Q: While a missionary in Peru years ago, I was given a pottery vessel that I was told was a "huaca" (ceremonial cup) used by the Incas. Is it really an authentic and valuable Inca relic?
A: Your blackware vessel appears to be authentic; however, it probably was made by Chimu Indians between the 12th and 15th centuries, not by the Incas. The Chimu Indians lived along Peru's northern coast and had a highly developed, distinct culture until their conquest by the Incas, hence the grouping of these wares with Inca artifacts. Your ceremonial vessel could fetch about $500 to $800 at auction, depending on its size, according to pre-Columbian Art expert Stacy Goodman, of Sotheby's auction house, in New York.
Q: I have an old fishing lure with the words "J.T. Buel, Whitehall, N.Y., No. 2" stamped on the back. The lure has a metal spinner; one side is gold-colored, the other silver-colored. I understand that Julio T. Buel is credited with inventing the first commercial artificial "spoon" lure in the 19th century. I'd appreciate any information you might have about my lure.
A: Your lure is worth around $20 to $30, according to Bob Lang, of Lang's Sporting Collectables Inc., 31R Turtle Cove, Raymond, Maine 04071; (207) 655-4265. Buel lures bearing an April 6, 1852, patent date, for the first fishing-lure patent issued, are more desirable than yours, generally bringing $100 to $150 each from collectors hooked on old fishing gear. According to legend, Buel invented the first "spoon" lure after accidentally dropping a teaspoon into Lake Bomerseen in Vermont. As the spoon dropped to the bottom, fish attacked it from all sides.
Q: My mahogany slant-top desk, which according to family lore once belonged to my 19th-century Quaker ancestor, Mary Ambler, for whom the community of Ambler, Pa., was named, is " 42 inches wide and appears to have its original hardware. Inside the desk are pigeonholes and a removable center section with columns on each side concealing secret drawers.
A: Your nicely grained mahogany desk on ogee bracket feet was made in or near Philadelphia circa 1780 to 1785. The construction of its drawers, which overlap the case, date it prior to 1785, when drawers began to be made with beaded edges flush to the case. The simple design of graduated drawers with bail handles and oval escutcheons, and fluted columns is typical of furniture made for Quaker families, according to dealer Richard Worth, of Chadds Ford, Pa., who specializes in 18th-century Pennsylvania furniture. It's worth around $7,000 to $10,000, depending on its condition, he adds, noting that narrower desks currently are more desirable.
Have a question? Write to the Solis-Cohens, P.O. Box 304, Flourtown, Pa. 19031-0304. Enclose clear photo of the whole object and all marks. Photos can't be returned.