Go to an antique show and you might see a pie safe, jelly cupboard or sugar chest. But most beginning collectors would call each a "cupboard" or "chest" with no idea how the furniture was originally used.
A pie safe, also called a kitchen safe, is easy to identify. It is a rectangular cupboard, usually with two doors that have pierced tin panels. Pies and other food items were safe behind the metal doors and kept fresh because air could circulate through the pierced holes. Popular from the mid-18th century to the early 20th, it went out of use when refrigeration arrived.
A jelly cupboard is a Midwestern term for a two-drawer, two-door kitchen cupboard used for storage. In all other parts of the country, it is known as a cupboard.
A sugar chest looks like a large storage chest on feet. It has a lift lid and a lock. It is a Southern piece of furniture used to store sugar and was not used in other parts of the country. The inside was divided into sections, one for brown sugar, the other for more expensive white sugar. It was locked because sugar was expensive.
See if you can identify some of these outdated pieces of furniture on your next visit to a show or flea market. They still are popular with collectors, who often use them to store clothes.
Q: My mother left me an 8-inch-high jardiniere she told me was in Roseville's Cherry Blossom pattern. It's brown with a tan trellis around the bottom and white floral vines around the top. The trouble is that it's not marked except with a crayoned number. Could it really have been made by Roseville? I know it's at least 60 years old.
A: You can believe your mother. Roseville Pottery introduced its Cherry Blossom pattern in 1933. Pieces were brown and tan, like yours, or green and pink. Cherry Blossom pieces were marked with only a foil label — and by now most of those labels have been lost. Some pieces, like yours, had hand-crayoned shape numbers on the bottom. An 8-inch Cherry Blossom jardiniere in excellent condition can sell for more than $500.
Q: My rectangular clock has a round face and rows of numbers, 1 through 80, below the face. There is a peg below each number. More numbers are in lower rows, but each has a post that is wired to the clock. What was it for?
A: It sounds like an early employee time clock. "Clocking-in clocks" were invented in 1885. Each employee had a numbered key and would put it in the hole on the front of the clock. The key number was recorded with the employee's arrival time on a paper tape. This sort of clock is interesting but does not sell well at an average shop. It is of interest to someone looking for industrial machines. Most clock buyers want a decorative clock for the front hall.
Q: My grandparents gave me their large set of Occupied Japan china, including 12 place settings, a soup tureen, sugar and creamer and gravy boat. Each place setting includes a dinner plate, salad plate, bread plate, soup bowl, berry bowl, cup and saucer. The bottoms of most of the pieces are marked "Silver, Made in Occupied Japan." The set is a family heirloom, and I wouldn't sell it, but what is it worth?
A: A company named Silver was one of the known manufacturers of dinnerware in postwar Japan. Companies that made dishes or other items for export used the "Made in Occupied Japan" mark from 1947 to 1952. The value of your 88-piece set depends on its quality and condition. It could be worth anywhere from $200 to $900.
Q: I have a child's Mickey Mouse ring. I think it's sterling silver and from the 1930s. Could you tell me what it's worth?
A: The only sterling silver Mickey Mouse rings on the market before the 1980s were made from 1947 to 1949 by Ostby & Barton of Providence, R.I. One of those rings sells for about $50 today. But many other silver Mickey rings have been made in recent years. You have to do some research to be sure you have an old ring.
Q: I inherited a pair of scissors from a great-great-aunt. The scissors are 4 1/2 inches long. There is a funny elongated notch in the blades and an adjustable threaded nut in the middle of the handles. One side reads, "Korn's patent," and the other, "Patent No. 47,766." It seems to have a pretty low patent number. Can you tell me the age and use of the scissors?
A: You have a pair of buttonhole scissors. George W. Korn of New York City was issued patent number 247,766 for his scissors in 1881. The first number may have worn off your scissors. The nut keeps the scissors from making too long a cut when opening the fabric for a buttonhole.
Q: My grandmother had a small glass pitcher with a spout and a hinged metal lid that could be opened by pressing a tab on one side. She called it her "maple syrup pitcher." Can you tell me when this pitcher was made?
A: You have a syrup pitcher. Maple syrup is just one of the types of syrup that could be served in the lidded pitcher. The lid helped keep the syrup from dripping and, most important, kept the flies out. Many companies made glass or silver-plated syrup pitchers in the 19th and early 20th century. Today we often serve syrup in a pitcher without a lid.
Tip: Apply colored paste wax (even shoe polish works) to cover small scratches in wood.