Q: I have an old oil lamp that I keep as a decoration, but I’m wondering how to use it in case I lose power during a storm. Is it safe? Or will it damage the antique or create a fire hazard?
A: If you want to use an antique oil lamp, make sure it is clean and that none of its parts are missing or damaged. Choose your fuel carefully; each type of oil lamp is designed for a specific type of fuel. What is sold as “lamp oil” is purified kerosene, so it is safe for kerosene lamps. You can find commercial lamp oils with added colorings or fragrances, but we don’t recommend them. They can damage your lamp or leave stains. Keep the lamp and its fuel out of the reach of children or pets. Use a wick long enough to keep the flame from reaching the oil. Treat the lamp like a lighted candle or any other open flame. Do not use it in an area where you have detected gas. Use it in a well-ventilated room and keep it on a firm surface where it won’t be bumped or knocked over.
There are several clubs for antique lamp collectors and businesses that repair and restore oil lamps or sell spare parts. Many are listed in the Kovels.com business directory. They often have detailed instructions and safety precautions for using oil lamps.
Q: I have a letter signed by Paul Franke and Dr. Reinhold Heidecke, the founders of the company that produced the Rollei and Rolleiflex cameras. He congratulates the buyer of the TLR camera. The letter is in German and has no date. Can you tell me when this letter could have been written? I don’t want to sell it but I’m curious if it has any value.
A: The Rollei optical instrument company was founded in 1920 by Paul Franke and Dr. Reinhold Heidecke in Braunschweig, Germany. The camera had two separate lenses: one for the view and one for taking the picture. Their Rolleiflex TLR (twin lens reflex) camera was sold in 1929. Paul Franke died in 1950. The letter should have been written between 1929 and 1950. Letters signed by famous people are collectible and valuable. The letter might be of interest to camera collectors and camera historians if it is an authentic letter and not an advertising piece. An authentic letter would probably have a date. You may need to take it to an autograph expert to determine the value.
Q: My grandmother loved the Precious Moments figurines. She gave me the Precious Moments figurine of a bride called “Someday My Love” when I got married 20 years ago. Is it worth anything?
A: Precious Moments, like Beanie Babies, were extremely popular and people collected them assuming they would increase in value. Most did not. Artist and illustrator Samuel Butcher began drawing pictures of stylized, cute children in the 1970s. He and a friend started a business to make and sell greeting cards and posters featuring his artwork ‘Precious Moments». In 1978, Enesco Corp. has developed a range of Precious Moments porcelain figurines. The demand was high. Sales kept growing, too many different figurines were made, and the market collapsed. Many buyers still like them, but they are selling at very low prices. Your “Someday My Love” figurine was made in 1988. It sells for between 14 and 25 dollars.
Q: I have a whole set of blue Currier & Ives platters, platters, bowls and serving pieces. I am now drawn to Currier & Ives pink sets. What can you tell me about them?
A: During the 1950s, the Currier & Ives model from Royal China was offered as a premium in A&P and Winn-Dixie stores. They can now be found in virtually all shopping malls and thrift stores. Their prices are starting to climb, so buying a complete set becomes expensive – at least $10 a dish, and the same for bowls and serving pieces. Currier & Ives pieces were produced until the closure of the Royal China Company in 1986. Most Currier & Ives sets are blue, as you mentioned. In addition to the rarer pink, you can also find green and brown-on-white sets. The rarest colors are more expensive.
TIP: Don’t store vintage fabrics in unheated attics or basements or in areas that are likely to get hot. The best storage is between 65 and 75 degrees.