Sometimes difficult knowing the proper name for a piece of antique furniture

Terry And Kim Kovel
Kovel’s Antiques And Collecting

It sometimes is difficult to know the proper name for a piece of antique furniture. Names can change. A commode can be a chest of drawers; a cabinet like a sideboard; or a small bedroom dressing table, usually with a drawer for soap, combs, brushes and cosmetics, and a small shelf behind a door that holds a potty until it is emptied by the servants. There were no flush toilets in homes until the late 1800s. A davenport in England in the 19th century was a small desk that opened to the side with a slanted top that was easy to write on. In 20th century America, a davenport is a type of sofa. But strangest of all is a dining-room serving table with a center pole around which three graduated round shelves usually turn, like a lazy Susan. But, of course, while the name “dumb waiter” is still used for this type of table, it has nothing to do with a stupid person. A Victorian table like this, made with a three-part leg, sold at New Orleans Auction Galleries last year for $406.

Q I have my grandma’s set of 1950s Nancy Prentiss stainless-steel flatware, and I use it daily. I hand wash it most of the time, and only when I’m feeling super lazy do I put it in the dishwasher. It doesn’t seem to get damaged, but I’m curious about using the dishwasher for it all the time. We run the dishwasher about once every four or five days and use well water with a water softener. Should I continue to hand wash this, or is once a week in the dishwasher OK?

A It’s safe to wash stainless-steel flatware in the dishwasher, but don’t use a citrus-based detergent. Stainless-steel flatware should be washed soon after it is used in order to avoid stains. If you are running the dishwasher only every few days, wash the flatware by hand on the days you aren’t running it. Don’t soak the flatware for a long time. To avoid spots, dry thoroughly with a soft dish towel instead of letting it air dry. Stainless steel can be cleaned with silver polish.

Q My father owned a butcher shop and grocery store in the 1940s and ‘50s. I have several tins that held coffee, cookies, pretzels, lard and spices that came from the store. Are they worth anything?

A The first tin cans were made in the early 1800s. The type of can we use today, with a crimped top and soldered side seam, was first made in 1898. Some collectors of advertising items collect tins. Some specialize in tins for a single product, like coffee, tobacco, beer or oil. Tins with modern graphics and streamlined pictures indicate that they are no older than the 1940s. Collectors want older tins and tins for products that are no longer being produced. Tins with interesting graphics usually sell for more than those with just words. Some sell for a few hundred dollars or more, but common tins sell from about $50 to $100.

Q I have my nana’s dollhouse that’s similar to Dunham’s Cocoanut Dollhouse, but it’s unmarked. I’m interested in letting it go, but have no idea how to market it. Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.

A Dunham’s Cocoanut Dollhouse was a premium offered by Dunham Manufacturing Company of New York City in the 1890s. Boxes of Dunham’s shredded cocoanut were shipped in crates decorated like a four-room dollhouse that included a parlor, dining room, kitchen and bedroom. Bricks and windows were stenciled on the outside of the crate. Lithographed rugs, furniture and accessories, including boxes of Dunham Cocoanut on the kitchen shelves, were inside. Folding paper furniture also was offered as a premium, but very little of it has survived. A Dunham’s Cocoanut Dollhouse sells for $650 to $750. The price is based on the advertisement and the popularity of Dunham advertising. The price of a “similar” dollhouse depends on the graphics and whether it’s an advertising item or just a homemade version.

Q When was Katrich pottery made? I have a 15-inches-tall vase with a luster glaze design of stars and clouds on a dark-blue background. It has the name on the bottom with a rectangular patch that has the outline of something inside. There is also a number stamped on the bottom of the vase.

A You have a piece of pottery from a modern potter named Paul J. Katrich. He started working about 1993 and uses luster glazes on his pottery. Katrich’s pottery is featured on a very complete website about his work. Each piece has been marked with a 3- or 4-digit number in order as it was made between 1993 and present. If you go to the homepage at, it pictures dozens of sold pieces that can be located by number. It also has many new pieces for sale. His work is in museums and in private collections of art pottery.

TIP: Never soak rhinestone jewelry in water. The moisture seeps behind the stones and will cause discoloration.

The auction catalog called this a Victorian mahogany three-tiered waiter in the Queen Anne taste made in the late 19th century, which is long way to say the table was made in a style that was in fashion 150 years earlier.