KOVELS: Office Set Includes Vintage Items | Community


Tiffany Studios is synonymous with luxury and decorative items like jewelry, useful pieces of precious metals and elaborate stained glass. The company also made practical items, such as its line of commercial desk accessories made from around 1890 to the 1930s.

Desk sets include items that office workers probably won’t see today, like this rocking blotter in the Bookmark pattern. It sold for $161 at Cowan’s auction in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The Tiffany Bookmark series featured early printers’ marks surrounded by panels of raised leaves and flowers. Around the turn of the century, office workers would have used a rocker blotter with a fountain pen and ink holder. Many people who wrote with a ballpoint pen smudged the ink. Fountain pen ink would have taken even longer to dry.

People accelerated the drying with a pinch of sand or powder and, later, by blotting it with special paper. This rocking blotter would have held sheets of blotting paper for use on documents written in ink.

Q: I have a wooden filing cabinet. It measures 38 inches tall and consists of a group of stackable cubes. The lid is separate and has an imprint which I believe says “Yawman and Fre…Rochester New York, USA”. It’s on the front of the lid. It had been in my parents’ house for many years, but I have no idea where it came from, probably from an auction.

A: Your oak filing cabinet was manufactured by Yawman & Erbe Mfg. Co. of Rochester, New York. Its offices and main factory were in Rochester, and they had branches in several American cities. In 1883, the company began manufacturing stackable filing cabinets that were customized to meet the specific filing needs of many businesses. A binder very similar to yours sold for $300 in 2019.

Q: Years ago, my grandmother gave me a small mother-of-pearl oyster shell handbag. The family history is that it was made by my grandmother’s great-great-great-grandfather, who was a fisherman in Scotland. It is made from the whole shell with a metal clasp and hinge. Inside it is divided into three pockets, with a lavender fabric lining. Have you ever seen something like this before?

A: Yes, oyster shell handbags are quite common, and handbags like yours are still commercially produced. They are easily available online at different prices. More sophisticated types have gold bands around the shell and “carry” chains. In Victorian times, oyster shell handbags were popular as souvenir items sold at seaside resorts. In good condition, it could be worth between $100 and $200. Without seeing the purse, we’re not sure if your rumor about your great-great-great-grandfather is true or a fish story, but you have a nice memory.

Q: I inherited a Rookwood vase when my grandmother died 60 years ago. It’s shaded from dusty pink to light green at the top, and there are three stylized tulips sculpted along the length of the vase. The vase measures approximately 8 1/2 inches tall. It is marked with the Rookwood logo and “XXIX” above “2387”.

I know it must be old, but is it valuable?

A: Rookwood Pottery was founded in Cincinnati by Maria Longworth Nichols in 1880. Bookends, dinnerware, figurines, tiles, and vases were made. The coins were marked “RP”, with the letter “R” upside down, surrounded by flames. Roman numerals indicating the year were included below the initials from 1900. The pottery went bankrupt in 1941. It was bought and sold several times thereafter, and production resumed in 2006. The mark on your vase indicates that it was made in 1929. the number “2387” is the shape number. Early pottery made by famous Rookwood artists fetches the highest prices. Some sell for several thousand dollars. Your vase is worth about $200.

Q: I inherited a set of very old metal cookie cutters from my mother. I’ve never used them but I have childhood memories of cookies made with them. Can you tell me a bit about old cookie cutters? How can I determine the age and the price?

A: With the “farmhouse” style currently a design favourite, early cookie cutters with their rustic look are fun to collect and display. Cookie cutters are believed to date from around 1475, with the first American cookie cutters made by tinsmiths in East Berlin, Connecticut around 1720. Tin was the main material for cookie cutters until 1920, when aluminum became popular. Plastic replaced aluminum after World War II.

Metal cookie cutters with “bullet” handles are particularly sought after by collectors. Early knives typically had backs made of uneven pieces of scrap metal.

Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel answer reader questions sent to the column. Send a letter with a question describing the size, material and what you know about the item. Include only two photos, the item and a close-up of any marks or damage. Make sure your name and return address are included. By submitting a question, you are giving full permission for use in any Kovel product. We do not guarantee the return of photographs, but if a stamped envelope is included, we will try. Questions that are answered will appear in Kovels’ posts. Write Kovels, (The Daily Times), King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803 or email [email protected]


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