The Eider Drake decoy sold for $767,000 at Sotheby’s New York recently.

Jeff Moore The Eider Drake decoy sold for $767,000 at Sotheby’s New York recently.

Sent along with the query were several images of what appears to be a fancy ceramic liquor decanter with a decorative stopper. The bulbous jug has a small raised spout plus handle. The mug is a column with a handle. Both pieces are painted with a design of corncobs, kernels intact, on a dark brown background. There was no information on size.

Without handling, it’s impossible to determine the exact base ceramic; it might be porcelain. For sure, it’s not stoneware. The earliest containers in early America were stoneware. Individual pieces by certain makers in specific forms and styles are now valuable and highly sought by collectors.

A bigger thorn is the jug shape. More decorative than basic, the shape tells us that this is a whimsy, and relatively recent.

We found no record of any set with that jug shape ever sold at auction. All references came up cold. So we tried another tack. Noting the dark tones of the decoration, we thought perhaps the set came from Zanesville, Ohio, where, around 1900, several potteries issued similarly dark lines.

The Zanesville Museum of Art ( has a sizable display of historic Zanesville wares. Museum manager Andrew Near checked the images and told us the forms and decoration of the set are definitely not Zanesville. So much for that possibility.

The jug shape and the bottom signature indicate that the set probably dates from around 1900. It’s the product of a hobby china painter. At the time, hand painting on ceramic blanks which were then fired was an approved activity for genteel ladies. Floral themes were favored, but fruits and vegetables were also done.

While researching, I spotted our reader’s inquiry on an e-site that offers appraisals for a small fee. Her query was handled, but the value suggested ($80 to $130) was not to her liking.

My opinion is that the online appraisal was on the button. The set is attractive and well-done, but it’s not a high-value item. It is a decorative piece and will appeal to a buyer as such.

Q: We have a boxful of postcards collected by an artist. Some are beautiful. How do I sell or give them away?

A: In antique and vintage postcards, value depends on the maker and quality of the cards, plus rarity and condition.

Most cards average $1 to $3 each at retail, though some go as low as 5 cents or a penny. Age is not always a determinant. Most buyers collect by category, such as flowers, or a profession or a specific geographic area; most are not interested in a wide variety.

That said, the cards are collected, though buyers are mighty picky.

Since donating is an option, I suggest taking the cards to a meeting of a local postcard club or to its show or sale. Someone will love having the cards. Who knows? He may even offer to pay for the lot!

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