Chinese Porcelains

Chinese porcelains are among the hardest for an average collector to identify and date. They have been made for centuries and it is considered a tribute, not an attempt to fool a customer, to copy a piece perfectly including the original mark. Unfortunately, today there also are some who deliberately make and sell excellent copies of antiques. The pictured vase is named “Five Boys.” It is a piece of “famille rose” porcelain and has a six-character mark on the bottom. The boys are climbing or standing on the vase. One has a ruyi scepter; the others are helping each other to the top. The famille rose decoration could be several hundred years old or new. The color and clever three-dimensional figures helped the vase sell for $1,476, its decorative value. If it were 300 years old, it would sell for much more.

Q: My small bottle that pictures James Madison. It has a quote about him on the reverse and is amber carnival glass. I’m located in Melbourne, Australia, and I’m wanting to get a value on it to sell.

A: Wheaton Glass Co. was started in 1888 by Dr. Theodore Wheaton, a country doctor who wanted to make quality glassware. In 1967, a division of the company began to make commemorative decanters, flasks and bottles. The first limited-edition presidential bottle was issued in 1969. It had John F. Kennedy on it, and other bottles with presidents from George Washington through George H.W. Bush followed. Forty-four were made through 1989. Each 3 1/2-inch canteen-shaped bottle was machine-made and had an image of a president with his birth and death dates on one side and a quotation or slogan and a facsimile signature on the other. Different colors were used, many with an iridescent finish that resembles carnival glass. Other series were made that featured great Americans, patriots and American military leaders. In 1996, Wheaton Glass Co. was sold and renamed Lawson – Mardon – Wheaton. As with many limited editions, prices are low. Your James Madison flask is worth about $5 in the U.S., probably even in Australia.

Q: I have an opportunity to acquire two vintage sperm whale teeth authenticated as over 250 years old. They are uncarved. They are treasured collectibles and will not be sold. Can I import them?

A: Sperm whales are protected by the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. Whales’ teeth are a hard form of ivory. According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service website, it is illegal to import whale ivory (whale teeth), or items made from whale ivory, except by special permit. Your whale teeth are not decorated (scrimshawed), so all of the laws may not apply, but you should check with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service before importing them. Breaking the law can result in heavy fines or jail time.

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Q: My six flat silver butter knives are stamped “Pat. Apld. For Puritan Silver Co.” Are they sterling silver? Are they worth anything?

A: Puritan Silver Co. is a trade name used by Oneida Silversmiths on silver plated flatware. Silver-plated flatware doesn’t sell well. Young people don’t want to bother to keep it polished, and it doesn’t have the meltdown value that sterling silver has. Silver-plated butter knives sell for about $1 each.