Collectors seek figural salt and pepper shakers

By The Vindicator

Looking for an inexpensive, colorful collectible? Look for pottery and porcelain salt and pepper shakers that you can display and use.

Figural ceramic salt and pepper shakers are easy to find. In “Kovels’ Antiques & Collectibles Price Guide,” they are listed at $6 to $200. At yard sales, you can find much lower prices.

The most expensive are “huggers,” two shakers that actually hug each other by touching. The most famous of the huggers are sets by Van Tellingen. “Nodders” are sets with a base with two holes that hold the shakers; each shaker has a tubelike part that sits in the hole. Touch the base, and the shakers nod up and down or sideways.

There are also “stackers,” shakers made so one shaker is kept on top of the other like a pipe in an ashtray. “Condiment sets” consist of a tray, two shakers and a small bowl with a lid and a spoon that can be used for mustard.

Q. My husband bought a footstool at our volunteer fire department’s annual fundraising sale. The faded label on the bottom appears to say “Mahogany West Indies, Africa, Mahogany Association Inc., copyright S.A.” Can you tell us something about the stool’s origins?

A. The Mahogany Association was a trade organization formed in the early 20th century. Its mission was to protect manufacturers who used genuine mahogany from those who cheated by dying less expensive wood so it looked like mahogany. The association disbanded in 1969, so your husband’s stool was made in the 20th century, but before 1970. The label was used on furniture made with mahogany from the West Indies (considered “true mahogany”) or Africa (the African tree is a different species, but it’s distantly related and is also considered mahogany). African mahogany is usually lighter in color and has a slightly pink tint.

Q. I have a round ice-cream scoop marked “Benedict Indestructo.” It’s also marked “pat. – 20 to a quart.” What is it worth, who made it and how old is it?

A. Your ice cream scoop was one of several Indestructo brand scoops, all nickel-plated brass, made in the 1920s by the Benedict Manufacturing Co. of Syracuse, N.Y. Benedict, in business from 1894 to 1953, also manufactured cast, stamped and embossed metal novelties, hollowware, clock cases and desk sets. Your scoop is medium-sized-20 scoops total a quart of ice cream. Indestructo scoops ranged from the large eight-scoop size (just eight scoops filled a quart) to the small 30-scoop size. Most Indestructo scoops sell for $75 to $100.

Q. Is ironstone ware really made with iron?

A. The first products called “ironstone ware” were shaped pieces of cast iron covered with a heavy tin glaze, usually white, that were decorated to look like ceramic pieces. It was indestructible but expensive. In 1813 C.J. Mason developed a china body that was made with cinders from iron furnaces as well as clay. He patented it and named it “ironstone,” a name that aided sales. “Mason’s ironstone” sold with or without decorations for many years. Other makers publicized their products by using the name “ironstone” or “granite ware” on pieces, even though their dishes were not like Mason’s.

Q. I own a heavy 1-gallon copper-clad and brass fire extinguisher. There’s a pressure gauge, T-shape handle and short hose at the top of the cylindrical container. It’s marked “Phister No. 1 carbon tetrachloride fire extinguisher.” Patent numbers on its metal label range from 1,467,980 to 1,794,982. It was made in Cincinnati. When was it made and what’s the best way to sell it?

A. If there’s still carbon tetrachloride in your extinguisher, take the extinguisher (carefully) to your fire department so experts can safely dispose of the chemical. It’s poisonous. The patent numbers on your extinguisher range in date from 1923 to 1931. The patents were granted to Albert B. Phister, who assigned them to the Phister Manufacturing Co. of Cincinnati. From the 1920s through the ’40s, many fire extinguishers were filled with carbon tetrachloride. It can quickly put out a liquid or electrical fire, but by the 1950s scientists figured out that the chemical’s fumes can be fatal if inhaled or absorbed through the skin. So this type of extinguisher was no longer made. Empty extinguishers sell best at auctions or shows featuring firefighting memorabilia. Yours could sell for $50 to $75.

XTerry 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, addresses or e-mail 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 Kovels, The Vindicator, King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019. For more information, visit

2009 by Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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