Q & A with Harry Rinker: Royal Winton, Baffle Ball, Blenko Vase

QUESTION: I inherited a luncheon set consisting of six plates, six cups and saucers, teapot, creamer, and sugar, in Royal Winton’s Cheadle pattern. What is its value?

– B, Lehigh Valley, PA

ANSWER: Leonard Lumsden Grimwade, a modeler, founded the Elgin Pottery in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent in 1885. His older brother Sidney joined the firm shortly thereafter, the firm changing its name to Grimwade Brothers. In 1886 Grimwade Brothers added Winton Pottery to its manufacturing facilities. By 1906 Grimwade Brothers had four manufacturing facilities in England’s “Potteries” district. Leonard introduced several innovative techniques, including the enamel climax rotary kiln and a duplex lithographic transfer process.

harry-rinker2Grimwade marketed some of its products under the Winton brand. In 1913 Queen Mary purchased a Winton tea set. In 1929 Grimwade adopted Royal Winton as the trade name for all its products.

Marguerite, the first Royal Winton chintz pattern, was introduced in 1928. More than 60 different chintz patterns followed. Royal Winton’s chintz-patterned ceramics were popular exports to the British Commonwealth and the United States. Cheadle was an extremely popular pattern in the U.S. High production costs forced Royal Winton to discontinue its chintz patterns in the early 1960s.

Royal Winton chintz patterns were one of the hot ceramic collectibles of the 1990s. Prices skyrocketed. EBay’s popularity flooded the secondary market. Prices plummeted, albeit not in the field. Specialized ceramic dealers and replacement services wage a continuous fight to prop up market prices. An Internet storefront dealer is asking over $350 for a trio consisting of a Cheadle luncheon plate, cup, and saucer. The same trio sells on eBay for less than $50. EBay prices realized are 25 percent or less of dealer asking prices, one of the greatest price differences I have encountered between field/book and eBay prices. “Buy It Now” prices on eBay reflect field/book prices, rather than reacting to actual auction results, another point worth noting.

I have no doubt you would prefer your teapot be worth the $259 “Buy It Now” price asked by an eBay seller rather than have me inform you that its value is closer to $75. I tell it like it is. If you want to feel good, use a field/book value of $2,000 plus for your set. If you want to be realistic, assume a value between $350 and $400.

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QUESTION: I own Baffle Ball, an early tabletop, coin-operated pinball machine in a wooden case. A nickel provided the player with 10 balls. The machine works and appears to be in excellent condition. What can you tell me about its history and value?

– GC, Janesville, WI

ANSWER: In 1927 David Gottlieb founded D. Gottlieb & Co., Chicago, Ill. The company manufactured arcade games. Gottlieb created Baffle Ball in 1930. Measuring 16 inch wide by 24 inch high, it was designed to rest on any counter or tabletop. It used no electricity and did not have bumpers or flippers. The player pulled a plunger to send the balls into the playing field. The rest was up to gravity. The balls fell through the playing field, striking pins that protruded from the surface. Four circles inside a diamond motif provide the highest point count. In addition, the lower edge had a series of chambers, each assigned a value.

The plunger pressure was the primary way to position balls where the player wanted them in the playing field. Enterprising players also learned to tilt the machine during play, a practice that became a standard part of pinball play.

Early examples provided five balls for a penny. Later machines, such as the one you own, came in two varieties—10 balls for a penny or 10 balls for a nickel.

Baffle Ball sold for $17.50. The game proved so popular that 50,000 units were sold within the first few years. Gottlieb introduced Baffle Ball Sr. in 1932 and an electronic Baffle Ball in 1935. Rock-ola Manufacturing Company, a Gottlieb competitor, also distributed Baffle Ball knock-off. A Rock-ola advertisement from the mid-1930s included a telegram from C. A. Martin of California that read: “Ship at once via Acme Fast Freight 25 Babble Ball machines with stands stop Sample machine took in $64.00 in 8 days stop Wire price lots of fifty.” The metal stand was a later addition.

Baffle Ball pinball games have a high survival rate. Although collectors consider it a classic, its value is relatively modest. Book value for a machine in good condition is between $2,000 and $2,250. It is worth $3,000 in excellent condition. Add another thirty percent if fully restored.

The pictures of the Baffle Ball game that accompany your letter suggest you overestimated the condition of your example. There are signs of wear on the playing field. Portions of the case’s finish are faded and spotted. The condition of your machine is between very good and fine. It value is closer to $2,500.

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QUESTION: Attached to my e-mail is a photo of a large glass vase with a Blenko label that my son recently acquired at a garage sale for a quarter. It is signed on the bottom “Richard Blenko / 2001.” It has a bulbous body, extended neck, and flared rim. I e-mailed the Blenko Collectors Society and received this response: “Your vase is #9604 in tangerine. It was designed by Matt Carter and introduced to the catalog line in 1996. The vase you have was part of a PBS pledge drive. The design was not offered in tangerine in the catalog in 2001, the tangerine #9604 vases were made only for PBS that year…” Appraisers in my area have been of no help in determining the value of my son’s vase. What is your opinion?

– JH, Indiana, via e-mail

ANSWER: Before you can establish a value for something, you have to know what it is. Thanks to the generosity of the Blenko Collectors Society, you know the history of your piece.

William J. Blenko established sheet glass factories in Kokomo (Indiana) in 1893, Point Marion (Pennsylvania) in 1909 and Clarksburg (West Virginia) in 1911, all of which failed. He worked at various glass companies in Ohio and West Virginia until 1921, when he founded the Eureka Glass Company in Milton, West Virginia. The company specialized in producing glass for stained glass windows. Blenko struggled to keep his business alive, adding a tableware line in 1930, the year he changed the company’s name to the Blenko Glass Company.

ask-a-worthologist2The company made utilitarian glass focusing on classical and adaptations of classical forms. When American buyers became enamored with Studio Glass in the late 1940s, Blenko hired designer Winslow Anderson. Additional designers, e.g., Wayne Husted and Joe Philip Myers, joined the firm. Matt Carter was the company’s last design director, serving from 1995 to 2002.

In 2000, Bill Agie opened the Blenko Museum (Milton, WV), dedicated to the work of Winslow Anderson, Blenko’s first design director. This led to a renaissance of collector interest in Blenko glass. Richard Blenko, the fourth generation of Blenko family members to head the company, worked with PBS on two television specials: “Blenko: Heart of Glass” and “Retro Blenko: Three Designers of American Glass.” As a result, PBS began offering Blenko pieces as premiums during its pledge drives.

In January 2009, Big Two Mile—Blenko’s gas supplier—seized the company’s assets as a result of Blenko’s failure to pay its bill. The company closed and laid off its employees. Production resumed on a limited basis in early March.

Collectors focus on Blenko glass produced between 1947 and 1974, considered the golden age of Modernist design. Glass made after that date is viewed as more mass-market oriented and lacking in the design qualities that distinguished the glass from the 1947-1974 period.

Your son’s vase is worth at least twenty-five cents, the value he established when he bought it. As you suspect, it is worth more. The question is: How much more? I called Debbie Coe, co-author along with her husband Randy of “Elegant Glass: Early Depression & Beyond,” 3rd Edition (Schiffer Publishing) to discuss the secondary market value for PBS vases. She suggested a secondary retail value between $20 and $25. I concur. Collector demand is limited. Most Blenko collectors who want a PBS example already own one.

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QUESTION: I have three cup and saucer sets that I inherited from my mother. I assume she received them in the 1950s. There was a fourth set but it broke. The cups are pedestal based and have a fancy scroll gold-colored handle. The inside of each cups is pearlized. The outsides of the cups and saucers are painted with beautiful fruit designs, e.g., pineapple, raspberry, strawberry, etc., on a pearlized surface. The saucers are stamped “JAPAN” on the bottom. What can you tell me about them?

– CC, Drumheller, Alberta, Canada, via e-mail

ANSWER: You own Japanese luster ware. While it is possible your cups and saucers date from the 1950s, it is far more probable that they were made in the 1930s.

The cups and saucers were part of a larger luncheon set that included a matching teapot, creamer, and sugar. The set probably had luncheon plates as well.

Although hand painted porcelain, these sets have minimal collector value. A full set sells between $50 and $65. An individual cup and saucer, assuming the pattern matches, is valued between $4 and $6.

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Rinker Enterprises and Harry L. Rinker are on the Internet. Check out his Web site: http://www.harryrinker.com

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.

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 harrylrinker@aol.com. Only e-mails containing a full name and mailing address will be considered. Please indicate that these are questions for WorthPoint.

Copyright © Rinker Enterprises, Inc. 2009

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