Canton china's decorations represented harmony in nature, life

Tim Kovel and Kerry Kovel
Cowles Syndicate
This is a Canton bulb tray that was used to force bulbs or plant a Bonsai.

Canton china with its blue and white decoration has been a popular collectible for many years, but few can distinguish it from the other early or modern Chinese blue and white china. It has been popular for centuries, partly because cobalt blue coloring was safe to use when decorating dishes. Red ware and pewter contained dangerous lead. 

By 1710, the Chinese made at least four patterns of Chinese export porcelain that included landscape designs.

Two of the most popular were Nanking (1770-1820) and Canton (1785- 1853). Nanking was decorated with a willow tree, boat, teahouse, birds and a fence. Canton had symbolic decorations including a border band of blue and white scallops representing rain and clouds, a bridge, water, rocks, a pagoda, scholar, waterwheel, riverboats or sampans, two kinds of orchid leaves and a willow tree. Each symbol had a meaning reflecting endurance, harmony in nature, movement, the old leading the young or life. 

There are other unnamed blue and white patterns from the same period and even a similar English willow pattern. Later Canton pieces are thicker, heavier and have less detailed decorations. There are 92 known shapes of Canton including chamber pots, slop pots, plain pitchers, cider jugs, oyster bowls, patty pan bowls (used to bake crust), helmet pitchers, butter dishes, butter pats (five shapes) and hot water plates. Sometimes a color is added over the blue designs. This adds color to the piece, but often covers the original blue decorations.

June 6:Current prices

Question: Is a Marie Osmond toddler doll, with all the extras, worth something, or should I let my great-granddaughter play with her? The doll has never been taken out of the box, but the box is kind of beaten up and somewhat shabby.  

Answer: Marie Osmond "Toddler" dolls were designed by Marie Osmond, a singer, entertainer and talk show host. They are part of a series of collector dolls designed by Osmond, first made in 1991 by Knickerbocker Creations of Rancho Santa Margarita, California, and sold on QVC. Part of the proceeds were given to the Children's Miracle Network, a charity Osmond helped establish.

Later, the dolls were sold in stores, online, and through mail order catalogs. Knickerbocker Creations went bankrupt in 1999. Osmond's husband bought the company in 2001, and it was renamed Marian LLC. He sold the company in 2004, and it became Charisma Brands LLC. The last Toddler dolls were made in 2013. The dolls have porcelain heads, arms and legs and stuffed cloth bodies. They were "limited editions" meant for collectors, not to be played with. The porcelain parts often break. A doll in good condition sells for $25 to $45. Mint in the box, like yours, should bring over $75. 

Q: Can you help me identify the marks on a pottery jug I have? The mark is an irregular shape with a lion standing on a crown in the middle. Printed in a wide border is "Chelsea Royal Pottery, Burslem, H & G, England." Who is the maker, and how old is the jug? 

A: This mark was used by Hollinshead & Griffiths at its Chelsea Works in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, England. The pottery made china and earthenware. "Royal Chelsea Pottery" and "Chelsea Art Pottery" were trade names used by Hollinshead & Griffiths. The pottery was in business from about 1887 to 1910. 

Q: I have an old blue Pyrex bowl with what looks like Amish people on the side. Can you tell me anything about it? 

A: Your bowl is from 1957 and is a pattern called Butterprint. It has an Amish farmer and his wife surrounded by various crops. It is one of the most collectible Pyrex patterns. It is also available but much harder to find in pink Butterprint and yellow Butterprint. Collecting Pyrex is popular right now, probably for its nostalgic value. 

Q: My grandmother, Olive Urquhart, was an antiques dealer and bottle expert. She was the author of the book "Bottlers and Bottles, Canadian." I was given her "stock" of glass bottles and a few glass vases, stuff she stored in her basement and sold. There are about a hundred boxes of newspaper-wrapped goodies. I'm not sure how to deal with it. I assume some would be of great value. A few pieces are marked, but I haven't been able to identify the makers. How can I determine what is valuable? 

A: Unfortunately, this often happens when a collector-dealer leaves a large collection for the heirs. If you collect, leave instructions for your heirs with the names of friends who collect similar items or dealers that you have worked with in the past. In this instance, this is too big a job to tackle by yourself. You need an expert for a collection this large. Contact bottle auctions to see if they would want to sell all or part of the bottles. Talk to members of the local bottle club. Maybe you can locate some of your grandmother's friends who also collected and would be willing to help. Contact a charity that could hold an auction and give the heirs a tax deduction. Be sure to tell whoever you contact that your grandmother wrote a book on bottles. It will add provenance to the items and to the value.

TIP: Discovered some old silver in the attic? Wash it with a brush in warm, soapy water before you polish it. Dirt can scratch the silver.

Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel answer reader's questions sent to the column. Send a letter with one question describing the size, material (glass, pottery, etc.), and what you know about the item. Include only two pictures, the object, and a closeup of any marks or damage. Be sure your name and return address are included. By sending a question, you give full permission for use in any Kovel product. Names, addresses or email addresses will not be published. 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 Publications. Write to Kovels, (Name of this newspaper), King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803 or email us at