Luster glaze added color to pottery in 19th century

In the early 19th century, candles were the main source of light.

Furnishings that reflected the flames, like mirrors or shining metal, were used to brighten rooms. Luster glaze on pottery was popular because it added more light -- and it made the pottery look like more expensive silver pieces. Luster glaze was made from platinum, copper or gold salts. The gold could make pink, purple or copper luster.

The English potters in Leeds, Newcastle and Sunderland made most of the pink luster. Luster sometimes was painted to add decoration. The most spectacular pieces were covered with pink bubble luster. Luster jugs with transfer designs showing sailors, ships, sporting events or drinking scenes were made to sell to seaside visitors as souvenirs. Some were made with political verses or cartoons. The bright-pink color and amusing decorations have kept pink luster popular with collectors.

A large jug sells for more than $300.

When my parents bought a house in the 1960s, they found a three-tiered oak bookcase in the basement. Each tier has a glass door that lifts from the bottom. There's a single long drawer at the bottom of the bookcase. The bookcase is 34 inches wide by 53 inches tall. The back panel is marked "Gunn Sectional Bookcase, The Gunn Furniture Co., Grand Rapids, Mich." It lists patent dates in 1899 and 1901. Can you give us information about the maker and value?

William S. Gunn founded the Gunn Folding Bed Co. in Grand Rapids in 1890. He changed the company's name to Gunn Furniture Co. in 1893, the same year the company started manufacturing roll-top desks, sectional bookcases, filing cabinets and other office furniture. A sectional bookcase, also called a stack bookcase, could be enlarged by adding additional tiers -- ideal for a growing business. Your bookcase was probably manufactured sometime before World War I. It could sell today for $500 or more.

An all-cloth, stuffed baby doll has been in my family for about 80 years. Its facial features are drawn in black ink, with the mouth in red. Printed on the back of the doll's head are the words "Buttercup, By permission of Jimmy Murphy, Copyright 1924, By King Features Syndicate, Inc."

Jimmy Murphy (1891-1965) was an American cartoonist. His newspaper comic strip, called Toots and Casper, was introduced by King Features in 1919. The strip featured a married couple and their baby, Buttercup. Toots and Casper was a big hit by the mid-1920s and ran until Murphy retired in the late 1950s. Your Buttercup doll was one of many promotional items sold during the '20s and '30s to advertise the strip and its characters.

I found a brown pottery bowl with a Hopalong Cassidy decal on the side. The rest of the bowl is embossed with mountains in the background and a corral in the foreground. What can you tell me about it?

Your bowl is a cookie jar that's missing its cover. It probably dates from the late 1940s or early '50s, when William Boyd was starring in the Hoppy TV series. Some cookie jars are found with a paper label that reads "Peter Pan Products, Inc., Chicago, Ill." If you had the cover to your jar, it would sell for $300 or more.

My family tree in America goes back to the early 1700s, but about all we have to show for it is a linen sampler made by an ancestor. It's not a fancy one. It has only two alphabets and no embroidered designs. Unfortunately, there's no date or name either. Is it still worth something?

It is certainly worth a lot to your family, even if you never know which of your ancestors made it. Plain samplers like yours are sometimes called "marking samplers." They were stitched by young girls to teach them the alphabet, numbers and useful stitches so they could later "mark" their household linens with their initials and inventory numbers. More-elaborate, signed samplers were sewn by girls after they practiced on marking samplers.

We bought a Jayne Mansfield figural bottle in 1959. It's hard plastic and 22 inches tall. Jayne is wearing a black bikini and a black hat. The hat is the bottle cap. The mark on her foot is "Poynter Products Inc., Cincinnati, Ohio, 1957." Can you tell us what it's worth?

We have seen your bottle offered online for $75. It might or might not sell for that price. Poynter Products manufactured figurines and toys during the 1950s and '60s. Several of them depicted characters from "The Addams Family" TV show and from the comic strip Pogo. Jayne Mansfield (1933-1967) was a popular movie star at the time (she died in a car accident). Poynter Products achieved legal fame in 1968 when Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss) sued the company because it was selling dolls based on his early cartoons without his permission. Dr. Seuss lost the case.


Never use toothpaste as a silver polish. Some have baking soda and other abrasive ingredients.

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