Q: I have seven cocktail forks from the historic Planter House Hotel in St. Louis, Mo. How do I find out if they have any value?

A: Some readers may not know that many collectors treasure memorabilia, including tableware, from early railroads, ocean liners, and airlines. Add to that tableware from the grand hotels, including flatware and serving pieces.

It all goes back to nostalgia for the days when dining while traveling was a leisurely, civilized affair and staying or dining at a fine hotel was an occasion.

Around the turn of the last century, there were Planter Hotels in several cities. The hotels were locally owned and not linked.

But one Planter, the one in St. Louis, was linked with the Grand Hotel of Mackinac Island, Michigan, a noted hotel that still exists. That gives, for some collectors, a double dose of cachet to items identified with the Missouri hotel.

In hotel memorabilia, just about anything identified with the establishment is collected. Dining items at the top of the list include menus, linens, dinnerware, metal serving implements, serving pieces, and flatware. Goes without saying that items should bear the hotel name or logo.

Our reader does not say if the cocktail forks were intended for dining use or if they were made as souvenirs. Demand is different for spoons intended as souvenirs.

On http://www.worthpoint.com, we found that a single fancy spoon, clearly marked as a souvenir from the Planter Hotel St. Louis/Grand Hotel Michigan, sold for $25 on eBay in 2010.

But I'm thinking the reader has flatware, as souvenir utensils were usually decorative spoons. We also assume those forks are silver plate or an alloy.

Quite a few flatware manufacturers also made hotel grade flatware. Spoons, forks and knives for hotel dining tended to be larger in scale than those for home use. They were also sturdier and heavier, to survive heavy wear and many washings.

Our reader's target buyers are everywhere, including St. Louis. The best way to sell is online, because that's where motivated buyers for hotel memorabilia shop.

Sale results on worthpoint.com include $3 for a silver plate Manger Hotels dinner fork and $14.99 on eBay for three Spokane Hotel Forks. Another result on eBay was $20.50 for 13 plate cocktail forks and 10 demitasse spoons from the Hotel Chase in St. Louis.

To show how status drives prices, a set of Tiffany and Co. large hotel dinner forks with no hotel name or monogram brought $67.99. Four Plaza Hotel (New York) plate forks circa 1945 sold for $87.99.

Q: What can you tell me about this vase that belonged to my mother-in-law? It's at least 75 years old and in perfect condition.

A: First, thanks for the very clear image of the bottom mark. The mark IDs the vase as Czech, though it is clearly stamped "Austria."

Smart collectors know that old Austria once incorporated what was called Bohemia. Post war, the area became what is now the Czech Republic plus Slovakia, Slovenia, and more. Before WW II, factories and studios throughout the region produced quantities of porcelains made for export.

An RH in the mark is for the Robert Hanke porcelain factory, established in 1882. The factory closed in 1945. A series of marks used throughout the period point to changing political situations, and that explains the Austria mark.

On http://www.liveauctioneers.com, we found similar vases sold at auction for about $35 and up. All sold for under $100. Many were made, and they are relatively plentiful.

AUCTION ACTION: A figural hilt presentation sword given to Major General Ambrose E. Burnside by the United States Sanitary Commission (USSC) that sold for $271,000 recently at Bonhams San Francisco was presented at the New York Metropolitan Fair in 1864.

One of a well-known group of swords given to prominent Union soldiers and sailors by the USSC, the blade came to auction through the family of Burnside's aide-de-camp.

COLLECTOR QUIZ

Q: Who was the wealthy Chicago industrialist who bought a California island sight unseen in 1919 and founded a tile plant whose products are celebrated to this day?

A: It was William Wrigley Jr., chewing gum czar and owner of the Chicago Cubs. Using clay and minerals found on Santa Catalina Island (his purchase), Wrigley's tile factory grew to become the Catalina Clay Products Company. Source: "Catalina Island Pottery and Tile 1927-1937: 2nd Edition," by Carole Coates (Schiffer, $39.99).

(Danielle Arnet welcomes questions from readers. She cannot respond to each one individually, but will answer those of general interest in her column. Send e-mail to smartcollector@comcast.net or write Danielle Arnet, c/o Tribune Media Services, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 1400, Chicago, IL 60611. Please include an address in your query. Photos cannot be returned.)