The first fig trees were brought to America from Spain in 1520. A ripe fig is very sweet, so it was often used when sugar was not available.
The Mount Washington Glass Co. of New Bedford, Mass., made fig-shaped containers for sugar and salt. The bottom was glass, the top silver-plated. The company also used the "figmold" shape for saltshakers with metal tops and for toothpick holders and glue pots that were altered to have open tops.
The fig-shaped holders were made of translucent glass, satin glass, frosted glass and shaded glass in all colors. Many of the figs also were decorated with hand-painted flowers or other designs. Some collectors call this shape beet, onion or garlic. The Mount Washington fig pieces are popular, and some sell for thousands of dollars.
Q: At an estate sale in the 1950s, I bought a cherry drop-front desk with Queen Anne legs. It's 39 inches high by 30 inches wide. There is a mark in a drawer that says: "Wilhelm Furniture Co., Sturgis, Michigan. Manufacturers of library and sewing tables, ladies' desks, bookcases." What is the value?
A: Stebbins Furniture Co. was founded in Sturgis in 1887. It was renamed Stebbins-Wilhelm Furniture Co. in 1907 and became Wilhelm Furniture Co. sometime between 1913 and 1917. Wilhelm Co. made desks, radio cabinets, bookcases, tables and smoking stands in a variety of woods and styles. The company closed in 1939. A cherry Wilhelm Co. desk recently sold for $70.
Q: My grandfather left us a three-handled porcelain tankard decorated with a blue and white medieval scene of a man and woman sitting at a table. The stamped mark on the bottom is a leafy wreath encircling a fancy monogram that appears to be "CAC." Under the wreath is the word "Lenox." How old is my tankard? Could it have been made by the same Lenox company that's still around?
A: Your three-handled tankard is called a "tyg." Tygs were filled with liquor and passed around the table after a big meal. "CAC" stands for Ceramic Art Co., a firm founded in Trenton, N.J., in 1889 by Walter Scott Lenox (1859-1920) and Jonathan Coxon (1843-1911). Coxon sold his share of the company to Lenox in 1896, but the company's name didn't change to Lenox Inc. until 1906. The same Lenox that is still in business. The mark on your tyg was used from about 1896 to 1906, when Ceramic Art Co. was solely owned by Walter Scott Lenox. So it's an antique. If it's in excellent condition, it would sell for more than $100.
Q: I have one antique andiron from a set that belonged to my great-aunt, who was the niece of John Deere, founder of the tractor company. Would one andiron be worth half as much as a pair?
A: Unfortunately, a single andiron would sell for considerably less than half the price of a pair. Even if a collector did not want to use the andiron, one does not display as well as two. And John Deere's fame, in this case, is of no help.