Strange redware pottery vessel is called a slip cup

Tim Kovel and Kim Kovel
Cowles Syndicate

A strange redware pottery item was listed in a recent auction as a cup. But it looked more like a squat 2-inch vase with a large opening on one side. The auction catalog called it a "19th century glazed redware slip cup," estimated at $200 to $400. But even with a picture we were baffled. How was a slip cup used? Or was it just a typo in the caption for a sipping cup? 

We kept looking at pictures of redware until we finally found the answer. The cup is used when decorating pottery with slip, a liquid the consistency of toothpaste that was forced through a quill tube to create raised line and circle decorations. This slip cup was probably made by the Singer Pottery in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, about 1830. About four quills were poked into the open space in the side so four lines could be drawn on a piece of pottery at once. The auction slip cup sold for $649.

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Q: I found an old, ceramic decanter with bourbon in it at my grandparents' house. A friend of ours was an engineer at Maker's Mark. He said someone told him you shouldn't drink it because the decanters contained lead and, more than likely, some had leached out. Is it safe to drink the bourbon in this old decanter? 

A: The Food and Drug Administration first regulated the amount of lead that ceramic dishes can contain in 1971. Glazes used on ceramics made before that time may contain higher levels of lead and cadmium than are currently allowed. Crystal decanters made before the 1970s can also contain significant amounts of lead. Liquor stored in a decanter that contains lead can cause lead to leach out. 

Maker's Mark's bourbon was first produced in 1954, before FDA regulations were set. The Maker's Mark Shop currently advertises its bourbon in non-lead crystal decanters. Save the old decanter if it's attractive but don't drink the bourbon.

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Q: I'm having trouble finding a value for an antique RCA Victor console radio, model K-81, built in 1939. Can you help me? 

A: RCA was founded in 1919 when General Electric bought the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of America (known as American Marconi) and renamed it the Radio Corporation of America. The company made radios for General Electric and also some for Westinghouse. The company name became the RCA Corporation in 1969. RCA's model K81 has a broadcast band and two shortwave bands, and the console has push buttons to preset stations. It has eight vacuum tubes. Transistor radios became popular in the late 1950s, and the last radios with vacuum tubes were phased out in the 1960s. Old tube radios in good working condition sell for $100 to $150. 

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Q: My parents went to many auctions in the 1980s and collected antique furniture, lamps and glassware. The entire top floor of the house is filled with it. For example, there's a fainting couch that works, marble turtle top tables, a cranberry glass chandelier and Lincoln rockers. What's the best way to get everything appraised and put up for sale with the right clientele that would enjoy it? 

A: We get lots of questions on how to sell a large collection, how to find an appraiser and how to find potential buyers. You can find appraisers, prices, articles on how to get the best results when you sell and other helpful information on our website, Kovels.com. Click on the tab "How to Buy or Sell." The business directory in that section lists appraisal services, auctions, collector's clubs and other resources. Our booklet "Kovels' A Diary: How to Sell, Settle, and Profit from a Collector's Estate" will also help you decide where and how to sell. Furniture and other items that are worth $1,000 or more usually sell for the highest prices at an auction house. Shipping is expensive and usually everything is shipped from the auction company building. Don't sell the best expensive furniture, art and paintings first. Keep them with less exciting antiques to attract bidders.

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Q: Does sheet music from the 1950s to the 1960s have any value?

A: The value of sheet music is determined by the cover art and by age, rarity, popularity of the artist and condition. Some collectors look for music from a particular era or of a certain style, and others collect it for the cover art. Most sheet music from the 1950s and '60s sells for $5 to $10. 

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Q: We have an old picture frame with inside measurement of 21 by 35 inches. The canvas picture has been cut out by someone. Is the frame worth saving as is? 

A: Some old frames sell for high prices. Some are worth more than the painting the frame holds. Museums use old frames to match the period of old paintings. It's become popular to hang empty frames as decorative items. Frames show up at auctions and antiques shows. Prices are high for the best frames. Some 17th- and 18th-century frames have sold at auction for over a thousand dollars. Price is determined by age, condition, style, size and maker.

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TIP: Clean dirty cloth book covers with wads of stale bread.

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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, (Name of this newspaper), King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803 or email us at collectorsgallery@kovels.com.

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