Box gives a sweet history lesson Antiques: Handsome chest held a once-valuable product -- sugar.


Antiques are not just beautiful objects to be admired. They often tell part of the story of how life was lived in the past.

The sugar chest -- a large wooden box, sometimes on a floor-standing base -- was a popular furniture form in the Southern United States in the 18th and 19th centuries.

It was an attractive piece of furniture often displayed in the dining room.

Fancy desserts, which took time to make and used expensive ingredients, were featured at dinner parties. They gave added prestige to the party-giver. Desserts were sweet, and sugar was the best and most expensive sweetener. It was a luxury product used only by the wealthy. The less-affluent used honey, molasses or maple syrup.

Most of the sugar used in North America in the 19th century was imported from the West Indies. The sugar was processed in cone-shaped clay molds that removed the syrup from the raw sugar and made loafs of sugar crystals. The housewife bought the expensive cone or loaf and carefully cut it into lumps.

The processing of sugar changed in the 1850s, and the new methods made sugar inexpensive enough for most Americans.

The sugar chest had been used to store the expensive sugar cones and the nipper used to cut them. The locked chest, which protected the sugar from insects and theft, was not needed when sugar became plentiful.

Few people today recognize an old sugar chest. It is often thought to be a jewelry cabinet or sewing chest.

I'm a movie buff. In my collection, I have a poster from the original movie "Heaven Can Wait." What is it worth?

The 20th Century Fox movie "Heaven Can Wait" was produced in 1943. One-sheet posters promoting the film sell for $200 to $300, depending on condition.

I have Volume 3 of the Encyclopedia Britannica. It is a first edition, 1771, "By a Society of Gentlemen in Scotland." The book doesn't look that old. Has it been reprinted?

Bookpress published a facsimile reprint of the first edition. A set of three sells for about $150.

Our great-grandmother's vase is still in our possession. The mark on the bottom pictures a crown over a shield with the intertwined letters F and M and the number 1755. The words "Royal Bonn, Germany" are printed above and below the mark. Can you tell me who made it?

The mark on your vase was used by the German firm Steingutfabrik Franz Anton Mehlem, an earthenware factory that was in business from 1836 until 1920. The pottery made household, decorative and technical earthenware, and porcelain.

Villeroy & Boch purchased the pottery in 1921. It closed in 1931.

I saved all my Jetsons space toys that I got at Wendy's restaurants. Do they have any value?

Wendy's gave out Jetsons toys as premiums in 1989 and again in 1990. The earlier set is composed of six vehicles with a different character in each -- George, Judy, Jane, Elroy, Astro or Mr. Spacely. The 1990 set put the family characters on scooters and included the Grunchee and Fergie characters. Toys from the 1989 set sell for $3 to $5; those from the 1990 set sell for $2 to $4.

The bottom of my blue-and-white jug reads, "Flemish Jugs made for Kinney & Levan, Cleveland, USA." Do you know how old it is?

Kinney & Levan was a Cleveland department store that was out of business by the 1930s. Your jug is at least 60 years old.

Our old green-and-black tin that once held five pounds of Special Combination Coffee distributed by Sears, Roebuck and Co. is still in good shape. It has its lid and handle. Is it worth anything?

Sears, Roebuck and Co. had a grocery department from 1901 through 1929. The company marketed Roasted, Special Combination and Garland Brand coffees. They were popular because the tins could be reused. In good condition, your tin is worth $50 or more.

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.

Sheet music, "I'm Nobody's Baby," from "Andy Hardy Meets Debutante," Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney on cover, 1940: $25.

Charlie McCarthy pencil sharpener, Bakelite: $45.

Man's leisure suit, rust, polyester, 1970s: $55.

Watt Pottery carafe, No. 115, light blue, cobalt drip: $130.

Effanbee doll, Louis Armstrong, poseable, diamond ring, trumpet, 15 inches: $148.

Sampler, alphabets, baskets, Mary Hawken, Allentown, 1857, 8 1/2 by 5 1/2 inches: $150.

Roycroft bookends, embossed floral design, hammered, Orb mark, 4 by 4 3/4 inches: $185.

Cut glass sugar and creamer, Colonial pattern, notched prism handles, Dorflinger: $250.

Weller flower frog, Woodcraft, robin, spread wings, signed, 5 by 6 1/4 inches: $330.

Limbert bookcase, single door, six panes, four shelves, copper pulls, No. 377: $1,500.

The Kovels welcome letters and answer as many as possible through the column. Write to Kovels, The Baltimore Sun, King Features Syndicate Inc., 235 E. 45th St., New York, N.Y. 10017.

Pub Date: 9/15/96

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