Travelers played shell game Antiques: The 'sailor's valentine' was a boxed assemblage from the beach, which visitors to the tropics would bring home to their loved ones.

February 23, 1997|By Ralph Kovel and Terry Kovel | Ralph Kovel and Terry Kovel,KING FEATURES SYNDICATE

When is a valentine not a valentine? When it is a "sailor's valentine," which was not meant to be given as a gift on Feb. 14.

The so-called sailor's valentine was a shallow wooden box that was filled with shells placed in geometric patterns. The boxes were usually octagonal, but some were rectangular or circular.

The seashell collages were made as souvenirs sold to visitors on tropical islands. Sometimes the name of the island or affectionate greetings were worked into the shell pattern.

Because sailors often brought the boxes back from trips as gifts for loved ones, collectors refer to them as "valentines."

Although similar modern shell work is seen, the collectible pieces date from the 19th century. Most seem to have been made in Barbados.

I have a pair of hammered copper bookends that are marked "Craftsman Studios." Could this be related to the Stickley Brothers Craftsman furniture?

The Arts and Crafts Movement that Gustav Stickley helped popularize in America inspired workshops and studios across the country.

Craftsman Studios was located in Laguna Beach, Calif., and used a hammer and anvil as a mark on its metalware. The company was not related to Stickley's Craftsman Workshops. Craftsman Studios existed from about 1894 to 1923.

I have a punch-bowl set that includes 12 cups. On the bottom of each cup is the underlined letter "N" inside a circle. What can you tell me about this?

You've described a mark used by the Northwood Glass Co. The company started in Martins Ferry, Ohio, in the 1880s, then moved to Indiana, Pa., in 1896. It opened another plant in Wheeling, W. Va., in 1902. The company worked until 1923. It made many types of glass, including pressed glass, custard glass and carnival glass.

I have a set of old brass andirons that came with my house. How can I tell if they're valuable?

Old brass andirons can sell for several hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on the age and design.

To find out if yours are old, turn them upside down. At the center should be a hand-hammered irregular metal nub where the shaft pierces the iron bar on which the logs rest. If it looks like a wad of gum, the andirons might date as far back as 1780. If there's a nut and bolt or screw there, the andirons are more modern.

What's my 1935 Mickey Mouse wristwatch worth?

Mickey Mouse wristwatches were made by Ingersoll in 1935. In good condition, they sell for $375 today. Many similar Mickey Mouse watches have since been made. They are worth much less.

The Kovels welcome letters and answer as many as possible through the column. Write to Kovels, The Sun, King Features Syndicate Inc., 235 E. 45th St., New York, N.Y. 10017.

Pub Date: 2/23/97

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