Recall innocent times with Greenaway items

Kate Greenaway (1846-1901), an English artist, often is called the creator of picture books. As a young girl, she drew watercolor pictures of children dressed in old-fashioned clothes in a nearby village. She created a pattern, made the dresses and bonnets, and dressed models to pose for her drawings.

The romantic style was immediately successful, and soon she was illustrating cards, calendars, books and almanacs, earning both fame and fortune.

She soon started writing the poetry for her books. The Kate Greenaway look became so popular it was copied in dress patterns, dishes, napkin rings, glassware and, of course, picture books. Collectors today like the original books and drawings and also collect the lookalikes.

The world she created reminds people of the joys of childhood and more innocent times. So it is not surprising that a figural napkin ring sold at a James Julia auction in Fairfield, Maine, in 2015 for $533. It featured two Greenaway-type girls in a tree, and because it was a “double,” it had added value.

Q: I have an Avon apple-shaped candle holder that is about 50 years old. It’s gold-painted glass. The top half of the apple comes off so you can put a small candle inside the bottom half. It’s about 5 inches high and 4 inches wide. Is it worth anything?

A: Avon made this Golden Apple candle holder in 1968 and 1969. Avon started in 1886 as the California Perfume Company. The name Avon was used beginning in 1929. The company has made many figural bottles, jars, figurines, children’s toys, jewelry and other items. The Golden Apple candle holder came with a perfumed candle and originally sold for $6. They sell online today for about $5-$15.

Q: When my mother returned from Japan in 1945, she brought several Japanese items. Among them were two jigger-style cups, which, when held up to light, had a shadowy Japanese lady’s head inside on the bottom. I would love to find out their value and if they would be of interest to Japanese collectors.

A: Your cups are for serving sake, a Japanese rice wine. The faces on the bottom are those of Geishas. The images are called lithophanes, derived from Greek words that mean “light in stone” or “appear in stone.” Pictures were carved into beeswax, then used to make a plaster-of-Paris mold for the porcelain slip that formed the lady’s head in your cup. Where the picture is lightest, the porcelain is thin; where it is darkest, the porcelain is thick. When you look at them, they seem to be uneven surfaces, but hold them to light, and three-dimensional pictures appear. Japanese Geisha lithophane tea cups or saki cups were popular souvenirs for soldiers and travelers from the late 1930s to the 1950s. Many date to the Occupied Japan period (1945-’52). Many different Geisha images can be found, with names like “Sad Geisha,” “Quizzical Geisha,” “Pensive Geisha,” “Wide-Eyed Geisha” and others.

Q: I’d like some information about an Excel projector and Betty Boop movie I have that are over 75 years old. The movie is on a 3/4 by 3-inch reel that plays on an Excel projector. The projector was lit with a G.E. bulb that has the words “Mazda Toy Projection” on the top of the bulb. I’m concerned that if the film or projector breaks, I’ll lose both. What are they worth? If these have any value, I don’t want my children to throw them out.

A: Several companies made toy projectors and sold them with short movies. Cartoons and comedies were popular in the 1930s and ’40s. Excel Home Movies of Toledo, Ohio, advertised a projector and 100-foot reel featuring “Betty Boop,” “Popeye,” “Our Gang” or other comic character for $3.95 in 1936. The value of your projector and reel today is less than $50.

Q: My husband was a pharmacist and had a collection of old pharmacy tools. It includes an old pill roller, mortar and pestle, scale and weights. He died last year and I’d like to sell them. How can I contact someone who would be interested in them?

A: There are collectors who look for pharmacy and drugstore items. There are also people who collect old scales. They would sell at an advertising sale or auction that includes advertising and pharmacy items. Look for a local dealer who goes to big flea markets and advertising shows. There also are auctions just of medical collectibles. You can find them online.