Q & A with Harry Rinker: Marwal Bull, Reed and Barton Bells, Heisey Syrup Pitcher
QUESTION: I own a large plaster of Paris sculpture of a bull that is painted dark brown. An impressed oval-stamp with “MARWAL / IND / INC” in its border is located near the right rear leg of the bull. When was this sculpture made? What is its value?
– LR, Titusville, FL
ANSWER: An Internet search revealed that Art Marwal Industries, Inc., currently doing business as Rum Vin Import, is a “private company categorized under Art goods and supplies and located in Miami, FL. Our records show it was established in 1962 and incorporated in Florida.”
A Polynesian craze swept across America in the 1950s. James A. Michener’s “Tales of the South Pacific” (1948) and the Broadway musicals “South Pacific” (1949, movie 1958) and “The King and I” (1951, movie 1956) served as catalysts. Tiki gods and other South Seas paraphernalia decorated bamboo bars from home basements to Trader Vic’s, a restaurant franchise still found in Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta and other locations. The publication of Michener’s “Hawaii” (1959) chronicled the pinnacle of America’s Polynesian fascination.
Marwal offered a wide variety of plaster of Paris statuary, among which were several variations of head and shoulder busts of Polynesian/Hawaiian woman/girls and men/boys. Spanish themes included head and shoulder busts of conquistadors, bullfighters and senoritas. Reproductions of famous sculptures featured Michelangelo’s “Moses” and “Pieta” and Michel Lucchesi’s “The Ascent of Man.” The garden statuary line had an 18in ostrich.
This subject matter suggests the company was in business in advance of its 1962 incorporation. An analysis of the themes of the Marwal pieces offered for sale on eBay indicates the company withdrew from the decorative/reproduction plaster of Paris sculpture market by the end of the 1960s. Hence, your bull was most likely made between the late 1950s and the mid-1960s and was part of Warmal’s Spanish theme line. Olé!
Several dozen Warmal plaster of Paris listings appear daily on eBay. Comparing auction sales results with “By it Now” offers and store lists reveals a large monetary gap between all subcategories of Warmal items except one—nudes. My readers are clever enough to know why.
Many items listed for sale failed to attract bids, even though initial bid requests ranged from $8.99 to $24.99. Several Polynesian head and shoulder busts sold for less than $15. Scarce forms do sell above the $100 mark. The ability to separate common from scarce pieces falls within the provenance of the advanced collector.
Damaged items failed to attract any bids. The Marwall survival rate is high. Buyers are willing to wait and pay a premium price for an example in fine or better condition. The three pictures that accompanied your letter show your bull sculpture has paint loss along the edge of the base and at numerous spots on its body, thus negating its value to collectors. If you desire to sell, any value above $10 makes you a winner.
QUESTION: My mother has a complete set of Reed and Barton’s “The 12 Days of Christmas” silver-plated bells. She wants to sell them, but I am scared to death that she will get hosed by someone on eBay. What is the minimum price she should expect?
– TC, Aberdeen, WA, via e-mail
ANSWER: The picture that accompanied your e-mail was critical to identifying the correct bell series. Reed & Barton issued several bell and ornament series based on the 12 days of Christmas. One series was a flat bell ornament series; another, still ongoing, is a three-dimensional bell ornament series. Your mother’s series was issued between 1977 and 1982. A complete unit consists of the bell, the box, and accompanying literature. All three components must be present to achieve maximum value.
The Reed & Barton Web site provides this brief history of the company: “Founded in 1824, Reed & Barton enjoys a reputation as one of the country’s foremost marketers of fine tableware and giftware . . . Today the Reed & Barton name graces fine flatware, dinnerware, crystal, giftware, and picture frames, as well as a wide variety of expertly-made handcrafted flatware and jewelry chests. Reed & Barton is also the exclusive distributor of Belleek Fine Parian China in the United States . . .”
Your mother’s Reed & Barton bells were manufactured when the collector edition/limited edition collectors craze was at its peak. Many individuals bought them as investments. The speculative secondary market collapsed in the mid-1980s. Many of these items now sell for a fraction of their initial cost.
Since the bells are silver plated, they have no melt value. Further, the picture shows only the bells. Where are the boxes and accompanying literature?
“Which value is the right value?” is being asked more and more frequently in today’s antiques and collectibles trade. “Whose value can you trust?” is a second question worth considering.
If you believe the values from replacements.com, you will be a very happy camper. Individual bells without boxes are priced at values ranging from $45.99 to $99.99. The box and literature appear to add another $60. Before dismissing Replacements’ “retail” values, be aware that it has buyers who pay these amounts.
If you believe prices realized on eBay, you have a much more realistic understanding of the true secondary market value, albeit you are likely to be a very unhappy camper. A complete set of the 1977-1982 Reed & Barton “The 12 Days of Christmas” bells without boxes sold on eBay on September 6, 2009 for $79.95 plus shipping. The average cost was between $7.50 and $8 per bell. That there was only one bidder is further bad news. Now that he/she is gone, who is left to buy the next set? A Number 7 (swan) bell is listed for $10.50 or “best offer.”
You have several disposal options. First, you can write Replacements, Ltd. and ask what interest, if any, they might have in buying your mother’s set. Replacements’ offer to buy depends on the amount of customer demand it has. They have four bells in stock for all but one bell in the series. Second, try eBay. If you do, list the full set. Do not sell the bells individually. Craigslist is a third alternative. If you decide to use the Internet, list the bells in mid- to late November. Take advantage of the seasonal mindset. Fourth, consider passing the set down in the family. Of course, as is too often the case these days, none of the kids, grandchildren, or others may want it. Finally, consider making a charitable donation. Your conscience is your guide as to the deduction amount you or your mother takes. Make a copy of Replacements’ price list. Wipe the smile off your face.
QUESTION: I have a Heisey syrup pitcher. It has a clear crystal body with an etched floral design that wraps around each side. It has a very smooth stainless top, with a thumb spring opener. It stands 4 ½ inches tall and is marked with an H in a diamond on one side of the spout. It belonged to my mother, who has been dead for 30 years. What can you tell me about it?
– MS, Shelbyville, IN
ANSWER: Augustus H. Heisey (1842-1922) founded the A. H. Heisey Company in 1895. After serving in the Civil War, Heisey became a sales clerk for Ripley & Company, Pittsburgh, Pa. He advanced to salesman. In 1870 he married Susan N. Duncan, whose father George Duncan, Sr., purchased Ripley & Company, renaming it Geo. Duncan & Sons. Heisey eventually became part owner.
Heisey left Geo. Duncan & Sons to start his own firm. A. H. Heisey manufactured high quality tableware and glass figurines. Automobile headlights and Holophane Glassware lighting fixtures enhanced the company’s financial line.
Glass syrup pitchers became a standard household tabletop item during the later half of the Victorian era and remained so until the 1960s when commercial syrup containers went directly from the refrigerator or storage cabinet to the table. Syrup pitchers were a popular form collectible through the final two-thirds of the 20th century. The number of syrup pitcher collectors is diminishing, albeit a small but dedicated group still exists in New England. The same holds true for Heisey collectors, albeit their geographic base is broader.
Heisey sold blanks to engraving houses that applied the decoration and marketed the finish product. A single syrup body can be found in multiple variations. Dealer asking prices for Heisey syrup pitchers with floral engraving range from $50 to $75, while $65 appears to be the average asking price.
A seller recently posted a1910-1920s Heisey floral engraved syrup pitcher on eBay. With five days to go, no one opted to open the bidding at the requested $20 minimum.
Realistically, think $45 to $50 for your syrup pitcher. Further, its value is decreasing rather than rising. The number of people who collect—no, the number of people who know and care about—Heisey are dying. Young collectors are not replacing older collectors. If you are thinking of selling, do it now—the longer you wait, the less you will get.
Go to the Heisey Museum Web site to learn more about Heisey. When your travels take you to the greater Columbus, Ohio area, consider taking time to visit the Heisey Museum in Newark. Tell them Harry sent you.
QUESTION: I have a short, stubby, white glazed, earthenware vase that belonged to my grandmother. The vase’s tapered cylindrical body ends in a high, waist neck and slightly flared rim. Gold highlights accent the raised geometric motif on the rim and center of the body. It measures 6 inches high. The bottom is marked with a “W” and “P” flanking a crest featuring a bird’s head on each side flanking a central torch beneath which is “LA BELLE / CHINA.” Is it valuable?
– RD, via e-mail
ANSWER: When I first saw the picture attached to your e-mail, I thought it was shaving mug or small vase from a toilet set. While I still think there is a possibility it is a vase from a toilet set, I favor an independent form, i.e., not part of a set, based on its size.
The “W” and “P” indicate the piece was made by the Wheeling Pottery Company, founded in 1879. In 1887 Wheeling Pottery created La Belle Pottery Company, combining the two in 1889. Wheeling Pottery had four potteries—Avon, La Belle (South side of Wheeling), Ohio Valley (North Wheeling), and Riverside (North Wheeling). All of them made glazed-earthenware (semi-porcelain) artware and sanitary wares.
Your vase has limited decorative value. Its appeal rests primarily with individuals decorating in a Country or Victorian look. Its value, assuming no damage, is between $20 and $30.
Rinker Enterprises and Harry L. Rinker are on the Internet. Check out his Web site.
You can listen and participate in “WHATCHA GOT?,” Harry’s antiques-and-collectibles radio call-in show on Sunday mornings between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Eastern Time. It streams live on the Genesis Communications Network.
“SELL, KEEP OR TOSS? HOW TO DOWNSIZE A HOME, SETTLE AN ESTATE, AND APPRAISE PERSONAL PROPERTY” (House of Collectibles, an imprint of the Random House Information Group), Harry’s latest book, is available at your favorite bookstore and via Harry’s Web site: http://www.harryrinker.com
Harry L. Rinker welcomes questions from readers about collectibles, those mass-produced items from the 20th century. Selected letters will be answered on this site. Harry cannot provide personal answers. Photos and other material submitted cannot be returned. Send your questions to: Rinker on Collectibles, 5093 Vera Cruz Road, Emmaus, PA 18049. You also can e-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Only e-mails containing a full name and mailing address will be considered. Please indicate that these are questions for WorthPoint.
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