Think how difficult it was before 1800, when you had to have light to work at night and there were only candles or several kinds of oil lamps. In the 1850s it was easier. There were kerosene lamps, gas lamps and finally electric lamps. Today we have an idea of what it was like when the power went out and we need to find a flashlight or candle to use until the repair crews fix the power. Many collectors and campers who want light use older types of lighting like lanterns when there is no electricity.
The Betty lamp is one of the first portable light sources. It is usually made of brass or iron. The bottom layer is a pan that forms a point: the spout. A second pan is on top to hold the wick, usually a twisted piece of cloth placed in the spout to absorb fuel. The wick is lit to produce a flame. The lamp also has a hook so that it can be hung on the wall. Sometimes they have a third layer: a cover to keep insects out.
Antique Betty lamps are sold at many auctions for $40 to around $150. There are even modern versions with the same design for use today. A wrought iron, copper and brass Betty lamp sold at a recent Hess auction for $2,000 after 21 bids. It was made by craftsman Peter Derr of Pennsylvania (1793-1868), making it a prize for a collector. A new reproduced Betty lamp sells for around $40 to $100.
Q: How much is a 1930s-1940s Ramsey-Alton Oak Craft Mission style cabinet worth, in good condition with original hardware?
A: The Ramsey-Alton Manufacturing Co. operated in Portland, Michigan from 1905 to 1915. Oak Craft is the company’s line of Mission-style furniture. Coins do not sell for high prices today. Similar cabinets in good condition sell for between $200 and $400.
Q: My parents bought a beautiful green blown glass vase from Colonial Williamsburg. Did the first glassblowers make vases like this? What was the glassblowing industry like in colonial America?
A: Glassblowing is one of the oldest glassmaking techniques. Glassmaking was one of the earliest industries in colonial America. The first American glasses were mouth blown. Finished pieces would have a pontil mark, which is a rough point on the pontil, or punty shank, that held molten glass while it was shaped with tools. All the decorations would have been added by hand after the piece was blown and shaped, making it even more expensive. Molded blown glass was not made in America until the late 1700s. The appearance of the three-piece mold and especially the mechanical press in the 1820s made glass much cheaper to produce. Antique glass is usually unmarked, so it is easy to copy. A well-documented provenance is the best way to authenticate an antique piece.
Q: Seeing recent sales of vintage video games reminds me of playing them with my brother when we were kids. I think the oldest gaming system we had was our parents’ Intellivision. Would it be worth much today?
A: Intellivision (short for “smart tv”) was manufactured by Mattel, released in 1979 and discontinued in 1990. It was the first video game system with a 16-bit microprocessor. It was a strong competitor to the Atari 2600, which was launched in 1977. The Intellivision was advertised as having better graphics and sound than other systems at the time, but its game library was smaller . An Intellivision gaming system and collection of games sold for around $65 at auction in 2021. Parts sold online for less. Individual games tend to sell for around $10, but rare cartridges in their original packaging can sell for over $100. They don’t fetch prices as high as more familiar systems and games, like Super Mario Bros.
Q: We have a set of 12 Lenox dinner plates, each featuring a different sailboat. They are bordered in gold and marked with the ship’s name and a description. Eight plaques represent a Challenge Cup and a year, and four are Cup Defenders. They have the Lenox brand and “J. McD. & S. Co.” What is this brand?
A: Plate sets depicting yachts sailing in America’s Cup races were made by Lenox in various versions and sold by several companies in the 1930s. The mark with the initials on your plates was used by Jones , McDuffee & Stratton Co., a Boston dealer and distributor which began business under that name in 1871. By 1910 it was the largest wholesaler and retailer of china and glassware in the United States The company sold commemorative plaques for Lenox and other companies up to about 1960. Border, signature or provenance can add value. Some sets have sold at auction for over $1,000.
Current prices are recorded from antique shows, flea markets, sales and auctions across the United States. Prices vary by location due to local economic conditions.
Advertising box, Hand Bag Cut Plug Tobacco, handbag shape, painted yellow and brown to look like leather, hinged opening, top handle, embossed label, Laws & Bro. Co., 7 inch, $95.
Doll, Hasbro, Little Miss No Name, plastic, large round eyes, straight blonde hair with center parting, beige linen tunic with fringed edges and patches, 1965, 15 inches, $135.
Walking stick, WWI, trench art, wood, dog’s head handle, initialed “RB”, inscribed branches and banner on the handle with “Verdun 1917, Ypres 1914-15, Lower Somme 1916”, conical metal tip, 39 1/2 inches, $160.
Cabinet, coat rack, stained wood, fluted sides, mirror in the shape of two double hooks on each side, marble shelf with drawer, recessed umbrella stand at the bottom, 1920s, 78 x 34 x 8 inches, $220.
Jewelry, pin, three flowers, overlapping petals, gold metal, blue jelly cabochon centers, three leaves with green jelly cabochon on bottom, scalloped bezels, Joseff of Hollywood, 3 1/2 x 4 3/4 inches, 375 $.
Pendulum, magnifying glass, arched case, carved leaves and volutes, two bronze finials, hinged glass panel on painted dial, Roman numerals, reticulated back panel opening onto the works, marked dial “John Greenwood & Sons/London”, 1800, 21 x 19 x 8 inches, $440.
Mother-of-pearl punch jar, decorated in slip, blue and white speckled glaze, checkered band on shoulder and lid, C-shaped handle with leaf terminals, England, c. 1815, 7 1/2 inches, $470.
Bookends, black marble, block-shaped arched back chairs, seated man playing accordion and woman playing lute, black clothes, ivory faces, German Art Deco, 5 1/4 x 4 1/4 x 5 1/4 inches, $685 .
Photograph, Martin Luther King, Jr., gelatin silver print, titled and dated June 13, 1967, lower left, signed in ink by photographer Fred McDarrah, passe-partout, framed, 22 x 18 inches, $1,750.
Toy, racing cyclists, three painted tin cyclists, round track surrounded by metal fence, fabric banner, cast lead fist in center acts as key for wind-up mechanism, France, c. 1900, 11 inches, diameter, $2,765.