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Published Oct. 25, 2008

Among the holidays collectors love the most, Halloween ranks second only to Christmas. The older and rarer a Halloween collectible, the higher its price. Composition or cardboard candy containers made in Germany in the 1920s and '30s were sold across the United States. They're collector favorites today. They came in all kinds of shapes, from cats, pumpkins and tomatoes to witches, skeletons and devils. A painted and flocked composition black cat made in Germany in the early 1920s opens at the neck to hold candy. It sold for $403 at an auction this spring. Other Halloween candy containers were made of pressed cardboard, glass, paper, painted plaster or wood.

Prisoners made furniture

Q: I have a walnut love seat with horsehair stuffing. The medallion under one of the stretchers reads, "Shaw Furniture Co., Est. 1780, Cambridge, Mass." Can you tell me anything about this company?

A: Shaw Furniture Co. of Cambridge - just outside of Boston - was in business as early as 1765 and remained open at least into the 1920s. During the 18th century, Shaw made furniture using convict labor from nearby Charleston State Prison.

Artist owned dairy

Q: I have a milk bottle with a green painted label that reads, "Rockwell Kent, Ausable Forks." Isn't Kent an important artist?

A: Rockwell Kent (1882-1971) was a well-known artist who did paintings, pen-and-ink book illustrations, designs for Vernon Kilns dishes, jewelry and more. His political activities caused him to be listed as "un-American" by Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s. Kent lived in New York City and had a farm in Ausable Forks, N.Y. His dairy used milk bottles like yours in 1927. The dairy closed about 1950. One bottle sold at a Glass-Works auction this year for $100, about half the price of one of his Vernon Kilns plates.

Piano good, but not gold

Q: I have an 1890 Gold Label Knabe upright piano. The inner soundboard appears to be made of gold. Any information would be appreciated. The piano is rosewood and has ivory keys. It's in good condition and playable.

A: William Knabe opened his own piano company in Baltimore in 1839. After the Civil War, Knabe's son Ernest worked on promoting the company's pianos. Knabe pianos are sometimes referred to as "singer's pianos" because of their mellow tone. Knabe is now owned by Samick Musical Instruments. A representative for Knabe told us the company has never made a piano with a gold inner soundboard - they generally are made of wood - but they did make one with a plate made of gold-colored cast iron. (The plate is installed over the soundboard.) To learn more about your piano, find the serial number; it's usually located on the plate but may be on the soundboard. Once you find the serial number, you can look online or in the Pierce Piano Atlas to figure out exactly when your piano was made.

Terry Kovel answers as many questions as possible through the column. By sending a letter with a question, you give full permission for use in the column or any other Kovel forum. Names and addresses will not be published. We cannot guarantee the return of any photograph, but if a stamped envelope is included, we will try. The volume of mail makes personal answers or appraisals impossible. Write to Terry Kovel, St. Petersburg Times, King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019.