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Published October 07, 2011, 12:00 AM

Kovels Antiques: Attractive urns held leeches in past centuries

Antiques sometimes remind us that Grandma’s home remedies are still the best.

By: By Terry Kovel, INFORUM

Antiques sometimes remind us that Grandma’s home remedies are still the best.

In 2004, the Food and Drug Administration approved the use of leeches by doctors. Beginning in 200 B.C., medical doctors used leeches to cure a fever. They thought the red color of the face and the fever was caused by too much blood.

Several types of leeches are found in the wild, but they have fewer and fewer places to breed. Leeches look like large worms – some grow to be 8 inches long. They feed on blood. Many campers have gone swimming and find bloody leeches clinging to their legs when they get out of the water. The leech bite injects an anticoagulant so the blood flows more freely.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, leeches were kept at the apothecary shop in attractive pottery urns with lids. The use of leeches was very popular in the 1860s and then lost favor. But now the animals are used to help heal skin grafts, to treat blocked veins and to aid in surgeries that require the removal of pooled blood under the skin.

Today you can buy medical leeches for about $8 each, but they cannot be returned. Antique leech jars cost much more.

Q: I have a metal box with “HRH Princess Elizabeth, Colonel of the Grenadier Guards” sitting on her horse. The words “Huntley & Palmers Biscuits, Reading & London, England” are stamped on it. Can you tell me what year this was made?

A: Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth) became colonel-in-chief of the Grenadier Guards in 1942. She reviewed the troops at the changing of the guard for the first time in 1947. This was also the first time the ceremony was held after the end of World War II. Your tin commemorates this event. Huntley & Palmers was founded by Joseph Huntley, a baker, and George Palmer, a tinsmith, in 1822. They packed their “biscuits” (cookies) in tins to keep them from crumbling when they were delivered by stagecoach. Their first bakery was located on London Street in Reading, England. The company was the world’s largest maker of biscuits by 1900. It was in business until the 1990s, and after an absence of several years, the company began making biscuits again in Sudbury, England, in 2006. Huntley & Palmers is still in business.

Q: I inherited my grandmother’s Victorian upright piano. She was born in 1902. I remember her telling me that her father brought the piano up the driveway on his horse-drawn wagon when she was 13 or 14 years old. Inside the piano it says “A.M. McPhail Piano Co.,” and it’s stamped with the number 21072. Can give me any information?

A: The A.M. McPhail Piano Co. was founded in Boston by Andrew M. McPhail in 1837. The serial number inside your piano indicates that it was made in 1897. The trade name was bought by Kohler & Campbell in about 1891 and pianos with the McPhail name were made until the late 1950s. People who want to buy a piano look for an instrument in good, playable condition. The age of the piano may be a drawback, but some people want an upright because it takes up less space or because they want to decorate their home with Victorian furniture.

Q: I have a red Sunken Hollyhock pattern “Gone With the Wind” lamp that my husband’s grandmother received as a wedding gift sometime before 1911. I have read that it’s rarely found in this color. The glass has a quilted flower pattern, and the lamp has brass fittings marked “Success.” It’s 25 inches tall. Do you know how much it’s worth?

A: Your lamp may have been designed by Nicholas Kopp of the Pittsburgh Lamp, Brass and Glass Co., which fitted most of the lamps it manufactured with its own “Success” brand burners. The Sunken Hollyhock lamp is usually found in a yellow-orange color called marigold. A red lamp like yours sold at auction for $708 in 2010.

Q: I have a dog’s head made from “macerated money.” There is a partial label on the bottom that says it was made by the U.S. Mint from an estimated $100,000 worth of greenbacks that were redeemed and macerated. It was purchased at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, N.Y., in 1901 and given to me many years ago. Can you give me any information about it?

A: Souvenir items made from macerated money were popular at the turn of the 20th century. Paper money was first issued by the federal government in 1861. In the early years, old paper money was destroyed by punching holes in it and burning it, but it was found that some unscrupulous federal employees were patching the holes and making off with the money. Between 1874 and 1942, a system of macerating the money into a pulp was used to destroy it. The money was soaked in a vat of soda ash and lime water and the pulp was then rolled into sheets and sold as bookbinder’s board. Figures were made from macerated money as early as 1879. In about 1881, Henry Martin, a U.S. Treasury employee and a one-legged Civil War veteran, began molding the pulp into souvenir items and selling them in Washington, D.C. By the turn of the century, many others were also making these souvenirs. A 1901 newspaper article estimated that millions of souvenir items were being made from billions of dollars of macerated money. Most were made in molds and mass produced. The Washington Monument is the most popular item. The estimated value of an item molded in greenbacks depends on the denomination of the bills included. We’ve seen the dog’s head made from an estimated $100,000 worth of greenbacks. It sold at auction last year for $170.

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.

- Gene Autry Cowboy songbook No. 2, 28 songs, Gene and Champion on cover, M.M. Cole Co., Chicago, $25.

- Niagara Falls souvenir powder jar, metal lid with picture of Canadian Falls at night, molded glass in ribbed pattern with four panels of flowers, 1930s, 3½x2 inches, $45.

- “Doctor, Doctor!” game, diagnose Mr. Illbent’s illness and advance from Medical Student to Chief Doctor, bed, illness cards, medical chart, doctor’s bag, Ideal, 1978, $55.

- General Electric radio, Model 401, ivory plastic, AC/DC, 117 volts, 1 watt, Super-Heterodyne, 1950, 6x7 inches, $60.

- Iroquois Indian beaded purse, red fabric with rows of four white glass beads, clear butterfly with green and white beads, metal hook-and-eye closure, c.1900, 3¼x2½ inches, $75.

- Jadeite measuring cup, green glass, pouring spout, handle, 1950s, 7 inches, $85.

- Donald Duck cookie jar, blue sailor’s suit with matching blue cap and red bowtie, yellow beak and feet, pink tongue, American Bisque, 1950s, 12½ inches, $250.

- Kissin’ Thumbelina doll, pull cord, head moves around, soft vinyl, blue sleep eyes, brown hair, white christening outfit, Ideal, 1970, 10 inches, $255.

- Bull Dog Brand Fly & Insect Powder sign, paper, image of house with insects covering driveway, bulldog in corner, 8x12 inches, $550.

- Irish George III-style wing chair, mahogany, tall padded back, shaped sides, out-scrolled arms, cushioned seat, cabriole legs, 1930s, 49 inches, $1,230.


Try this to remove stains from inside a glass decanter: Put warm water, ½ teaspoon of liquid detergent and some uncooked rice grains into the decanter. Shake well; then rinse.

For more information about antiques and collectibles and free price information, visit Kovel’s Web site,

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 Kovel forum. 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 Kovel, The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St. , New York, NY 10019.