Beautiful hood ornament captures the ecstasy of flight

Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel
Cowles Syndicate
The Spirit of Ecstasy, nicknamed the Flying Lady or Silver Lady, has decorated Rolls-Royce cars since 1911. This figure is a brass reproduction.

Looking for a little luxury? This "Spirit of Ecstasy" figure replicates the hood ornament from Rolls-Royce cars. In 1909, car enthusiast John Douglas-Scott-Montagu commissioned sculptor Charles Sykes to create a mascot for his Rolls-Royce. Sykes made a sculpture of a woman bent at the waist, leaning forward so her robe flows behind her like wings. The model was Eleanor Thornton, Montagu's secretary and, secretly, lover. 

By 1911, Sykes's sculpture was made the official Rolls-Royce hood ornament. "Spirit of Ecstasy" is its official name, but it is also known as the "Flying Lady" or the "Silver Lady." The hood ornament was originally silver plated, but has since been made in other silver tone metals like chrome or stainless steel. 

This brass version is a reproduction. It sold for $210 at Morphy Auctions — a very low price when compared to an actual Rolls-Royce car.  

Question: I have an antique oil lamp that I keep as a decoration, but I'm wondering about using it in case I lose power in a storm. Is that safe? Or, will it damage the antique or create a fire hazard? 

Answer: If you want to use an antique oil lamp, make sure it is clean and none of its parts are missing or damaged. Choose your fuel carefully; each type of oil lamp is made for a specific type of fuel. What is sold as "lamp oil" is purified kerosene, so it is safe for kerosene lamps. You can find commercial lamp oils with colors or fragrances added, but we do not recommend them. They can damage your lamp or leave stains. Keep the lamp and its fuel out of reach of children or pets. Use a wick that is long enough to keep the flame from reaching the oil. Treat the lamp like a lit candle or any other open flame. Do not use it in an area where you have detected gas. Use it in a well-ventilated room and keep it on a firm surface where it will not be bumped or knocked over. 

There are several clubs for antique lamp collectors and businesses that repair and restore oil lamps or sell replacement parts. Many are listed in the Kovels.com business directory. They often have detailed instructions and safety precautions for using oil lamps.

Q: I have a signed letter by Paul Franke and Dr. Reinhold Heidecke, the founders of the company that produced Rollei and Rolleiflex cameras. It congratulates the buyer of the TLR camera. The letter is in German and has no date. Can you tell me when this letter may have been written? I do not want to sell it but I am curious if it has any value. 

A: The optical instrument company Rollei was founded in 1920 by Paul Franke and Dr. Reinhold Heidecke in Braunschweig, Germany. The camera had two separate lenses: one for the view and one for taking the photo. Their Rolleiflex TLR (twin-lens reflex) camera was sold in 1929. Paul Franke died in 1950. The letter would have to have been written between 1929 and 1950. Letters signed by famous people are collectible and valuable. The letter could be of interest to camera collectors and camera historians if it is an authentic letter and not an advertising piece. An authentic letter probably would have a date. You may have to take it to an autograph expert to determine the value.  

Q: My grandmother loved Precious Moments figurines. She gave me the Precious Moments figurine of a bride called "Someday My Love" when I got married 20 years ago. Is it worth anything? 

A: Precious Moments, like Beanie Babies, were wildly popular and people collected them assuming they would increase in value. Most have not. Artist and illustrator Samuel Butcher began drawing pictures of stylized, cute children in the 1970s. He and a friend began a company to make and sell greeting cards and posters that featured his "Precious Moments" artwork. In 1978, Enesco Corp. developed a line of porcelain Precious Moments figurines. Demand was high. Sales kept growing, too many different figurines were made and the market crashed. Many buyers still love them, but they sell for very low prices. Your "Someday My Love" figurine was made in 1988. It sells for anywhere from $14 to $25.

Q: I have a whole set of blue Currier & Ives dishes, platters, bowls and serving pieces. I am now drawn to the pink Currier & Ives sets. What can you tell me about them? 

A: During the 1950s, the Currier & Ives pattern by Royal China was given away as premiums through the A&P stores and Winn-Dixie. They are now found in virtually every antique mall and thrift store. Their prices are starting to creep up, so buying a whole set is becoming pricey -- at least $10 a dish, and as much for bowls and serving pieces. Currier & Ives pieces were produced up until the Royal China Company closed in 1986. Most of the Currier & Ives sets are blue, as you mentioned. In addition to the rarer pink, you can also find green and brown-on-white sets. The rarer colors are more expensive.

TIP: Do not store vintage fabrics in unheated attics or basements or areas that may get hot. The best storage is between 65 and 75 degrees.

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 collectorsgallery@kovels.com.