Raise a glass to collectible beer cans

August 2022

Michelle Knows Antiques

Raise a glass to collectible beer cans

by Michelle Staley

Here we are, inching toward the end of another summer. There are several items that are iconic Americana, such as apple pie, hot dogs, baseball, and beer. I have written about many topics over the years but have never touched on beer cans. They have an interesting history and some can be quite valuable, so let’s talk beer cans.

The “official” birthday of the beer can is Jan. 24, 1935. The first beer can style was the flat top. It looked like the beer cans on the market today with one exception — they were made of steel and weighed in at 4 ounces. The flat top beer can also brought about the creation of a hefty “church-key” to punch through the steel. The church-key, a collectible market in its own right, was 1/8” thick. Church keys were already being used, but they were not strong enough to get through the thick steel beer can tops.

Cone-top cans

Next up is the cone-top can. These came about in September 1935, with Schlitz being the first to use them. This type of can appealed to smaller breweries that didn’t have the money to revamp their bottle lines. The cone-top could be filled on the same machinery that was used to fill bottles and capped with bottle caps. The cone-top met its demise by 1960 as the big companies had already driven the smaller brewers out of business. There are four different styles of this particular beer can. You don’t see many cone-tops in shops or shows because they were used primarily by small breweries, so production was limited, Keep in mind, once the can was empty it usually went into the trash. Schlitz is the only big company known to have used the cone-top can.

Pull-top cans

In 1963, the beer can industry was forever changed when the Pittsburgh Brewing Co. introduced Iron City beer in “self-opening” cans. Schlitz placed the moniker “Pop Top” on the pull tab cans and by 1965, around 75% of all cans had pull tab tops. I remember that when I was about 11 almost everyone I knew had a pull top chain of varying lengths hanging in their bedroom.

Pull tabs turned out to be an environmental disaster. Animals ingested them, people were in the habit of popping the top and dropping it in their beer and then swallowed or choked on them, people would step on them and get a nasty cut, and as an amateur metal detector/treasure hunter, I still dig up those pull tops.

 

 

Mid Century American Picnic Basket

Big Apple steel flat top beer can

Big Apple steel flat top beer can, the first style of aluminum beer can, is priced at $225. (Image courtsey of the author)

 

Current stay tab style

Which brings us to what is so far the final stage in can opening, the stay tab style. They were introduced by the Falls City Brewing Co. in 1975. You would be hard pressed to find a canned beverage without a stay tab.

Tip: Turn the finger hole around so it is over the opening, and insert a straw. This is a great tip for people like me who apparently have a hole in their chin and dribble anything that will stain clothing.

Which type of beer cans have value? It is not just beer cans that might be worth money as other beverages were “bottled” in the different can styles. The primary consideration is overall condition. This includes fading of colors, rust, holes, and open or unopen. If a flat top can is opened from the bottom, this does not lower the value as the top is unblemished. Rarity also affects price.

The Big Apple can in the photo is priced at $225, whereas Budweiser or Schlitz flat tops will sell for about $20. Cone-top cans run from $200 to $1,000, and there might be some out there that have not been up for public sale and have a far greater value. I have seen a few pull top cans sell for $100, but most are in the $25 or less range.

Please be cautious if researching your vintage cans on the popular online auction site as those prices lean a bit toward the ridiculous side. Get those metal detectors out and see what cans you can find.

I always welcome ideas on topics that interest you and pictures of items that you would like to have appraised.

Michelle Staley is a Lenexa, KS-based dealer and researcher with 35 years of experience in the antique trade.

Send questions with photos to Michelle at michelle@discovervintage.com or TXSmichelle@gmail.com. Please keep queries to one question; questions without photos of the item may not be answered. There is no guarantee that your question will be answered or published.

Michelle is also available for consulting and extensive research work beyond this column. If you would like an appraisal on an antique or collectible please go to www.michellesantiqueappraisals.com for a one-on-one appraisal. Please note new web address.

 

Picnic baskets bring back fond memories of days gone by

July 2022

Michelle Knows Antiques

Picnic baskets bring back fond memories of days gone by

by Michelle Staley

July at last! It is truly my favorite month of the year. Granted, the weather here in Kansas has been a bit wet and wacky, including a series of small tornadoes that hopped down an arterial street during the night of June 8th. Thank goodness the only fatalities were power poles and big old trees.

Fourth of July

What makes July so special? First and foremost is the Fourth of July, and when you live on the parade route for a sizable parade, it is a great way to begin a day of family, friends, BBQ, and pool party. When my girls were young we would pack a picnic basket and head out to find the perfect place to sit, eat supper and watch the fireworks.

Picnics played a major role when I was young, even if it was nothing more than my Granny packing a couple of sandwiches and a thermos of iced tea into her wonderful picnic basket, spreading a blanket under the mimosa tree in the backyard, and the two of us sitting down to eat lunch.

Granny’s picnic basket was purchased with Green Stamps. It was an oval wicker basket, and inside it held lavender-colored Melmac plates, cups, Bakelite handled cutlery, and there was still plenty of room to pack some food. That picnic basket saw many years of use.

Mid Century American Picnic Basket

Mid Century American Picnic Basket

Mid Century American Picnic Basket with Melmac Dinnerware.

left: Mid-Century American picnic basket

Mid-Century American picnic basket with yellow Melmac Dinnerware

Mid-Century American picnic basket with yellow Melmac Dinnerware. (all images courtesy eBay)

 Plastic has undergone a variety of changes since the Middle Ages when it was made from bone to make window panes. There was Parkesine, invented in 1855, and it is considered the first man-made plastic.

In 1893, Galalith, made from milk and a few chemicals, came into being. It was popular in making costume jewelry, buttons, and other small items. The year 1869 brought Celluloid, which eventually become the first financially successful plastic product. The world’s first fully synthetic plastic was Bakelite, invented in 1907. There were a few more evolutions and then during World War II along came a thermoset plastic that could be heated and molded into affordable, mass-produced dinnerware. This wonder plastic was called Melamine. It was more stable than Bakelite and Celluloid, meaning that it would not burst into flames if placed near heat.

Melamine was sent to the troops, schools, and hospitals. After the war, families were spending much more time outdoors and of course, they did not want to bring the fine china out so they used Melamine or Melmac as it had been termed by the American Cyanamid Co., and the rest is history. Melmac was made in any color that you can think of. Even Russell Wright got in on the action. Other names you see are Texas Ware, Boontonware, Raffia Ware, Mar-Crest, Jerywil, and others.

Melamine or Melmac was perfect for picnic baskets such as the one my Granny had and you can still find vintage picnic baskets filled with the miracle plastic dinnerware at a reasonable price. There is also the opposite end of the picnic basket spectrum, the deluxe package with crystal glassware, silver cutlery, and china dishes. Some can even be found with a small stove and coffee or tea pots. The fancy picnic basket setups were more than likely not available at the Green Stamp store and while you do see some that were made in the USA most come from the UK or other areas of Europe.

I hope that this article inspires you to get a picnic basket, a blanket, and go somewhere peaceful with someone you love and dine in the great outdoors with minimal fuss. If you have little people in your life, now is a good time to start a new tradition. My memories of my Granny and me are just as vivid fifty plus years after the fact as they were when I was young. Come to think of it, that picnic basket went with us everytime we traveled out of town to visit family.

Prices for a picnic basket with Melmac dinnerware can be found online for $50 or less. Prices for the deluxe picnic “boxes” sell for several hundred dollars up to $6,000 depending upon the contents.

Melmac, even the new pieces, cannot be put in the microwave, and if you are going to put it in the dishwasher, use a detergent that does not contain bleach as it will fade the color over time.

Please let me know if there is a topic that you would like to learn more about. I aim to please.

Happy picnicking!

Circa 1900 British-made picnic basket with stove

Circa 1900 British-made picnic basket with stove

Circa 1900 British-made picnic basket with stove

Michelle Staley is a Lenexa, KS-based dealer and researcher with 35 years of experience in the antique trade.

Send questions with photos to Michelle at michelle@discovervintage.com or TXSmichelle@gmail.com. Please keep queries to one question; questions without photos of the item may not be answered. There is no guarantee that your question will be answered or published.

Michelle is also available for consulting and extensive research work beyond this column. If you would like an appraisal on an antique or collectible please go to www.michellesantiqueappraisals.com for a one-on-one appraisal. Please note new web address.

 

Vase has ties to famed explorer Ponce de Leon

June 2022

Michelle Knows Antiques

Vase has ties to famed explorer Ponce de Leon

by Michelle Staley

I love doing this type of appraisal. I have to dig into the history of a location and sleuth about to find the truth. Please keep in mind that I don’t often publish a paid appraisal, but this is just too special to not share.

 

Question:

I have a houseful of items inherited all the way back to my great-grandparents. This particular glass vase came with a note from my mom which has piqued my curiosity about the provenance and value. The vase stands over 14” tall and the note states:

“This vase is over 450 years old. It came from the second church in America, the Church of St. Thomas in Puerto Rico, which was built on land donated by Ponce de Leon, in 1512. The church is now known as San Jose Church.”

“Venetian glass was made on the island of Murano, near Venice, from the middle of the 13th century until around 1900. This piece was an altar vase”

Any insight that you can provide will be greatly appreciated.

An antique vase crafted from Murano glass

An antique vase crafted from Murano glass

An antique vase crafted from Murano glass. (Image courtesy of the question submitter)

Answer:

First, I want to touch on Venetian/Murano glass. In 1291, the Glassmaker’s Guild forced all glassmakers in Vienna to move their ovens to the Island of Murano. A few popped back up in Vienna in the following years, but Murano has remained the innovative center for glass- makers Murano glass really hit its peak popularity in the 15th and 16th centuries. In the 1960s archaeologists located shards of Venetian glass dating back to the 8th century. Murano glass makers are still going strong today.

In 2013, the National Trust for Historic Preservation named the San José Church in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, to its 2013 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. This annual list spotlights important examples of the nation’s architectural, cultural and natural heritage that are at risk of destruction or irreparable damage. More than 240 sites have been on the list over its 26-year history, and in that time, only a handful of listed sites have been lost. I am happy to report that in 2021, restoration was completed on the church.

Old San Juan’s San José Church was built in 1532, the second oldest church in the Americas. The church was constructed from 1532 to 1735 by the Dominican Order as part of their Saint Aquinas monastery. It was renamed by the Jesuits, who took over the monastery in 1865. One of the few surviving examples of 16th-century Spanish Gothic architecture in the Western Hemisphere, the building displays four centuries of architectural design and masonry traditions, including the extraordinary Isabelline Gothic vaults, a rare Catalan architectural design. The land upon which the church was built was donated by Governor Don Juan Ponce de León, who was also first buried there.* Based on the architectural style, we can see the Spanish influence, which more than likely was due to Ponce de León.

Ponce de León was buried in the crypt of the church from 1559 to 1836, when his remains were exhumed and later transferred to the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista. However, his coat of arms is still located near the main altar. His grandson, Juan Ponce de Leon II, is buried in the crypt beneath the Sanctuary’s floor.

As many of you may remember, Juan Ponce de León was a Spanish conquistador. He was born in 1460 to a poor yet noble family. While still a young man, he served as a page at the court of Aragon, where he learned social skills, religion and military tactics. He joined the military and this would go on to serve him well later in life as he began his explorations.

In 1493, Ponce de León allegedly sailed to America with Columbus on his second voyage, thus beginning his career as a conquistador. In the early 1500s he set sail again with his own crew and discovered what is now Haiti and the Dominican Republic. He established farms, towns and built defenses, also sold cattle and produces to ships returning to Spain. He declared these colonies in the name of Spain and his wealth grew. In 1504 he was declared Provincial Governor of the area and returned to Spain, where he married and had three children.

Hearing persistent rumors of gold in Puerto Rico, in 1508 the Spanish crown officially sent Ponce de León to Puerto Rico. He took 50 sailors and his family. It is speculated that Ponce de León had already discovered the gold on his previous trip. A year later, he was named governor of Puerto Rico and soon rose to become one of the most powerful Europeans in the Americas. From most accounts, Ponce de León was a good governor before his political rivals forced him from office in 1512. That political rival was Christopher Columbus’ son, Diego Colon. The third governor of Puerto Rico was Ponce de Leon’s grandson.

 

As governor, Leon began building a city in San Juan. It is believed that he donated the land on which the church was built, he put in a “baseball field” and other recreation areas, had homes built for the elite, and storefronts for businesses. This includes building his home/fortress, Casa Blanca.

I am not going to go into his landing on Florida and Bimini. I do want to mention a tall tale that most of us were taught in school. Ponce de León did not discover Florida he simply named the area and declared it for Spain. The area was occupied and had been for several years. In 1521, he sailed to Florida with 200 men and supplies to start a colony. This was to be his downfall. Wounded by an arrow in his thigh, he was taken to Cuba in June 1521 and died there from his wound. It is said that the tip of the arrow had been dipped in a poison of some type.

From the earliest days of Spanish colonization, an army of priests and missionaries embarked on a vigorous crusade to convert Puerto Rico’s Taínos to Roman Catholicism. King Ferdinand himself paid for the construction of a Franciscan monastery and a series of chapels, and he required specific support of the church from the aristocrats who had been awarded land grants in the new territories. They were required to build churches, provide Christian burials, and grant religious instruction to both Taíno and African slaves.

Old San Juan is still very much in exsistance with many of the old buildings, celebrations, and traditional foods. The crowned jewel is Casa Blanca the home that was built for Ponce de León and his family. Sadly, Ponce de León died before the building was complete but his wife and family resided there for many years. Casa Blanca is the oldest continuously occupied residence in the Western Hemisphere and the oldest of about 800 Spanish colonial buildings in Old San Juan’s National Historic Zone. In 1968, it became a historic national monument. Today the building is the site of the Juan Ponce de León Museum. The conquistador’s carved coat of arms greets visitors at the entrance.

Research Murano glass Altar Vase

After a couple of weeks of research fitting the altar vase into the history of Murano glass, Puerto Rico and Ponce de León, I fully believe the tiny bit of provenance on the note inside the vase is true. I reached out to the group that conducted the restoration, asking if they had any interior photos from long ago that might show the vase. They did not have the pictures but felt that based on other items that had been inside the church, the vase, more than likely, had come from there. They asked if they could have it and I passed that on to the owner.

I place a resale value of $1,200 to $1,300 on it. The owner wants to sell it and I suggested photos to Heritage Auction for a pre-consignment price and to please let me know what that ends up being.

* www.iglesiasanjosepr.org

** All prices given are for sale in a private sale, antique shop, or other resale outlets. Price is also dependent upon the geographic area in which you are selling. Auction value, selling to a dealer or pawnshop prices are about ½ or less of resale value.

Michelle Staley is a Lenexa, KS-based dealer and researcher with 35 years of experience in the antique trade.

Send questions with photos to Michelle at michelle@discovervintage.com or TXSmichelle@gmail.com. Please keep queries to one question; questions without photos of the item may not be answered. There is no guarantee that your question will be answered or published.

Michelle is also available for consulting and extensive research work beyond this column. If you would like an appraisal on an antique or collectible please go to www.michellesantiqueappraisals.com for a one-on-one appraisal. Please note new web address.

 

Serving bowls originated from German maker in France

April 2022

Michelle Knows Antiques

Serving bowls originated from German maker in France

by Michelle Staley

Serving bowl and Platter

Serving Bowls

This serving bowl and platter were made by Charles Ahrenfeldt, a German porcelain decorator while working in the Limoges region of France. (Image courtesy of the author)

Question:

These serving bowls and platters have been in my family for many years. One pair is marked J&G Meakin and the other is Limoges C. Ahrenfeldt. I want to sell them but have no idea as to what price I should put on them. Thank you for your knowledge and assistance.

Answer:

Limoges is a region in France that has excellent clay for making fine and bone china. This is one reason that we see Limoges noted on the back of china both old and new.

Charles Ahrenfeldt Sr. (1807-94) was born in Germany. Upon his immigration to America, he began importing porcelain into New York City in the 1830s. During the 1840s, he moved to Paris and had a decorating studio. Sometime between 1859 and the late 1860s, he established an export firm in Limoges and developed a wide export market, especially to North America.
Some sources indicate that while young and still in Germany, he learned the art of porcelain decorating as well as the workings of the import export business.

Around 1884, Ahrenfeldt began decorating porcelain in Limoges. Around this same time, he established his porcelain factory. His son, Charles J. Ahrenfeldt Jr. (1856-1934), took over the porcelain factory upon his father’s death in 1894. Charles Ahrenfeldt Jr. also expanded the exporting of whiteware as the craft of porcelain painting among housewives was at its peak.

M. Grob took over the factory in 1917. Grob was mentioned as manager of the new factory from 1896, and he is also mentioned as the company’s Zurich agent, possibly before 1896 The company made high-quality porcelain and won the Grand Prix at the Art Deco Exposition in 1925. The factory was enlarged in 1926.

Grob died in 1934 and was succeeded by his widow. A finance group bought the factory in 1958, production diminished, and the factory closed in 1969. **

The backstamp or mark, C. Ahrenfeldt Limoges France C.A. Depose, on the back of your lidded serving bowl and platter, date the pieces to 1886-1930. From what I was able to find, they appear to be pattern 4275 or one of the multi-floral AHR patterns. I put a resale value of $110-$125 on the lidded serving dish and $100-$115 on the platter.

** Mary Frank Gaston’s “The Collector’s Encyclopedia of Limoges Porcelain, Second Edition” (Collector Books, 1992; 223 pp.)

 

 

Question:

Several months ago, my publisher asked about an opaline glass compote with a sticker noting is as PV France. She asked me what PV France meant. I am here to answer that question.

Answer:

Vallerysthal/Portieux is a glass producer with a complex history. It was founded in 1836 at Lorraine, France, as Societe des Verreries Reunies de Plaine de Walsch et Vallerysthal, which then became Klenglin et Cie in 1855. A mix of Bohemian and French glass workers created a beautiful array of opaline and decorative glass. In 1870 however, this area of France became part of Germany. Most of Vallerysthal sales however had up to this point been within France, but as the factory was no longer within the French territory they now found it difficult to export their glass out of Germany. To get around this problem they purchased the Portieux glass works, which was in Vosges, France, and while the head office remained in Vallerysthal, they could now export through Portieux. The new name was registered in both French and German and became the Vallerysthal/Portieux name as we refer to it today.

As with all Vallerysthal/Portieux colored glassware, the robin’s egg color type is almost unique to them. You sometimes find a white glass mixed in with the blue; the company also used gilding and painted small designs on some pieces. More often than not, the paper label will fall off, but the robin egg blue is very consistent making it easy to identify PV glassware. The glassware is usually very thick and substantial.

After the First World War, the company was returned to French rule. From the end of the Second World War, it had a difficult time. The Vallerysthal factory closed in 1977 and reopened in 1986.

The Portieux factory joined the French Crystal Co. in 1982, but went bankrupt once and then again as Arts from Portieux. It was bought by Groupe Faience Niderviller in 1996. Portieux still makes some hand-blown glassware and glass using old molds. Vallerysthal remains a trade name.

Opaline glass is opaque or glass you can’t see through and is used to describe opaque glass that is not milk glass.

The value of this compote is in the $70 range.

** All prices given are for sale in a private sale, antique shop or other resale outlet. Price is also dependent upon the geographic area in which you are selling. Auction value, selling to a dealer or pawn shop prices are about ½ or less of resale value.

 

 

Michelle Staley is a Lenexa, KS-based dealer and researcher with 35 years of experience in the antique trade.

Send questions with photos to Michelle at michelle@discovervintage.com or TXSmichelle@gmail.com. Please keep queries to one question; questions without photos of the item may not be answered. There is no guarantee that your question will be answered or published.

Michelle is also available for consulting and extensive research work beyond this column. If you would like an appraisal on an antique or collectible please go to www.michellesantiqueappraisals.com for a one-on-one appraisal. Please note new web address.

 

Auction find may turn out to be a treasure… or not

February 2022

Michelle Knows Antiques

Auction find may turn out to be a treasure… or not

by Michelle Staley

Well, folks, it has happened again. Someone purchased an item at a sale for very little money and later found that they owned a treasure.

In 2016 a gentleman stopped by an estate sale and was attracted to a sweet drawing on yellowed linen of what looked like a woman holding her child. He paid the $30 asking price and went on his way. The drawing was put away in a closet. At the time of purchase, neither the seller nor buyer gave heed to the distinct mark of the well-known German Renaissance artist, Albrecht Dürer. Maybe they thought it was a fake of the original.

At some point, the buyer presented the drawing to an art expert and after careful study and consideration, it was determined that the drawing is the real deal. If that doesn’t knock your socks off it is considered a “historic rarity” and is likely a preparatory work for a circa 1506 painting AND is the first “totally unknown” drawing by the artist to resurface since the 1970s.

The drawing is titled “The Virgin and Child With a Flower on a Grassy Bench.” We aren’t just talking about any woman and child.

Treasure

The drawing is on display at a noted art gallery in the UK but will be put up for auction and has an estimated auction value of, sit down for this, $50M. WHAT!?

German Renaissance artist, Albrecht Dürer

Sweet drawing on yellowed linen

Sweet drawing on yellowed linen of what looked like a woman holding her child. Well known German Renaissance artist, Albrecht Dürer

I, on the other hand, purchased a painting on canvas titled “The Prodigal Son Comes Home” by Rembrandt. There was not a doubt in my mind that it was anything other than an original. I made the score of the century at a thrift shop for $10. As soon as I got home I sent pictures to an art expert friend who works at a major auction house. I was ready to put my Rembrandt up for auction and make millions.

or Not

Well, it turns out that I have an older, well-crafted knock-off that would sell for $300. It is hanging in my bedroom and I am on the hunt for the rest of the Prodigal Son paintings, knock-offs that are.

 

Question:

The sofa belongs to my brother and sister-in-law (Joy) but has been housed in our lower level for more than 12 years. Since neither of their children are interested in it, they are considering selling.
Dimensions: 77” L x 33” H x 32” D.

The sofa is from Joy’s family. Her aunt and uncle apparently purchased it when they were first married about 100 years ago. It was re-upholstered 30+ years ago, and the fabric is still in very good condition, though some of the trim needs re-tacking. There are a few wood blemishes, but overall the sofa is in good/very good condition.

American Revival

Answer:

Your lovely sofa is what is called American Revival. It was more than likely made by a company in Grand Rapids, MI, which was declared the furniture capital of America after the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876. Soon after, furniture manufacturers popped up all over the city.

American Revival style furniture is known for its heavy wood detailing which is either mahogany or walnut. It dates to no later than the 1920s.

There is a small niche of buyers of this nice heavy furniture and in a good market it would sell for around $600 – $800. In today’s market, you are looking at $250 – $300.

The upside is that the younger generation is attracted to antique furniture and this style is right up their alley. Many, like my 21-year-old granddaughter & her boyfriend, have the mindset of recycle, it will last forever, sustainability aspect.

** All prices given are for sale in a private sale, antique shop, or other resale outlets. Price is also dependent upon the geographic area in which you are selling. Auction value, selling to a dealer or pawnshop prices are about ½ or less of resale value.

Michelle Staley is a Lenexa, KS-based dealer and researcher with 35 years of experience in the antique trade.

Send questions with photos to Michelle at michelle@discovervintage.com or TXSmichelle@gmail.com. Please keep queries to one question; questions without photos of the item may not be answered. There is no guarantee that your question will be answered or published.

Michelle is also available for consulting and extensive research work beyond this column. If you would like an appraisal on an antique or collectible please go to www.michellesantiqueappraisals.com for a one-on-one appraisal. Please note new web address.