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Q: I saw a small Pairpoint "puffy" lamp with lilacs, flowers and butterflies on the 8-inch shade. The base is tree-shaped brass. What is the price range for this fine specimen?

A: To clue readers, the Pairpoint Manufacturing Co. of New Bedford, Mass., began in 1880, making silver plate items, including lamp bases. It later merged with the Mount Washington Glass Works. Pairpoint produced lamps with blown glass shades up to 1930.

Pairpoint's most expensive lamps are those with blown-out or "puffy" reverse-painted shades. Reverse painted means the glass was hand-painted on the inside surface so colors appear through the glass. The effect is soft.

Part of this job is figuring out what readers really have in mind when they ask. Donning our turban, The Great Arnet deduces that this reader either saw a lamp and wants to know the going rate(s), or that he owns the lamp and wants today's value.

In either case, this is a scenario where a smart collector should start online, researching recent auction sales of similar lamps. Because Pairpoint puffies are high-end, it will pay for him to whip out a credit card to pay for short-term use of two useful results sites, or There we saw that last year a perfect-condition 8-inch Pairpoint lilac boudoir lamp with wooden base sold for $850. Another, with roughness at the rim, went for $550. Right there, one learns how much condition counts.

Dudley Browne heads the Lamp and Glass division of James D. Julia Auctioneers in Maine, In his most recent sale, Pairpoint puffies sold for $2,415 to $14,950.

Browne told us that Pairpoint made the puffy lilac shade table lamp in three sizes. Two versions have 8-inch shades, but they differ.

The small boudoir lamp already mentioned has a turned wooden base. The shade has an open top like a kerosene lamp. They sell for $500 to $1,000.

The miniature table lamp with an 8-inch shade is most often seen with a tree trunk base. These sell for $15,000 to $20,000.

The third version is one Browne calls "the rarest of all Pairpoint puffy lamps." The lilac full-size table lamp also has a tree trunk base and is topped with a 14-inch diameter shade. They sell for $25,000 to $35,000.

Variations in value, Browne said, "are determined by the quality of painting and the richness of colors in the shade."

Note: Pairpoint bases were white metal with differing metal finishes, sometimes brass. Chips and/or hairline cracks in the glass make a puffy worth only 10 percent of its value if perfect.

Q: Hoping you can ID the use of this mystery object about 4 inches in length. The handle reads "Bowman Dairy."

A: Our reader adds that Bowman was a former milk company in the Chicago area.

To clue readers, the piece is metal, with a loop handle at the hand end. At the top is a pointed end (imagine a large screwdriver end with a sharp point in the middle) for piercing.

The mystery object is a vintage milk bottle cap opener. Back when caps were thick cardboard with a center tab, the tool was used to pierce and lift the tab or remove it altogether. Today, the openers are collected as dairy or site mementoes.

Around the 1930s to '50s, many dairies used the tools as giveaways and promos. We found one for a Spokane dairy posted on eBay for $5.

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 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 will not be returned.