The Kovels – Antiques and Collecting

Observing eclipses nothing new

Solar eclipses, like the one over North America on Monday, have fascinated observers for thousands of years.

The Maya of Mesoamerica used their astronomical observations to predict eclipses. The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle pointed to the round shadows that appear during eclipses as evidence that the Earth is round.

European Renaissance figures like Nicolaus Copernicus, Galileo Galilei and Isaac Newton paved the way for more widespread interest in and more advanced devices for learning about the orbits of planets around the sun.

One such device was the orrery, believed to have been invented in the early 1700s. The name comes from the Earl of Orrery, whose commissions helped popularize them.

The orrery is a kind of planetarium that models the position and motion of planets relative to the sun. This one was made about 1900 and sold for $630 at Donley Auctions.

The sphere in the center, made of brass, represents the sun. A small globe on a wooden arm represents Earth, with a smaller sphere connected to it by a wire for the moon. Another small sphere closer to the sun stands for Venus or Mercury, one of the planets whose orbit lies between Earth and the sun. The gears and chains that allow the arms to move are visible, and the base is labeled with the seasons and months of the year as well as the names of the 12 zodiac constellations.

It makes an effective teaching tool to show how Earth revolves around the sun but remember that it’s not an accurate model of the solar system.

If it were, the sphere representing the sun would have to be more than 100 times wider than the one representing Earth, to say nothing of the distance between them!

Q: My wife and I cruise the local antique shops regularly. A vase marked “Royal Haeger” on the bottom was given to my wife by her aunt upon her passing as her “inheritance.” We have been unable to find out anything about it. Can you tell us anything about it? Since it is a family heirloom, it will be staying with us, but we would like to have some idea if it is worth anything.

A: Your vase was made by Haeger Potteries of Dundee, Illinois. They started making commercial pottery in 1914. The “Royal Haeger” mark was first used about 1938, when designer Royal Hickman started working for them. Hickman worked for Haeger from about 1938 to 1944 and again from the 1950s to 1969. Royal Haeger vases usually sell for less than $100 unless they have unusual features like three-dimensional figures or a multicolor drip or crackle glaze.

Q: We inherited 12 dinner-size plates from my husband’s grandmother. In the process of shipping them to our daughter, three of them were broken. They have the Mintons hallmark on the back, along with the name of the business T.M. James and Sons, Kansas City. I researched online and found that the business was established in 1863 and that they were wholesale/retailers in “crockery, glassware and cutlery and importers of fine china.” However, searching high and low, I have not been able to determine their value. That issue has become more important now that we must file an insurance claim with the carrier.

A: Twelve-piece sets of Mintons dinner plates with a retailer’s mark sell at auction for about $300 to $500. However, appraisal values are not always the same as sale prices. Values for insurance purposes are often higher. Check with your insurance carrier to see what kind of appraisal you need. They may require a written appraisal by a licensed provider. You can find accredited appraisers through the American Society of Appraisers, the International Society of Appraisers, and the Appraisers Association of America. Most auction galleries also provide appraisal services. Be sure to check your appraiser’s background and look for reviews.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Questions that are answered will appear in Kovels Publications. Write to Kovels, (Name of this newspaper), King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803 or email us at collectorsgallery@kovels.com.


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