Bell-shaped lamp harkens back to the telephone-era

Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel
Cowles Syndicate
This bell-shaped blue lamp was made by Fenton Art Glass Company for Bell Telephone. It was probably used in a hotel lobby.

Advertising and store collectibles have historical significance and brand recognition as well as artistic value. A combination of all three brought this lamp a price of $2,700 at Morford's Antique Advertising Auctions.

The lamp was made by Fenton, a well-known art glass company. Its bell-shaped blue shade for Bell Telephone Co. is eye-catching. The inscription "Local and Long Distance Telephone" marks it as a relic of the past. 

There is little need for public telephones today when most people carry a phone with them and can get service wherever they go. But even before the age of cellphones, people liked having access to a telephone anywhere they went. This lamp probably hung in a hotel lobby to let visitors know there was a telephone available. 

Question: My wife accumulated a collection of items at flea market sales. Most are matching cups, saucers and dessert plates made of pink Depression glass. Can you tell me if there is any current interest and value to items like this? 

Answer: Pink was one of the most popular colors of Depression glass. The glass was mass-produced, made in many patterns and affordable. Some patterns are more valuable than others, and like a lot of collectibles, reproductions are abundant. Your photo shows several patterns. A 54-piece set of pink Depression glass in various patterns recently sold for $132. 

Q: My grandmother's cast-iron Lodge frying pan was one of her prized possessions. She had very particular rules about using it and how to clean it. Is Lodge collectible? Are frying pans and other old cookware valuable? 

A: Lodge Cast Iron has been making heirloom-quality cookware and accessories since 1896. It is made in two foundries in South Pittsburg, Tennessee. People love their cast-iron skillets, and they sell well at flea markets. Skilled makers often carved small, unique figures ("maker's marks") into their work to identify themselves. Lodge skillets from 1900 to 1910 were called "Blacklock." The skillets can be identified by an outside heat ring, raised size numbers on the top of the handles, raised molder's mark letters on the bottom at 6 o'clock and smashed T-shaped handles. Your grandmother was wise to have rules about its cleaning. To keep and enhance the pan's seasoning, it should be cleaned with a small amount of soap. If needed, use a pan scraper for stuck-on food. For stubborn stuck-on food, simmer a little water in the pan for three to five minutes, then use the scraper after it has cooled. Antique Lodge cast iron pans have sold in recent auctions and flea markets for $20 to $100, depending on the age, size and condition.

Q: Can you give me any information on a beveled mirror with a brass colored frame and stand that has a small picture of an old woman sitting in a chair on the back? The picture is 3 3/4 inches high by 2 1/2 inches wide. Below that is a tribute to "Mother" written by Baroness von Hutten. I bought the mirror at a yard sale over 30 years ago. 

A: The picture behind your mirror is known as "Whistler's Mother." It's a print based on a painting titled "Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1" by James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903) in 1871. It became known as "Whistler's Mother" because his mother was the model for the picture. Whistler was born in the United States, studied in France and lived in London for several years. The original oil painting is in the Musee d'Orsay in Paris. It has been reproduced many times, both with and without the poem. 

Q: Plastic and metal lunchboxes from the 1960s and 1970s really interest me. I have a Holly Hobbie lunchbox with thermos that I carried in grade school. Are lunchboxes hot collectibles? 

A: Collectible lunchboxes bring back childhood memories of favorite television shows, movies, cartoons, sports teams and musical groups. Holly Hobbie (1944) is an American writer and illustrator whose artwork sometimes appears on lunchboxes. She is the author of the popular "Toot and Puddle" children's books and creator of the character bearing her name. In the early 1970s, Hobbie sold artwork of a cat-loving, rag-dress-wearing little girl in a giant bonnet to American Greetings. This series of illustrations became immensely popular, and her originally nameless character became known as "Holly Hobbie." Your lunchbox, if authentic, is worth about $40. 

TIP: Learn the dates of business cards and other advertising from telephone numbers. Numbers were first used in 1878. The seven-digit number was in use by the 1940s; fewer than seven digits date the card from 1878 to the 1940s. From the 1920s to the 1950s, most urban areas had a two-letter "exchange" followed by numbers. These began to be phased out in 1958, but some were still being used more than 20 years later. 

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, King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803 or email us at