Antique tip tray exudes Americana moxie

Terry and Kim Kovel
Cowles Syndicate

American companies have used patriotic imagery in advertisements for more than a hundred years. It appeals to customers and shows pride in American industries. Current trademark law prohibits using the American flag in advertisements, but there are plenty of other patriotic symbols to use.

A red, white and blue soda fountain tip tray might be the essence of Americana. It serves as both an advertising collectible and a patriotic decoration.

This tin lithographed tip tray, which sold for $2,010 at an auction by, is predominantly red, white and blue and features stars, stripes and the eagle-and-shield seal. Trays with this design were made by 1917. They advertise "Deacon Brown," a soft drink made in Montgomery, Alabama, in the early 20th century.

The tray proclaims the drink "The King of Phosphates," suggesting another American icon: the soda fountain. Notice that the young woman draped in red and white stripes is drinking from a glass, not a bottle. Phosphates, popular from about 1870 to 1930, were soda fountain drinks made with acid phosphate, which gave the drink a slightly sour taste. Fruit flavors were popular, and cherry phosphate appears to have been the favorite. Raise your glass to history!

Question: I bought a goose-shaped planter for 25 cents at a garage sale 20 years ago. It's about 12-inches tall and the back is open. It has a round base marked "HB Quimper, France." What can you tell me about it, and what, if anything, is it worth?

Answer: Three different factories made pottery in Quimper, France, beginning in the late 17th century. Pierre Bousquet founded a pottery in Quimper in 1708. It became the HB Factory (Hubaudiere-Bousquet) after Antoine de la Hubaudiere became the manager in 1782. Two other factories merged in 1913, and HB merged with them in 1968. After more changes in ownership, the name of the factory became Henriot-Quimper in 2011. Variations of the "HB Quimper" mark were used from 1895 to 1984. HB Quimper goose planters have sold online recently for about $25, so you got a bargain.

Q: I found a bottle of Ste. Pierre Smirnoff on a deserted island. There are barnacles on the bottle. The bottle still has vodka in it. Can you give me any information about it and possible age?

A: P.A. Smirnov (1831-1898) established his distillery in Moscow in 1864. His son, Vladimir, joined the company in 1896. Vladimir fled the country during the Russian Revolution. In 1923, he established Pierre Smirnoff Sons in Poland. Production soon stopped because of a change in government regulations. Vladimir moved to France in 1925 and changed the brand name from Smirnov to Smirnoff. Rudolph Kunett, a Russian immigrant, bought the rights to produce Smirnoff vodka in the U.S. after Prohibition ended in December 1933. The brand became part of Diageo, an alcoholic beverage company with headquarters in London, in 2006. It is the world's best-selling vodka. Barnacles can form in a few days, so barnacles on the bottle don't mean it's very old. The name Ste. Pierre Smirnoff indicates the vodka was bottled no earlier than 1923.  

Q: I have an unusual cylindrical lamp that has a cast-iron base and vented cast-iron top. The sides of the cylinder are covered by a picture of a cabin in the woods. When the lightbulb inside is lit, the inside of the lamp rotates and orange and yellow "flames" appear. It still works but the cord is old, so I don't use it. What can you tell me about it?

A: This is called a "motion lamp." When the lamp is lit, rising hot air causes an interior cylinder to turn, making it look like parts of the picture are moving. Several companies made motion lamps from the 1920s to the early 1960s. The scene on your lamp is known as "Forest Fire." It was one of 11 motion lamps made by Scene-In-Action Corp. of Chicago, Illinois, from 1927 until about 1936. Econolite Corp. made a similar Forest Fire motion lamp after 1946. It's best to use a low wattage bulb in a motion lamp to avoid damage. The lamp should be rewired if you want to use it.  

Q: I bought a German wedding certificate from 1888 at a house sale. It's illustrated with black and white religious pictures. The word "trauschein" is in red. The rest of the text is in black and red. It's in good condition and is in a glass-covered frame.

A: Trauschein is the German word for "marriage certificate." Some vintage German marriage certificates sell from about $20 to $50, depending on condition and how ornate the decoration is. The type of frame can also add value. Marriage certificates and birth and baptismal records with fancy script and colorful folk art decoration were made by Germans who lived in rural parts of Pennsylvania in the 1700s and 1800s. These certificates are called "fraktur." They sell for a few hundred dollars to over a thousand dollars depending on age, history and artwork.  

TIP: Clean the inside of a bottle with detergent powder and a Water Pik.

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