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Handle those bottle dolls with kid gloves

The life of a 19th century American child was very different from the life of a child today. Now, parents worry about mercury in fish, unsafe drinking water, lead-based paint that a child might swallow, and child seats and safety belts in cars.

None of these hazards was known in the 1800s. Kids back then played with toys considered unsafe today. Painted iron and tin toys often had sharp edges and were sometimes covered with lead-based paint. Dollhouse tea sets included small parts that could be swallowed. Dolls were made with heads of china that could break if dropped.

One very strange 19th century doll is known today as a bottle doll. A glass bottle was padded to form the body of the doll. A cloth head and sometimes arms were added. The face was made with embroidered features and perhaps button eyes. The doll wore a crocheted or fabric dress. Today, bottle dolls are expensive examples of folk art. Some were made of bottles filled with sand to weight the doll. These were not used as toys, but as doorstops.

Coca-Cola serving tray

I have a 1961 Coca-Cola serving tray that pictures a field of colorful pansies and a bottle of Coke being poured into a glass. On the longer sides of the rectangular tray are the words "Be Really Refreshed." What is the tray worth?

Your "Pansy" Coke tray, one of three versions made in 1961, retails for about $20.

A.D. Knirim coverlet

Our family's treasured red, green and gold woven coverlet is large enough for a double bed. The corner is woven to say: "Wove by A.D. Knirim, Dixon, Lee Co., Il., 1868." What can you tell me?

Your family heirloom was woven by Adam D. Knirim in Dixon, Ill., in 1868. Knirim was born in Germany about 1830, and later moved to the United States and married twice. His first wife was named Hannah, his second, Ann. Your coverlet was woven on a jacquard loom that used punch cards to create patterns. If the colors have not faded and there are no worn spots, it is worth $350 to $750.

Shearwater Pottery vase

What can you tell me about a vase my mother left me that's marked "Shearwater" on the bottom?

Shearwater Pottery has been in business in Ocean Springs, Miss., since 1928. It was founded by George Walter Anderson and his wife, Annette McConnell Anderson, along with their three sons, Peter, Walter and Mac. Today Peter's son Jim continues to produce the pottery's traditional shapes. Collectors especially like Shearwater's older pieces. Some sell for thousands of dollars.

Stencil label for barrels

I found a cardboard stencil that's 16 inches in diameter when I was clearing land in Wareham, Mass., more than 30 years ago. The words on the stencil say "Choice Cape Cod Cranberries for White, Warner & Co., Philad'a, Pa., from A.B.P., N.B. Mass." What was this used for?

Your large, round stencil was used to label wooden barrels of cranberries shipped from New Bedford ("N.B."), Mass., to Philadelphia. It probably dates from the late 19th or early 20th century. The cranberry is one of only three fruits native to eastern North America (the other two are blueberries and Concord grapes). Cranberries were first cultivated about 1810 in Dennis, Mass. In 1868, a 100-pound barrel of cranberries sold for 58 cents in Philadelphia.

Princess House glassware

Do you have any information about a company that sold glassware and dishes in the 1970s on a home-party plan? I was a host and purchased a set of the glass dishes. Through the years, some of my serving pieces have broken, and I have not been able to find replacements.

You are probably referring to Princess House, a direct-sale company founded in 1963. Princess House Inc., with headquarters in Taunton, Mass., is still in business and still sells at house parties. For replacements of old patterns, try a matching service or Internet auction.

Engagement rings

My fiance has given me his great-great-grandmother's engagement ring. She was married in the 1880s. I was surprised that the stone is a diamond. When were diamonds first used for engagement rings?

Written records indicate that the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian gave a diamond engagement ring to his fiancee, Mary of Burgundy, in 1477. That might have been the first. Diamond-cluster engagement rings became popular in the 18th century, when diamonds were discovered in Brazil. In the late 19th century, following the discovery of diamonds in South Africa, the gem became more affordable. That's when the idea of using a single diamond in an engagement ring became widespread. That's also when some wealthy people decided that diamonds had become too common. They preferred engagement rings with rubies, sapphires or emeralds surrounded by diamond accents. Today, many young couples shop for antique engagement rings. You and your fiance are lucky to have an antique ring in the family.

Current prices

Current prices are recorded from antiques shows, flea markets, sales and auctions throughout the United States. Prices vary in different locations because of local economic conditions.

+ Remington Firearms booklet, black ground, yellow sun, 7 geese flying, illustrations, 32 pages, 1930s, 7 by 4 inches, $45.

+ Chicago Insulating Co. insulator, No. 135, blue, $80.

+ Snow White dime register bank, tin, scene of Snow White talking to the Seven Dwarfs, 1938, 2{ inches, $110.

+ Stevens & Williams bud vase, free form, 4 prongs, entwining cranberry tree trunks, 8 inches, $300.

+ Queen Anne-style handkerchief table, mahogany, cabriole legs, pad feet, scalloped apron, triangular top, 33 by 17 inches, $345.

+ Sperm-whale-tooth corkscrew, early 19th century, $475.

+ Winnie the Pooh doll, mohair, black glass shoe-button eyes, black floss nose and mouth, swivel head, jointed shoulders and hips, marked "R. John Wright Dolls Inc.," $495.

Questions of general interest will be answered in the column. Send questions to Antiques, Ralph and Terry Kovel, c/o the St. Petersburg Times, King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019.

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