Pitchers and wash basins were a necessity before indoor plumbing. Many survive, but watch out for mismatched sets. Most collectors search for unusual forms and decoration, or sets made by important American and European factories. Others seek out antique basins and pitchers simply as decorative accents for their homes.
Q: What can you tell me about my large box-shaped wooden "view finder"? A brass plate on the front says: "A. Becker's Patent, Jas. Lee, Manufacturer, N.Y. April 7, 1857." The cards inside are all different: One is from 1908 and another says copyright 1894.
A: Your tabletop stereoscope, a popular Victorian machine that turned flat images printed on cards into three-dimensional scenes, is not a common find today and would sell for $350 to $550, said Allen Weiner, a New York City dealer of fine antique cameras. Small late-19th-century wooden, hand-held stereoscopes are more typical finds and generally retail in the $25-to-$50 range. Collectors can write to Weiner at 80 Central Park West, New York, N.Y. 10023.
While stereoscopic viewers are quaint relics of a pre-video age, many remain usable and provide nostalgic entertainment. David Brewster of England is credited with inventing the first stereoscope in the late 1840s to early 1850s. The patent date on yours likely refers to a component part, invented by Alexander Becker.
Since your view cards bear turn-of-the-century copyrights, they are not original to your machine. If your stereoscope had cards from the 1860s, the set would be worth $900 to $1,200, Weiner said.
Mid-19th-century stereo cards generally retail for $8 to $20 each at antique shows and shops, while the more common turn-of-the-century scenes bring only a few dollars each at flea markets. Unusual subjects fetch higher prices.
Q: I discovered among old family pictures a tourist class "Gala Dinner"
menu dated June 3, 1956, from the cruise ship Andrea Doria. What's it worth?
A: The Italian liner Andrea Doria sank in a fog off Nantucket, Mass., on July 26, 1956, after being hit by the Stockholm, a Swedish passenger ship. Menus in good condition from either the Andrea Doria's January 1953 maiden voyage or its final journey can bring $200 each, said Hoboken, N.J., dealer Ken Schultz. Since yours is from a less-noteworthy cruise, it's worth only $35, Schultz said.
Interest in the Andrea Doria revived in 1984 when diver-filmmaker Peter Gimbel raised its safe, rumored to contain jewels and cash. The safe's opening was televised live but was somewhat of a letdown; it only contained about 30,000 soggy small-denomination American and Italian bank notes.
According to newspaper accounts, Gimbel mounted pieces of salvaged currency in small Lucite frames with a certificate of authenticity, and marketed them in 1985 for $299 each. Today, Schultz charges $500 each for them. Schultz also sells other Andrea Doria memorabilia, including china ($500 per piece), travel agency posters ($350 to $400) and deck plans ($200). Prices vary by condition and rarity. He can be contacted at Box M753, Hoboken, N.J. 07030, Phone: 201-656-0966cq.
Collectors prize souvenirs from the most famous ill-fated ship, the Titanic, which sank on its maiden voyage on April 15, 1912. A Titanic menu can bring $10,000, Schultz said.
Memorabilia from the Titanic and other ocean liners will be for sale at the Titanic Historical Society's convention, April 9 to April 12, at Boston's Copley Plaza Hotel. Write to Box 51053, Indian Orchard, Mass. 01151, for details.
Lita Solis-Cohen can answer questions only in her column. If you wish to write to her, please include a description, measurement, clear photo, and all markings of your collectible or antique. For those who wish their photos returned, a self-addressed, stamped envelope should be enclosed. Write to Lita Solis-Cohen, The Inquirer, Box 8263, Philadelphia, Pa. 19101.