Q: Enclosed is a picture of a Mills' Jackpot Bell slot machine, also known as the Poinsettia or Reserve Jackpot. I understand that these were made between 1928 and 1932. I think that this one might have been made about 1929.
Can you evaluate this for me?
A: Your date probably is correct. Sales records indicate that these slot machines are selling in the $2,500 to $3,000 range, depending on condition and market area.
Q: The attached mark is on the bottom of a German beer stein. It is also marked ".5L" and "731." It is in the shape of a bear; the head forms the lid and is hinged to the main part of the stein. Can you tell me anything about the origin, vintage and value?
A: Your half-liter stein was made in Hohr Grenzhausen, Germany, by Reinhold-Merkelbach about 1900. It would probably sell for about $325 to $335.
The rich clay and coal deposits along the banks of the Ohio River near East Liverpool, Ohio, became the source of the growth of china manufacture that has thrived for more than 150 years. At one time or another, there were almost 50 potteries producing a variety of ceramic products, from simple pottery to semiporcelain china.
The Dresden Pottery operated under various names from 1876 to 1925. Their greatest claim to fame was that collectors are prone to believe that their "Dresden" china is the more valuable German Dresden. Actually, they produced mostly ironstone toilet- and dinnerware.
The well-known Homer Laughlin set up operations there in 1868 and is still in business. The most universally known product was the popular Fiesta Ware that was made from 1936 to 1973. In addition, they made hundreds of patterns of semivitreous china. Today, it is one of the largest potters in the country.
The most prestigious of the East Liverpool potters was Knowles, Taylor & Knowles, operating from 1875 to 1931.
In addition to the common white ware produced by all the potters, KTK created a fine Belleek-type porcelain called Lotus Ware. It is avidly sought by collectors and commands prices equal to the finest European porcelain. Prices generally range from $500 to more than $5,000.
It was produced briefly in the last decade of the 19th century. Most of their production consisted of the common white ware produced by other potters in the area.
Some of the other potters whose names are familiar and readily recognized as collectible are Hall, Harker, McNicol and Sevres -- china (frequently confused with French Sevres).
The Great Depression of the 1930s and foreign competition have eliminated most of the original potters and only a few remain in East Liverpool today.
With 1992 being the 500th anniversary of Columbus' discovery of America and the 100th anniversary of the Columbian Exposition in Chicago, there is bound to be increased interest in mementos identified with world fairs and expositions.
The Philadelphia Centennial Exposition of 1876 is probably the earliest fair that we will have to consider. We find a few sturdy items, such as glass inkwells selling for about $100.
The Chicago Columbia Exposition of 1892-'93 will probably prove the most popular. A Seth Thomas clock tops the list at more than $700. Silver-plated spoons are plentiful at about $15. Brass ashtrays can be had for $35 and up. Admission tickets bring premium prices of up to $40.
There also were fairs at Seattle, Buffalo, New York and other cities.
Book review: "Wallace-Homestead Price Guide to American Country Antiques, 11th Edition" by Don and Carol Raycraft (an imprint of the Chilton Book Co.). The scope of this guide extends beyond "country" -- it covers a wide field of antiques in an informative, humorous way. I don't think there is another price guide that will identify and evaluate a wrought-iron hearth spinner broiler.
L This is a fascinating book, even if you are not a collector.
Letters with picture(s) are welcome and may be answered in the column. We cannot reply personally or return pictures. Address your letters to James G. McCollam, P.O. Box 1087, Notre Dame, Ind. 46556.
Mr. McCollam is a member of the Antique Appraisers Association of America.