New Year’s Eve celebrations have long included alcoholic drinks. A toast to the New Year is part of the party, along with music, noisemakers and a New Year’s wish and kiss. In the early 1900s, bars were the hub of much social activity. Neighborhood folks would eat, drink and talk as they do today. Gifts from the saloon management to regular customers were expected. In the 1880s, a popular gift was a special small glass flask filled with whiskey. Its label read “Season’s Greetings” and included the name of the giver — a hotel, bar or bartender. These holiday bottles are very collectible today. Price is determined by the shape and color of the bottle and the historic interest in the giver. Norman C. Heckler & Co., which operates online bottle auctions, recently sold a c.1900 gift bottle from the Hotel Emrich in Washington, D.C., for $468. It had a label under glass, which added to the value.
Q: My grandmother, who was born in the late 1800s, had some pieces of silverware that I now own. I would like to preserve them and display them in a shadow box for my children. Is there something I can put on the silver to keep it from tarnishing?
Answer: Silver that is going to be displayed, not used for eating, can be lacquered to prevent tarnish. It should be cleaned before treating. You can have it lacquered by someone who repairs and restores silver, or you can buy a product meant specifically for silver and do it yourself. This can be a difficult process if the piece has an intricate design. Every bit of the silver must be covered and the lacquer must be applied evenly. Lacquer will yellow over time and may crack. You can use Renaissance Wax, a micro-crystalline wax, instead of lacquer, but it will not prevent tarnish for as long. Silver can’t be polished once it is lacquered. The lacquer has to be completely removed first. The type of box in which the silver will be displayed also is important. It should have an airtight lid, if possible. Don’t display the silver on felt, velvet or wool.
Q: I have a dining-room set that includes a French Provincial table with three leaves, a china cabinet with glass doors, six chairs and one armchair. All the chairs have been re-covered. A tag on the bottom of one of the chairs says “B.F. Huntley Co.” The entire set was purchased at an estate sale in the 1970s. When were these pieces made and what might their value be? I’m going to sell them before we remodel.
Answer: B.F. Huntley, an employee of the Oakland Furniture Co., established his own furniture company in Winston-Salem, N.C., in 1906. Later he acquired the Oakland Furniture Co. and two other furniture companies. In 1961, B.F. Huntley Furniture Co. merged with the Thomasville Chair Co. and became Thomasville Furniture Industries. Your vintage furniture is worth what comparable new sets sell for today.
Q: I have a very old glass plate that my great-grandmother gave me when I was 10 years old. That was 73 years ago. It’s decorated with cigar bands on the back with a man’s picture in the center. The back of the dish is covered with a felt-like material glued over the bands and center picture. Can you tell me how old it is and if it has any value?
Answer: Cigar bands, the decorative strips of paper wrapped around cigars, were first made in the 1830s to identify brand names. Cigar bands made from the late 1800s until about 1920 are the most colorful and decorative. “Cigar band art,” which is sometimes referred to as a form of folk art, was a popular homemade craft in the early 1900s. The bands were used to decorate dishes, coasters, bracelets and other items. Your dish was decorated by gluing the large picture, face down, to the bottom of the dish, then gluing cigar bands face down so they completely covered the rest of the dish’s exterior. The bands were then covered with felt so that when the dish is turned upright, the bands can be seen but the back is protected by the felt. Old cigar band dishes are not hard to find. They sell for $10 and up to hundreds of dollars, depending on age, condition and the talent of the maker.
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