There are many studies on reasons why people do or don't collect

Terry And Kim Kovel
Kovel’s Antiques And Collecting

There have been many studies on why people do or don’t collect. Do they hoard to replace something that was missing in their life — a loving parent, perhaps? Is it an obsession, like gambling? Or is it interest in research on history or art and the emotions they create? Many decorators in the 1950s and ‘60s included a cabinet in the living room or dining room to hold a collection of ceramics, glass or miniatures. Today, fashionable rooms are often decorated with only a few large paintings or wall hangings and one large colorful work of art or antiques on a large table. Does that mean we are too busy to want to search for and buy special collectibles? Many collectors search for reminders of their earlier lives — a sport, a color, a love of gardening. A memorable sale by Morphy Auctions included a collection that belonged to a famous woman, a tennis historian and author. She had cameo pins picturing a woman with a tennis racket, wicker chairs with the backs woven in the shape of crossed rackets, dishes picturing tennis-playing rabbits, and of course, old tennis balls, gut-strung rackets and even a skirt lifter shaped like rackets, used to hold a women’s skirt up while playing in the 1890s. The sale proved there were others who like both tennis and collecting enough to buy unopened cans of 1930s tennis balls for $1,200 and a tennis player weathervane for $11,000.

Q My aunt was given a crystal punch bowl and stand as a wedding gift in about 1937. The bowl has a diameter of 15 inches. On the stand, it is 12 inches high and weighs 20 pounds. We believe them to be crystal. Would you tell me anything you can about this set? Is it valuable or just a family treasure?

A Your punch bowl and stand are cut glass. According to glass collectors, “crystal” means only that the glass is colorless. Cut glass was all the rage after the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, where many American glassmakers showcased their wares and demonstrated the cutting process. The most desirable examples are from the “American Brilliant” period of glass design, 1875 to 1915. These pieces have elaborate geometric designs with deep mitre cuts. Around the turn of the century, factories looked for ways to reduce the cost of making glass by using fire-polished blanks that had the initial cuts pressed into them and by using more engraved decoration. Cut glass identification is difficult, as only about 10% of old cut glass is marked. A signature on glass adds significantly to the value. Take your bowl to an antiques shop or an auction house that specializes in glass and have them look at it. It could be worth anywhere from $300 to a few thousand dollars.

Q We received an extensive collection of Jewel Tea dinnerware. Is there any interest in this?

A Frank Vernon Skiff, a grocer from Newton, Iowa, started Jewel Tea. He began delivering groceries door-to-door from a horse-drawn wagon in 1899 and established company headquarters in Chicago in 1901. The first Jewel grocery stores opened in 1932. Traveling salesmen continued to sell Jewel products until 1981. Autumn Leaf pattern dinnerware was Jewel Tea’s most popular premium. It was made by Hall China from 1933 to 1978. Jewel Tea dinnerware was originally a premium given to customers who bought groceries. A different piece was offered to customers each week. Interest depends on the pattern of your china. An Autumn Leaf cup and saucer sells for about $26. There is a club for collectors, the National Autumn Leaf Collectors Club (

Q Some of the toys in my collection of iron cars and trucks may be later reproductions. Yes, fakes. How can I tell if they are old (pre-1910) or new?

A Look carefully at the wheels. If they have fewer than eight spokes, they may be new. Another clue: There is a slot in the tubular axle that goes from wheel to wheel. The iron toy is not riveted but is screwed together. Since you know you have both old and new toys, you can try the easiest clue: Run your hand over the bottom. Old iron has a smooth finish; reproductions are rough. The iron feels almost like concrete.

TIP: Never wash a wooden doll if you can avoid it. If there is no other way to remove the dirt, be sure to wet a cloth and then clean. Don’t wet the doll.

This pair of wrought iron chairs made with crossed tennis rackets and a ball of iron for the back didn’t sell, perhaps because they were old but repainted. They had been estimated at $1,200 to $1,800.