Q: Any info on our carved wooden washboard? Basically it's styled after the old-fashioned metal washboards, but is carved out of a solid piece of wood, with carved "ribs" running crosswise for scrubbing. It has a little "foot" on the back that is not an addition, but part of the original wood. I thought possibly it was an American Indian artifact.
A: As seen in images sent, the reader has a wooden rectangular dish with flared raised sides about an inch high. The top side is arched.
We shared the images with several specialists in American primitives, but not one could ID the exact form or purpose. They did acknowledge that the piece is handmade and possibly unique, but. . .
Here's the thing about early wooden objects. Some made for the home, such as for eating, drinking, or utility use, are prized. Early wooden bowls can, depending on type and origin, also sell high. But there's a wide gulf in quality in what's out there.
Smart collectors know that in this genre, there's a difference between pieces that a connoisseur and/or serious collector consider important vs. interesting objects. Serious money goes to the first.
The generic term "treen" is used for old lathe-turned and/or carved wooden items. The finest, especially early British Isles household cups, spoons, mortars and pestles, salts and spice containers, jars and more, reflect a turner's skill. With hand carving and lathe turning lost arts, significant historic examples are sought after.
Patination is vital. Good treen has a rich feel and color, achieved only with age.
A majority of treen sells in Great Britain. Wherever it sells, the best brings higher prices. On http://www.artfact.com, we learned that this summer in the U.S., a treen mortar and pestle brought $92 at auction in Vermont. A group of treen articles including a sewing case sold for $313 at Doyle New York.
Author of two books on burl treen, Steven S. Powers, of Brooklyn, NY, specializes in American folk art. Key his site, http://www.stevenspowers.com, to view treen, including Native American pieces.
He dates the reader's item to the early 1900s. Based on the form and raised ridges, he thinks it is some form of wash basin. It might be maple, but the exact wood is hard to determine due to extensive wear and exposure to water. There is no patination. Country of origin: indeterminate.
Bottom line, while the basin is interesting, it's not a collector piece. Value is as a decorative item, around $100-$150.
Q: My beer stein is from the men's club bar at Detroit GM headquarters. Any value?
A: An image sent shows a white ceramic tall mug with handle, decorated with a blue GMMC logo and "General Motors Men's Club." It is not a stein.
Founded in 1933 along with other GM clubs, the organization was created to promote friendliness and good will among members. Charity was another goal. In 2007, an online store with logo items opened for club members. Several years later, the group became Club General Motors.
In 1967, GMMC introduced a set of glasses with the club logo. Sale profits went to charities.
We found a set of the logo bar glasses posted on eBay starting at $19.99. There are no sale records for mugs. Value is whatever you can get.
AUCTION ACTION: Sports championship jewelry is a hot category for deep-pocket collectors. When George "The Iceman" Gervin's 2005 San Antonio Spurs NBA Championship ring came up for sale in a Grey Flannel auction, it realized $54,000. Bernardo Harris' 1996 Green Bay Packers Super Bowl Championship player's ring with diamonds sold for $45,000. In all, the sale grossed more than $1 mill.
Which of the following is NOT a desirable characteristic in old treen?
Concave base on the inside bottom of footed cup.
Definition in pole lathe tooling marks.
A painted design on the surface.
A: Having a spotty surface is not a deadly flaw, but it is one sign of new treen. Colored wax is often used by fakers. Source: "Treen for the Table," by Jonathan Levi (Antique Collectors' Club, pub. 1998).
(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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.)