18th century figurines used as devotional images

Tim Kovel and Kerry Kovel
Cowles Syndicate
The 13-inch-high antique wooden San Rafael figure holding a staff and a fish sold at a Cottone auction for $9,600.

Fra Andreas Garcia was an 18th-century Mexican Franciscan friar and folk artist who worked in what is now New Mexico. He carved and painted wooden figures of saints, called bulto, that were about 12 to 18 inches high. The figures were used as devotional images as well as artistic objects. 

A polychromed wood bulto made by Fra Garcia between 1748 and 1778 representing San (Saint) Rafael the Archangel sold at a Cottone auction. An archangel is a messenger of God, higher ranking than an angel. San Rafael is a patron saint of travelers, often depicted holding a staff, the blind, or physicians based on an Old Testament story in which he healed a blind man with fish's gall.

More:July 25: Current prices

Question: I love Coca-Cola advertising. I recently bought a metal Coca-Cola serving tray with a girl in a white bathing suit sitting on a diving board and drinking a Coke. How can I tell if it's vintage, and how much it is worth?

Answer:  Coca-Cola was first served in 1886 in Atlanta, Georgia. John Pemberton, an Atlanta pharmacist, invented Coca-Cola when he combined a mysterious, dark liquid with carbonated water. Coca-Cola advertising pieces have been hot for years, popular with both collectors and businesses with vintage decor. Coke started making serving trays in 1897. Vintage Coca-Cola trays have black backs, while reproductions may have yellow, white or other colored backs. Telltale signs of a reproduction include barcodes and any evidence that the back has been painted black. A real 1939, 13-inch by 10 1/2-inch metal Coca-Cola tray of a girl on a springboard like yours recently sold for $102.

Q: I'd like to know the value of a silver basket that sat in the middle of our 

dining-room table when I was a child. It has a ruffled edge, rope-twist swing handle and allover flower decoration. The bottom is marked "James W. Tufts, Boston, Warranted, Quadruple Plate," the letter "T" in a star and "2768." I'm 89 years old and would like to know more about it before I pass it on to my niece. 

A: James W. Tufts, the owner of three pharmacies, made equipment for soda fountains, including silver-plated parts. By 1875, he was also making silver-plated tableware. He held several patents, including one for "Ornamental Designs on Britannia and other Soft Metals" granted in 1885. Designs were made by pressing the soft metal into a hand-carved mold or die to produce a design that imitated more expensive engraving. Tufts died in 1902, and the company was out of business before 1915. The pattern number indicates you have a fruit basket. These were sometimes called "bride's baskets," because they were often given as wedding presents. Most had glass liners to protect the silver from the acid in fruit. Some silver plate bride's baskets sell for about $25. 

Q: I was given a Ronson butane lighter over 50 years ago. It's never been used and is still in the original box. It has a gold label that says Ronson Varaflame Windlite Slim Line pocket lighter. It's bright chrome plate with black sable finish. Can you tell me anything about this company? 

A: Ronson lighters were first made in 1913 by Art Metal Works of Newark, New Jersey, a company founded by Louis V. Aronson in 1886. The company originally made gold-plated metal. Aronson was granted a patent for a cigar and gas lighting device in 1910, and the company began making pocket lighters in 1913. The name "Ronson," derived from Aronson's last name, was used on lighters beginning in the 1920s. The company also made lighter fluid called "Ronsonol." The company name became Ronson Art Metal Works in 1945 and was changed to Ronson Corporation in 1954. Varaflame Windlite lighters were introduced in 1959 and were advertised as windproof. Zippo Manufacturing Company bought Ronson in 2010 and continues to make Ronson brand lighters, fuel and accessories. Ronson Varaflame Windlite Slim Line lighters sell for $10 to $15. 

Q: I have a wash set that includes a pitcher, large bowl, small lidded dish with holes in the bottom and another bowl with a handle on it. It's marked "N.H.P., made in England." Can you tell me who made it? 

A: Your wash set, or toilet set, was made by New Hall Pottery Ltd., a company in business in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, England, from 1899 to 1956. Toilet sets were common during the Victorian era before most homes had indoor plumbing. Some sets have more pieces, including a water pitcher, washbasin, chamber pot with a handle, soap dish, slop jar, toothbrush holder, shaving mug, tumbler and other items. The dish with holes is for soap, so it can drain. In 1913, New Hall Pottery was the world's largest manufacturer of cheap toilet sets. Sales of toilet sets declined after about 1919, and the company concentrated on making dinnerware and hotelware.

TIP: If you use plate hangers to display your plates, be sure they are not too tight. The clips should be covered with a soft material. Otherwise the end clips may scratch or chip the plate.

Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel answer readers' questions sent to the column. Send a letter with one question describing the size, material (glass, pottery) 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 collectorsgallery@kovels.com.