Laws on selling animal parts create market confusion

New endangered-species laws are trying to protect animals that could disappear from the Earth if poaching and killing is not stopped. Sometimes it is just a horn or a tusk that is wanted, but to get it, the animal must be killed.

A look at some of the antiques that now can’t be sold legally illustrates the problem.

Though few would object to the laws that cover living animals, there is controversy about objecting to the sale of ivory, horn or feathers taken from animals more than 50 years ago when there was no scarcity of the animals.

Whale oil was a useful source of light, and whale meat was a popular food. Baby seals and tigers had fur that made attractive, warm coats. An elephant tusk or rhinoceros horn was used to make carved cups and decorative pieces. And eagle feathers were needed by Indians for religious ceremonies.

Because some states have passed laws saying no ivory of any age can be legally sold, it has become a confusing market for collectors. Be sure to check the laws the day before you try to sell any parts of an endangered species.

Many states are considering laws, some that will exempt piano keys and guitar picks, and others that will confiscate your piece and destroy it.

In 2014, Garth’s Auctions in Delaware, Ohio, sold a wine caddy made in the early 20th century from the hoof of a rhinoceros. It brought $1,800. Today, it probably would be impossible to sell in many states.

Q. We’re cleaning out my father’s house and found a Windsor rocking chair with the label “Crocker Chair Company, Sheboygan, Wisconsin.” We’re wondering if it’s an antique. What is it worth?

A. Silas Crocker was one of the owners of the first furniture factory in Sheboygan. He and a partner established a factory in a converted hotel in 1865. The factory burned down in 1875. Crocker bought a carriage company in 1880 and made chairs, stools, tables, china cabinets and other furniture. In 1924, the company was reorganized. It sold furniture for hotels, offices and schools. Crocker Chair Co. was closed by 1932. Your Crocker rocker is worth $100 to $200.

Q. I received a set of Russel Wright dishes when I got married in 1958. All that remains is an oval vegetable dish. It’s marked on the back “Russel Wright by Knowles, Snowflower, Made in U.S.A.” Would this have any value?

A. Russel Wright (1904-1976) designed domestic and industrial wares, including dinnerware, glassware, furniture, aluminum, radios, interiors and more. He designed modern dinnerware for several companies, including Knowles. Snowflower is part of Knowles Esquire line, made between 1956 and 1962. Some say this design of modernistic gray twigs and white dots on a pink background was Wright’s favorite line, although it wasn’t one of the most-popular lines at the time. Russel Wright dinnerware is collectible today. Your vegetable dish is worth about $40.

Q. My mother has a collection of about 8,000 pieces of Blue Willow. It includes Japanese, English and Buffalo pottery dishes. She had about 32 complete place settings and tons of accessory pieces. She also has Gaudy Willow bowl and thunder mug set with soap dish and toothbrush holder. Can you help with pricing and selling this collection?

A. Willow pattern has been made in England since 1780 and was made famous by Thomas Minton. The pattern has been copied by factories in many countries, including Germany, Japan and the United States, and it still is being made. You need to have an expert look at the collection to determine if it’s the inexpensive 20th-century Blue Willow or the great early Blue Willow. It should be sold by someone who specializes in Blue Willow. The International Willow Collectors ( have an annual convention. A list of clubs for collectors of Blue Willow pattern collectibles is listed on its site.


Carbon steel blades used in silver table knives sometimes get rust spots. If you rub the blades with a bit of beeswax lip balm, you can clear up spots and prevent new ones. The beeswax is edible.

Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel answer questions sent to 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 email addresses will not be published. We cannot guarantee the return of photographs, but if a stamped envelope is included, we will try. The amount 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

2016 by Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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