Q & A with Harry Rinker: Beatrix Potter Figures, Barrel Butter Churn & More

QUESTION: I own 28 Beatrix Potter figures that I bought years ago at Hess Brothers in Allentown, Pa. They are marked “Warne” and “England” on the bottom. Do they have value?

– E, Allentown, Pa.

ANSWER: James Wright Beswick formed J. W. Beswick, a pottery manufacturer in Longton, Stoke-on-Trent, England in 1892. His son John joined the firm in 1894. James died in 1921 and John in 1935. John’s son, John Ewart Beswick, assumed control; and, Gilbert Beswick became sales director. The company changed its name to John Beswick, Ltd., in 1936.

Arthur Gredington, a modeler of animal figures, joined the company. In 1947, Lucy Beswick—fascinated with the illustrations of Peter Rabbit and his friends found in Beatrix Potter’s books—suggested Beswick acquire rights to create figurines based on Potter’s drawings. John Beswick licensed the rights to 10 characters from Frederick Warne & Co. in 1948. Gredington modeled Jemima Puddle Duck, the first figure to be produced. Versions of several of Beswick’s Potter figurines remain in production.

Frederick Warne & Co. published Beatrix Potter’s “Tales of Peter Rabbit” in 1902. In1905, Potter was engaged to marry Norman Warne, her editor. He died a few weeks later. His brother Harold assumed the role of Potter’s editor. Potter provided one to two new titles each year to Warne until 1913, when she married William Heelis. She assigned the rights to her books to Frederick Warne & Co. upon her death (1943).

When the last Beswick heir died in 1969, Royal Doulton bought the company. The Royal Albert DA backstamp replaced the Beswick backstamp on the Potter figurines in 1989.

Seven different backstamps—the third with three variations—have been used for Potter figurines since 1947. The backstamp determines the price. “F. Warne & Co. Ltd.” did not appear until the second backstamp (1955 to 1972). This backstamp, used on 38 figures, is known as the “Beswick Gold oval.” “BESWICK / ENGLAND” appears in gold lettering in an oval format. The third backstamp (1973 to 1988) is known as the “Beswick Brown line.” “BESWICK ENGLAND” appears as a single line with no copyright date (1973 to 1974), a copyright date (1975 to 1985), and a copyright date but no “S” in Potter (1985 to 1988). If you bought your figurines at Hess Brothers, they will have one of these four backstamps.

There are several dozen Internet websites, such as www.doult.com, offering Beswick Royal Doulton Beatrix Potter figurines for sale. Figurines with the second backstamp sell between $150 and $500, depending on the character. Figurines with the third backstamp range from $85 to $150, and those with scarce variations reach $500.

Given the limited information you provided, this is as detailed an answer as I can give. When checking Internet prices, remember these are retail (what you would pay to buy) not wholesale (what you would get if you sold your figurines to a dealer) prices. Assuming a minimum price of $50 a figurine, a conservative value—and that none of the figurines are damaged—your collection of 28 figurines is worth a minimum of $1,400.


QUESTION: I have a barrel butter churn. The front of the barrel reads: “THE BELLE CHURN / MANUFACTURED BY / J. McDERMAID / ROCKFORD, IL.” What is it worth?

– VR, State College, Pa., via e-mail

ANSWER: Because the transportation of sweet milk and cream over long distances was difficult in the18th and 19th century, farmers separated the cream from the milk and transformed it into butter. This was taken to local markets or placed in stoneware crocks and transported to larger urban markets.

J. McDermaid of Rockford, Ill. made four different barrel butter churns: the Belle, the Boss, the Columbian, and the Favorite. It also made the Star for Sears, Roebuck, and Company. C. H. Wendel’s “Encyclopedia of American Farm Implements & Antiques, 2nd Edition” (Krause Publications, 2004 ) provides documentation that McDermaid’s used the trade names Belle (1905, 1931), Boss (1892) and Star (1892). William Dobson and H. H. Palmer were other barrel butter churn manufacturers located in Rockford, Ill.

John McDermaid was granted his first barrel butter churn patent on Oct. 24, 1876. The patent protected the design for a set of beaters inside the barrel. Time proved beaters were unnecessary. John McDermaid held three additional patents—Oct. 9, 1888; March 19, 1889; and Sept. 8, 1891—related to the lever system used to seal churns.

Oak was used to create a barrel that was housed inside a wood “U” frame. A crank handle on the side turned the churn. The barrel was half filled with cream. The speed of the rotation varied from 40 to 80 revolutions per minute depending on the size of the barrel; the smaller the barrel the faster the rotation. The cream fell as the barrel was rotated, creating churns. The barrel required a tight seal so it would not leak. The turning process had to be stopped on occasion to allow the lid to be opened to relieve pressure that built up inside.

Barrel butter churns sold in the late 19th century for as little as $2.35. The price rose as high as $6 by the 1920s/1930s. Sears, Roebuck still featured the Star churn in its 1942-43 catalog.

[Author’s Aside: See Dairy Antiques for a detailed history of barrel and other types of butter churns.]

Skinner’s in Massachusetts recently sold a Belle churn for $50. WorthPoint’s Worthopedia lists an example selling on July 13, 2008 for $75. Belle churns seen at Midwest antiques malls and shows range from $125 to $175. At the moment, these churns have more decorative than collector value.


QUESTION: I have a black-and-white photograph of the Washington Monument that I think dates from around 1919. It was framed and sold by Veerhoff Galleries in Washington, DC. How do I go about finding out if it has value?

– RK, Hagerstown, Md., via e-mail

ANSWER: In 1871, Wilhelm H. Veerhoff opened a shop at 916 Seventh Street, NW, in Washington, DC. Veerhoff sold Victorian frames, wall decorations, wallpaper and window shades. Although a 2000 Washington Post article indicated that Margaret Veerhoff, Wilhelm’s great-granddaughter, was planning to close the shop (now located at 1054 31st Street NW), several Internet websites indicate the shop is still in business. It is touted as Washington, DC’s oldest framer and gallery.

The Washington Monument (900 Ohio Drive SW, Washington, DC 20024) is administered by the National Mall & Memorial Parks. Write a letter asking the curator if he can identify the photographer and date. I suspect your photographic image is common. If so, its value is minimal, less than $35 framed. Should the image prove scarce, value will increase.


QUESTION: I inherited my mother’s 6 1/2 –inch-tall, tapered-body, green translucent vase featuring a relief impression of half an ear of corn with husk remains at the bottom. The body rests on a flat base impressed with husk or leaf images. My mother attached a note that states the vase is worth over $300. Is this possible?

– JB, Caledonia, Mich.

ANSWER: You own an example of Northwood’s carnival glass corn vase. Northwood was located in Wheeling, W.V. Northwood made corn vases in 1911 and 1912.

There are two pattern variations: (1) the standard version with husk around the base of the body and (2) a scarcer variation with what appear to be pulled husks. The standard version is found with two different base types: (a) plain and (b) with leaves, sometimes referred to as stalks.

David Doty’s Carnival Glass web site lists16 color variations for the standard vase with the leaves/stalk base—amethyst, aqua, aqua opal, blue, green, green (Coke bottle color), green emerald, ice blue, ice green, lime green, marigold, olive green, purple, sapphire blue, teal and white. Color impacts price. Because of the lack of quality control, color tone varied. Doty recommends holding a strong light behind an area where there is no iridescence—for example, the edge of the collar on a bowl—to determine color. There are six variations of greens in the 16 colors listed.

An ice green vase with leaves/stalk base closed on eBay on April 17, 2011 for $397.19, which included shipping. Jim Wroda Auction sold a similar ice green corn vase for $225 at his March 20, 2011 auction. WorthPoint lists a “green” corn cob vase that brought $180.26 on July 17, 2007. David Doty’s Carnival Glass web site, which is organized by pattern, object and color, provides multiple sale results for pieces.

Assuming you have a standard Northwood corn vase with a leaf/stalk base in one of the common green colors, value ranges from $300 to $400.

Collectors often confuse the Northwood corn vase with the Dugan opalescent corn vase, even though the two bear little resemblance to each other. The Dugan opalescent corn vase has an extended full corn body, curved dip at the top, and openings between twisted sections of husk. Richard Wright made reproductions of the Dugan corn vase in the 1950s and 1960s.


Rinker Enterprises and Harry L. Rinker are on the Internet. Check out Harry’s Web site..

You can listen and participate in Harry’s antiques-and-collectibles radio call-in show “Whatcha Got?” 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 queries will be answered on this site. Harry cannot provide personal answers. Send your questions to: Rinker on Collectibles, 5955 Mill Pond Court SE, Kentwood, MI 49512. You 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.

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