Kovel’s antiques: Chinese apothecary chests

  • By Terry and Kim Kovel
April 30, 2016
This lacquered Chinese apothecary chest with 80 drawers sold at a James D. Julia auction in 2016 for $946. It has metal hardware. - Photo courtesy of James D. Julia Auctioneers

Chinese apothecary chests were originally made to hold herbs and medicines used in past centuries. The chests were usually made of elmwood, or other dark wood. The chest may have a stand with very short legs because the Chinese used to do business at floor level, not behind a counter. No nails were used making the chest, just dowels and glue. Each chest had rows of 36 to over 100 small, labeled drawers.

At a January 2016 auction at James D. Julia, auctioneers offered an antique elmwood apothecary chest with 80 drawers. Small collectibles, such as coins, netsukes, buttons, sewing supplies, Star Wars toys, CDs or marbles, can be stored in this type of cabinet. There are many companies selling modern copies.

This antique auctioned chest with a stand is 43 inches high, 36 inches wide and 12 inches deep. It sold for $948, less than the price of a new one on the internet.

Q. Can you give me a general idea of the value of a mint-condition Schultz and Dooley set of steins? They are characters from Utica Club beer commercials from the early 1970s. Schultz is nearly a foot high and Dooley over half that height.

A. Utica Club beer was first made in 1933 by West End Brewing Co. of Utica, New York. The company was started in 1888 by Francis Xavier Matt. Schultz and Dooley beer steins appeared in TV commercials advertising Utica Club beer from 1959 to 1964. Jonathan Winters provided the voices for the “talking” beer steins. The steins were given to bars and stores as promotional items and were so popular they were later offered for sale. The steins were sold in sets. Only 5,000 sets were made in 1959. The brewery company name became the F.X. Matt Brewing Co. in 1980. It’s still in business and offers a new character beer stein each November. Value depends on rarity of the edition you have. The 1959 set in good condition sells for $175-$200.

Q. I have a set of eight plates with center pictures of different flowers and gold trim. The plates are about 6 inches across. The letters on the back look like an “O” and “L,” and “Rove. Saxe” is marked over the initials “E.S.” I’d like to know who made these plates and how old they are.

A. The initials “E.S.” stand for Erdmann Schlegelmilch and the mark on your plates actually is “Prov. Saxe,” which was used by the Erdmann Schlegelmilch Porcelain Factory. The factory was founded by Leonard Schlegelmilch (1823-1898) and named for his father, Erdmann. It was in business in Suhl, Thuringia, Germany, from 1861 to 1937. The company made decorated and undecorated porcelain. The “Prov. Saxe” mark was used beginning in 1902 and was one of several marks used by the company. Some of the 7 1/2-inch plates with floral decoration have sold online for less than $10.

Q. I have a “Blender Queen,” a modern-looking glass jar with a streamlined plastic base and a top that looks like a spaceship. It plugs in, push the on button, the blades inside revolve and you get a “smoothie.” It seems to be a relative of the Waring Blender. Is this the inspiration for the Waring Blender or a later copy? Is it sellable?

A. The Waring Blender was financed and manufactured by the popular band leader, Fred Waring. An inventor went to him for money and Waring put $25,000 into a company to make the then-unique product. It was patented in 1938 and sold as the “Miracle Mixer,” but the name was quickly changed to the Waring Blender. It cost $29.75. It was a huge success and was used in hospitals for special diets and scientific experiments, as well as for what we now call “smoothies.” Sixty-seven companies made similar products. Some are called liquefiers. Your Blender Queen was made in the 1960s.The push-button on and off switch was an improvement created in 1963. We saw a working plastic Waring “Drink Mixer” for sale at a flea market in August 2015 for $30. Working blenders from the ‘60s sell for about $30 to $100.

Tip: Always use your hair spray or perfume before you put on your jewelry. Both products damage some metals and stones.

Current prices

Current prices are recorded from antiques shows, flea markets, sales and auctions throughout the United States. Prices vary in different locations because of local economic conditions.

• Bottle stopper, porcelain, man’s head, winking, hat, Japan, c. 1950, 2 1/4 inches, $30.

• American Encaustic Tile, Renaissance maiden, green glaze, c. 1900, 6 x 6 inches, $125.

• Cambridge glass, Chantilly, cruet, stopper, 7 inches, $150.

• Davy Crockett clock, pendulum, Davy kneeling, holding rifle, pressed wood, c. 1955, 7 inches, $170.

• Box, Black Maria Chewing Tobacco, 10 cents, native woman, wood, 1930, 11 x 7 inches, $210.

• Ladle, Sterling silver, Morning Glory, Gorham, c. 1865, 7 inches, $315.

• Toy, donkey, on wheels, felt, leather saddle, button eyes, Steiff, c. 1900, 12 inches, $800.

• Coffee table, Piero Fornasetti, blank transfer decoration, lacquered wood, mahogany, 18 x 47 inches, $1,250.

Write to Kovels, Observer-Reporter, King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019.

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