Q: Enclosed is a picture of a blue and white platter that is 20 inches by 12 inches. Also enclosed is a picture of the mark "Villeroy & Boch, Dresden." Can you tell me something about its origin and value?
A: This Blue Onion pattern platter was made by Villeroy & Boch, a company that made all kinds of ceramics in Dresden, Mettlach and seven other cities in Germany. Your platter was made in the late 1800s and would probably sell for about $165 to $185.
Q: The attached mark is on the bottom of what I think is a German punch bowl. It holds about 1 gallon and has an underplate. It has a scene depicting a drunken man clutching a barrel, and the handles are formed by drunken men. Please tell me about the origin and value of this bowl.
A: Your punch bowl was made in Mettlach, Germany, by Villeroy & Boch during the late 1800s. It would probably sell in an antique shop for $800 to $900.
Do you have an antique Stradivarius that you are saving to support you in your golden years? Better plant a vegetable garden instead.
What's wrong with owning a Stradivarius violin? Well, experts have determined that all violins made by Antonio Stradivari have been accounted for and are in the hands of known collectors and violinists. They don't change hands very often, but when they do, the price is usually more than $1 million.
Stradivari made the finest violins the world has ever seen in Cremona, Italy, during the early 18th century. In the late 19th and early 20th century, thousands of fake Stradivarius violins were produced in Germany, France and Czechoslovakia. These sold so well that they also used the labels of Guiseppe Guernerius, Carlo Bergonzi, Jacob Stainer and Nicolo Amati.
The Wall Street Journal reports a physicist claimed to have performed extensive tests on his violin and determined that it was 400 years old. Unfortunately it was also labeled "made in Czechoslovakia," a country that wasn't founded until 1918.
The best of these fake Strads might be worth $150 to $200, depending on their musical quality. If you have one that Sears sold for $2.95, complete with instruction book, take the strings off before someone tries to play it.
If you do have an "antique" violin, take it to a local musician or museum for a qualified opinion.
Statistics suggest that an unlabeled violin has a better chance of being valuable than one with a famous maker's label.
Send your questions about antiques with picture(s), a detailed description, a stamped, self-addressed envelope and $1 per item to James G. McCollam, P.O. Box 1087, Notre Dame, Ind. 46556. All questions will be answered; published pictures cannot be returned. Mr. McCollam is a member of the Antique Appraisers Association of America.