Q: I inherited a large collection of pewter sculptures by Don Polland and others. How can I sell them? The Polland Collectors Group no longer exists. I can't find anything on the Net.

- Diane, Vail

A: Collector groups come and go, especially those for trendy objects. The Net is full of info, but there are smart ways to work it. Here's how to be a smart collector.

Our reader knows what she has, so I suggest starting with a Google search of the maker and sculptor. That reveals that Chilmark, the parent company, closed in 2000. The search also provides contact info on secondary-market retailers who now carry the small sculptures. There is good news: Prices look good.

The sculptures were collectibles, so check eBay. Bingo! Two sold recently, one for $65.50 and another for $218.50. Both had multiple bids, so collectors must still want them.

Following search threads led to more and more info.

To sum it up, leads that spin out from that Google search show over 50 sales of the small sculptures at auction (www.liveauctioneers.com) including photos, names of the houses (lots of useful contacts), year sold, and prices realized. There's even more free info on the Net.

Q: I bought this ceramic beer stein that has a metal lid around 1967 in an antique shop in Bamberg, Germany. It was appraised for insurance purposes at $400 in 1973. Do I need to have it reappraised?

- Albert, Carrollton, Va.

A: Seen in an image, the ceramic stein is a well-molded head of a Prussian officer. The bottom of his helmet is molded ceramic; the top half is fashioned of finely crafted pewter. Painted and glazed with flesh colors to brown, the face sports an impressive mustache and goatee. A stamped mark on the bottom reads, "Mustershutz." The artist's mark is present. This is obviously a quality piece.

Andre Ammelounx, owner of the Stein Auction Co. in Palatine, Ill., recently joined businesses with Gary Kirsner Auctions of Prescott. Together, they conduct online stein auctions at www.tsaco.com

Check the site for their auction Feb. 18-25. Look over the online catalog, plus results of past auctions and contact info.

Looking over the reader's images, Ammelounx told us that the mark is a patent or protection ID. The stein was actually made by Von Schierholz, a German porcelain factory. It dates to 1900, "give or take 10 years."

Originally, lids made for the steins were porcelain. As many were damaged or broken in use, most surviving steins are found minus lids.

Someone loved this stein very much, as after the lid was broken, they took it to a master metalsmith who fashioned a wonderful pewter replacement.

An alternate scenario, he thinks, is that the stein was made with the present metal top instead of a ceramic one. That would make the piece even rarer.

If the top is original to the stein and the piece is in absolutely mint condition, his estimated value for it is around $2,000.

Determining if the top is original to the stein takes a specialist. Ammelounx offers to take a look; contact him at The Stein Auction Co., P.O. Box 136, Palatine, IL 60078.

Danielle Arnet welcomes questions from readers. She cannot respond to each one individually, but will answer those of general interest in her column. Send e-mail 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.


A typical sentimental memento in its time, a historical locket containing hair from George and Martha Washington, sold for $7,475 last summer at James D. Julia. Presented as a gift by the Washingtons to a friend and aide, it was later given by his wife to a Washington descendant. The token stayed in the family until it was consigned to the Julia auction.

A portrait of Abraham Lincoln by George Henry Story, the first to show Lincoln with a beard, sold for $18,300 recently at Bonham's New York. Copies, all by the artist, are in the White House, the Smithsonian, and six other sites.