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Vase's value is aesthetic, not monetary

In this new column, Mary Daniels, a veteran home and design reporter for the Chicago Tribune, will attempt to uncover the background and value of readers' antiques and collectibles.

Question: Recently I was given a vase whose handles are dragon-shaped and appear to be gold. The vase is 9 inches high and 10{ inches wide. The back is signed "K. Kratochvit." The mark on the bottom reads "J.P." with "L., France" underneath it. Can you tell me about this vase and what it is worth? I know it is old.

Answer: Your vase dates from the turn of the century, when porcelain blanks or unpainted forms were imported from Limoges, France, the renowned porcelain-manufacturing village, to be painted here by amateur women artists. The name on it certainly is not that of a French painter.

Whoever wielded the brush, however, was a skilled amateur, making your vase nicer than average, says John J. Hanzel, director of Furniture and Decorative Arts at Butterfield & Dunning in Chicago. It is difficult to pinpoint the piece's exact origins, as there were quite a lot of schools in the Chicago area at that time instructing women in china painting as a genteel hobby. Roses were an inevitable theme.

Hanzel says your treasure is worth $150. "The taste is from a different generation," he says. (That's appraiser-speak for "Its dated look is not popular with today's collectors, affecting the price.") The Sleuth, however, believes it is a lovely piece.

Doll's value far from mickey mouse

Question: Is my Mickey Mouse doll worth anything? It was made in 1935 and had a set of guns, which are missing. It is about 15 inches tall. There is a small tear under the right armpit, but the rest of the doll is in very good condition. It once was appraised at $400. Where would I get the best price?

Answer: The Sleuth is happy to tell you your Mickey Mouse doll is worth more than the $400 at which it was appraised previously.

Doug Wengel of Skillman, N.J., an expert specializing in early images of Disney characters, says if it had a tag hanging from the wrist saying it was made by Knickerbocker Co., and "if the doll is mint and complete with its original vest, lasso, hat, kerchief and guns, it would sell for $10,000."

In its condition, Wengel believes your doll is worth $1,800 to $2,500. What gives it value, he says, is the hat, which usually is missing, and its 15-inch size. The 12-inch ones are more common.

"It is a nice, scarce style, hard to get all the pieces," says Ted Hake of Hake's Americana & Collectibles Auction House in York, Pa., who would be more than happy to sell your doll at auction.

Although the Sleuth can't guarantee the best price in any case, now that you know you have a rare item, one way to find just the right person to pay top dollar is to advertise it yourself in a trade paper such as The Maine Antique Digest (phone (207) 832-7534).

Unmarked lamp competed with Tiffany's

Question: There are no identifying marks anywhere on this glass lamp, which was purchased in an antiques shop for $325 in 1995. It is 23 inches high and 8 inches across the top. Both the shade and base are very heavy. In what year might it have been made?

Answer: Your lamp dates from the early 1900s, when a variety of manufacturers made lamps to compete with the expensive stained-glass lamps made by Louis Comfort Tiffany. The shade is made of slag glass (also called end-of-the-day glass, because that is when manufacturers mixed leftover colored glass together). The six panels are decorated with open scrollwork in a rose pattern. John Hanzel, director of furniture and decorative arts at Butterfield & Dunning in Chicago, found your lamp to be a very nice one, with a better-than-average shade and the panels intact, none cracked. He appraises your lamp's value between $400 and $600.

Radios not rare enough to be valuable

Question: Are my two old radios worth anything? One is a white Philco, made of wood, that still works on a few stations. The other is a Kent, made of brown plastic. It doesn't work. They are at least 40 years old, I believe. If they are worth anything, can you suggest where I could sell them?

Answer: Dave Johnson of Berwyn, Ill., who collects and restores old radios, says yours are from the '40s or '50s and worth between $50 and $100 each. They are of average quality and are not considered to be very special, as there are quite a lot of them in circulation.

The fastest way to sell them would be to take out an ad in Antique Radio Classified (phone (978) 371-0512), a worldwide publication.

Now, if you had an Art Deco-design radio made of Catalin, a cast plastic with a swirled color effect, you would have a hot collector item that might sell for as much as $5,000.

Send photos of objects with identifying marks visible (sorry, we can't return them) and a brief history to: Home&Garden, Chicago Tribune, 435 N Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611, Attn: Antiques Sleuth.

1999, Chicago Tribune.