June 20, 2018
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‘Vaseline glass’ a Steuben favorite

Image courtesy of www.noelbarret.com
Image courtesy of www.noelbarret.com
The circa 1880s “Automatic Foot Race” British toy sold for $18,400 in a recent Noel Barrett auction.
By Danielle Arnet, Tribune Media Services

Q: What is my vase worth? It belonged to my deceased mother-in-law who, for some reason, always called it Vaseline glass. It’s inscribed Steuben on the bottom rim of the vase.

A: The vase seen in an image sent is a familiar shape from the Steuben Glass Works of Corning, N.Y. A bulbous shape with rounded shoulders, it’s listed as mold No. 2683 in early Steuben catalogs. See it on cardersteubenclub.org.

The color is Blue Aurene, a cobalt version of Steuben’s iridescent Gold Aurene. Introduced in 1905, the blue color was made until 1933. Steuben also made the same shape with subtle variants, such as a pad or pedestal base.

Aurene glass colors were created for Steuben by Fredrick Carder, the company’s brilliant designer-technician.

Perhaps the oily look of the Aurene finish led your mother-in-law to call it “Vaseline.” Opinions differ, but the most widely accepted view of Vaseline glass is that it is a yellow-green glass made with uranium dioxide, so that it fluoresces green under ultraviolet light. See examples on vaselineglass.org.

Because of camera angle and glare, we can’t tell from the image if the Aurene vase is decorated. Some, with gold vines or other embellishments, bring higher prices.

In the past year, many Blue Aurene vases similar to the reader’s sold at auction for $400-$1,170. Several passed, or did not sell. One decorated with gold vines brought $1,700.

As with all sales, prices depend on how and where sold, plus condition of the item. A local auction pro can provide an estimate for your area after they see the vase.

Q: This picture shows a 1930s Singer sewing machine. I want to sell and don’t know where to go. Can you direct me?

A: The treadle machine seen in an image is a classic bare-bones unit of the type used by tailors and seamstresses. A funny thing happened while researching this query: We discovered that most sales of such machines were for the bases and components, not the machine. Check completed sales for treadle sewing machines on eBay to see what we mean. $103 for a set of old Singer drawers and $47.50 for a Singer treadle base is not shabby.

Repurposing old items has become a big enterprise. Creative types have discovered that, these days, “look” trumps utility. Glomming onto anything with an aesthetic possibility, repurposers recycle sewing machine bases as table bases. They convert treadles and wheels into wall hangings and redo drawers as plant holders or decorative boxes.

Your potential buyer for that machine is either a serious sewer or a repurposer. I suggest listing it online, for local pick-up only. Try eBay or Craigslist and start at a price you can live with.

True sewing machine collectors seek antique machines that show significant technology. To them, “old” is very, very early. Isaac Singer produced his first patent model in 1851 and the company has churned out machines since that time. In this area, vintage starts at 1900. 1930s is modern.

FYI: Here’s a nice piece of news in the ongoing battle about selling off artifacts vs. keeping them on public display. When an historic gold-inlaid Colt revolver on loan to an outlaw museum was pulled for sale by the owner, Maine auctioneer James D. Julia commissioned an exact copy of the firearm to be made so the museum would not lose an exhibit. Made by a master gun restorer, the replica is now on display at the Museum of Northwest Colorado. The original, in poor condition, brought $258,750. Everybody wins.

Auction action

A circa 1880s British toy called “Automatic Foot Race” brought $18,400 in a recent auction at Pennsylvania antique toy specialist Noel Barrett. The clockwork toy features two cloth-dressed figures that trot around a paper-litho metal cylinder. The toy is a standout for both rarity and excellent condition. Sold to a U.S. phone bidder, it was probably originally a gift that was never played with.

Collector quiz

Q: The 1980s may have been the last gasp of vinyl records, but records from the era were notable for outre sleeve art. Can you match these 45 rpm singles with their cover art theme?

1. “Let’s go to Bed” a. Keith Haring art

2. “The Baby Beat Box” b. Cheerleader outfit

3. “She Works Hard for the Money” c. Shattered glass

4. “Crazy, Crazy Nights” d. Goth hair

5. “Mickey” e. Waitress outfit

A: Answers are 1-d, 2-a, 3-e, 4-c, 5-b. Source: “Put the Needle on the Record: The 1980s at 45 Revolutions per Minute” by Matthew Chojnacki (Schiffer, $39.99). With 250-plus full page covers, the art book has lively explanatory text.

Danielle Arnet welcomes questions from readers. She cannot respond to each one individually, but will answer those of general interest in her column. Send email to smartcollector@comcast.net or write Danielle Arnet, c/o Tribune Media Services, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 1400, Chicago, IL 60611. Please include an address in your query. Photos cannot be returned.

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