Antique cribbage board offers a whale of a time

Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel
Cowles Syndicate
Cribbage is a centuries-old travel game. In the 19th century, sailors on whaling ships made and used boards like this one to pass the time on long voyages.

Do you like to play games on your phone while you're on a long trip? Today's travel games have plenty of predecessors. Cribbage, a card game where players keep score with pegs on a board, is believed to have been invented in the 17th century. It became a favorite of sailors and was especially popular on whaling ships. 

Sailors would make their own boards out of carved whalebone, animal teeth or tusks. This 19th-century game board, which sold for $531 at an Eldred's auction, has pierced whalebone panels on an ebony and mahogany board. Sailors continued playing cribbage after whaling declined. Most ships still have a cribbage board today. The U.S. Navy has a board that gets handed down to the oldest submarine in the Pacific fleet, a tradition that originated when an officer was dealt a perfect hand in a game played during World War II.

Question: I think collector plates are fun collectibles. I especially love the ones with political or royal figures on them. I recently found some collector plates with images of presidents and their wives. The ones with Presidents Richard Nixon, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Baines Johnson all were $8 each. Does that sound about right?

Answer: Collector plates, mugs, glasses and dishes are generally not worth a lot of money because they were produced in such large quantities. That even holds true when the people pictured, such as Princess Diana and Prince Charles on wedding plates, turn out to be infamous. I think $8 a plate is about right.

Q: I recently saw an interesting 2-inch pin shaped like a stylized tulip with three petals, a stem and a leaf. It looks like it is made from smooth, light-colored wood. There is a signature in cursive on the back that looks like it was burned in. I think it says "Ray Murniak." Can you tell me anything about the pin or its maker?

A: The signature does say "Ray Muniak," the name of the pin's maker. He is a contemporary artist from Cleveland, Ohio. He started his career as a woodturner and later made sculptures and jewelry using equipment he created himself to get his distinctive smooth, curved shapes. One of his abstract sculptures sold at a recent auction for $366. Other works of his are available for sale in online shops. His relief sculptures with nature scenes have asking prices from $100 to $400; his figural pins, often shaped like plants or animals, from $30 to $60.

Q: I have a Mexican silver pitcher inlaid with iridescent shells and marked "Alpaca." Is "Alpaca" the maker? What can you tell me about it?

A: Alpaca silver is a metal. It isn't really silver, but an alloy of copper, nickel and zinc that may also be called "nickel silver" or "German silver." It was first used in China and exported to Europe. In 1823, German metalsmiths created a version of nickel silver that was trademarked "Alpacca." Use of Alpacca spread throughout Europe and the Americas. It can be a base for electroplated nickel silver (EPNS). Today, alpaca silver is often used in jewelry, tableware and decorative items. It is usually marked "Alpaca" or "Alpacca." It is more durable than silver, sells for lower prices and may have a less shiny finish than silver.

Q: I have a Wagner electric fan that belonged to my grandfather. I believe it is from the 1930s. The type is 52603, and the model number is L342A632. It's about 10 inches high. It has a cast-iron base and steel blades. Can you give me any information about it and the approximate value?

A: Herbert Wagner and Ferdinand Schwedtman founded Wagner Electric in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1891. The company built a plant in nearby Wellston in 1906. Wagner Electric Corporation became part of Studebaker-Worthington in 1967. The Wellston plant closed in 1981. Wagner made electric fans, motors for small appliances, electric starters for cars, electric lights, transformers and other products. The type 5260 fan is an oscillating fan that can be used on a desk or table or mounted on the wall. It was pictured in a 1934 ad, priced at $13.95. A used 5260 fan sells today for about $50 to $80, depending on condition. 

TIP: Team-signed baseballs should have about 26 autographs, including the entire starting lineup, star pitchers and other key members of the team. A star's signature on the sweet spot is desirable, but that spot is sometimes reserved for the manager.

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, (Farm Forum), King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803 or email us at