in 2011. Many Fenton limited-edition pieces have been sold on television. Value of your vase: about $500.


For more information about antiques and collectibles and free price information, visit Kovel’s website, www.kovels.com

Kovel answers as many questions as possible through the column. By sending a letter with a question, you give full permission for use in the column or any Kovel forum. We cannot guarantee the return of any photograph, but if a stamped envelope is included, we will try. The volume of mail makes personal answers or appraisals impossible. Write to Kovel, The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019.