Treasure Hunt 21/01/07

Dear Donna,

For years I’ve been meaning to contact you regarding my curiosity about a basket that was found in an old late 18th-century house in Chichester. The basket was found in the mid 1970s and I bought it at a yard sale!

Thank you for any information that you can offer me!


Dear Lil,

Baskets are tough for an appraisal and to know for sure when some of them were made. I think that my suggestion would be to see someone who has a lot of experience with baskets, such as Skinners in Bolton, Mass. You can send them a photo and they should be able to give you more information than I can. I would say it has an Asian look to it, which is another reason why it’s tough!

The form is similar to a funeral basket for flowers. If that is the case then the value would be under $100. As I said, though, my view is based only on my own limited experience. Please let me know if you find out any more information!

Treasure Hunt 20/12/31

Dear Donna,

This cast iron plaque was mounted on our shed door. We removed it when the shed was replaced and now would like to know a little more about it. It weighs around 10 pounds and is 11 inches wide and 8.5 inches tall. Anything you can tell me will be greatly appreciated.


Dear Ellen,

What was in your shed is a reproduction of a fire marker. This one was representing The United Firemen’s Insurance Co. These markers were used back in the 1800s on homes to show the owners were insured. They were mounted on the exterior of the home in full view.

To find an original one is tough, and there are reproductions out there. There are many ways to tell a reproduction from an authentic one; you can find much of this information online. The interesting point I found was that the originals were never painted in red. Gold was colorized to show up clearly.

With so many reproductions around today, the market for even the older ones is in the range of $20 to $30. For more information, check out the history of fire markers. I found it all very interesting.

Treasure Hunt 20/12/24

Dear Donna,
I am wondering if you can give me information and perhaps a value on this stove. It belonged to my husband’s grandmother, who passed away in 1992 at the age of 93, and we inherited it. We used it to cook with for several years and decided it would be safer to replace it. We have been using it as a decorative piece in our old farmhouse, but now we would like to sell it. Thank you for any information you can provide.

Dear Gayle,
Antique gas or wood cooking stoves are really not in my field of appraisals, but I have had experience with them that I can share.

Enamel gas cook stoves like yours have been around for more than 100 years, and it’s not uncommon to still see them around in older homes today, though most have been retired to a basement and are not used any more. But some are and not just for cooking but for heating as well. Your apartment-size stove is sweet because of its size, and it appears to be in good condition. One of the markets for these might be camps around New England. Also, if you do a search online you can find companies that fully restore them and even can convert to electric. The value depends on how you market it, so doing more research could pay off for selling it.

As far as an appraisal value I would say it should be in the $500+ range for insurance purposes. Finding a new home for it at that price might be tough, though. Remember, someone has to put the work in to make sure it is safe again to use. So anywhere from $200 to $500 should be a safe place to start.

Treasure Hunt 20/09/03

Dear Donna,
This is a 1920s large paper cutter that I acquired from a school flea market years ago. I have used this for years. The other day my friend said this could be worth something! So even though I don’t want to part with it, I am curious now.

Dear Camille,
Just want to start off by saying I have one too and use it often. They were made so well that they seem to last forever. Lots have made it through the test of time, which makes the values low; I see them around in the $20 to $100 range, depending on size, condition and age. So it is worth something, but I think more to the people who still use them. Keep using your paper cutter and enjoy.

Treasure Hunt 20/09/03

Dear Donna,
Attached are two photos of a lovely old print (the print part is 6” x 14”) and a closeup of the signature, which I can’t quite read. The frame, I suspect, is original. Any thoughts?

Dear Phil,
I have to start off by saying that I too tried to figure out the signature but didn’t have any luck either. It’s a tough one! But I think you are right that it’s in the original frame, and it is a pleasant subject. It looks to be around the 1900s, so that is something to start with. The value of a print is affected by whether it is signed, numbered and made by a specific company or attributed to an artist.

I think it is fair to say that content is very important and has to be pleasing for buyers to want to purchase it. I think the frame is important too. Yours appears to be a faux tortoise with a gold wood trim, clean and in good shape. I think even if it is just a mass-produced print the value would be in the $60 range just from appearance, and sometimes that is all we have to base it on.

Treasure Hunt 20/08/27

Dear Donna,
This is a piece of wall art, I think. Can you tell me anything about this? I was told it was possibly used to decorate cakes. Is it worth anything?

Dear Janet,
OK, you got me! I have never seen a piece like this referred to as a cake decorating piece. The wood and carving have a foreign appearance. I would also say yes it’s for a wall hanging by seeing the hook in back.

I think what you have is a decorative wooden plaque. It’s most likely not too old but still a nice-looking piece. Things don’t always have to be of high value to be enjoyed. I do think the value of yours would be under $25.

Treasure Hunt 20/08/20

Dear Donna,
This table once belonged to my husband’s grandparents. The table has a marble top and looks like Art Deco style. I would appreciate a visual appraisal from my photo.

Dear Tina,
Very pretty marble top hallway table. It could have been from the 1920s or even earlier. It has a sweet Victorian style metal (iron) base.

The value of it is in the $250 range, but the hard part is to get that price! These days it is tough to fit this style into many modern-style homes. Keep that marble top safe and not cracked or broken or the value would be much less, or expensive to replace.

Treasure Hunt 20/08/13

Dear Donna,

This is a hanging ceramic plaque that belonged to my grandmother and I have always loved looking at it, especially when I was a little girl growing up in Texas. Can you tell me anything about this art? I have been to antique stores and can’t find one as pretty or similar to this one.

Dear Crystal,
From your photo, it looks more like earthenware than ceramic. You can almost see the clay from the broken chip. This leads me to think it was a piece of majolica.

Majolica was pottery in Italy, Spain and Mexico. Some of the work is crude and some very detailed. Later stuff from Mexico seems to be less detailed and the glazes not so cleanly done.

It’s tough because not all pieces are marked by the makers. In some cases the piece is signed but the artist is not known. To give a value I think you have to look at the fine detailing and quality of this piece; if it is majolica it would help, but that’s not the total picture. I recommend you have someone look at it in person. For now, I think we are safe to say it is most likely in the $40 range just for the subject and quality of the plaque.

Treasure Hunt 20/08/06

Hi, Donna,
I recently came across this item in a box that belonged to a deceased family member. While he was not a member of any police force, he had a few friends who were. My boyfriend and I cannot agree on what this is. He thinks it is a grave marker and I think it is an automobile badge. Who is right? We believe it is brass. Any idea on its age or what it may be worth? Any info you may be able to give me would be most appreciated.

Dear Sandy,
You are right! It is a license plate topper.

License plate toppers were around from the 1930s to 1980s. There were lots of them, too. The value now depends on rarity and condition.

Yours being from a police department makes it a collectible in two areas: one for license plate topper collectors and then for police memorabilia collectors as well. So I think the value would be in the range of $125. Now because it is semi-local being from Massachusetts, I would maybe do more research by checking with the station to see when exactly they used this one, and for how long. And what was the official purpose?

After all the work is done you then might find the value to change. Maybe there were only so many made for the town.

Tell your boyfriend that some grave markers can be very similar, so it was an easy mistake.

Treasure Hunt 20/07/30

Dear Donna,
Can you help with an approximate value on old 1930s to 1940s Christmas cards? I just don’t want to put them in the trash. Could you give me some advice and possibly let me know of someone who would want them?

Dear Cecile,
I understand why you wouldn’t want to throw them away. So many have such sweet graphic designs.

Some holiday cards can bring a value for age, designs, content (like antique Valentine’s Day pop-up cards, for example). The ones that are worth the most would be from before the 1900s, so the earlier the better, and condition is very important. People kept cards over the years so they are not as uncommon to find, especially from after the 1900s.

I have seen many cards from the same era as yours. They usually are in a shoe box or small bags for around $20. If the cards were unused it would be a bit more (they are not as common).

No matter what they are worth they are such a fun piece of nostalgia and can be fun for framing, repurposing, etc., so no, they are not trash.

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