Q: We found these items after my father passed away. I know that two are powder horns. Can you give us any info on the rest of the stuff?
A: Maine auctioneer Jim Julia of Julia Auctions (http://www.juliaauctions.com) sells major firearms twice yearly. In the March 2008 auction (at the height of the market), a Julia firearms sale realized $12.7 million. There, a Colt Walker pistol with powder flask brought $920,000, an auction record for a single firearm. In short, Julia and his staff know guns and weapons, accessories, advertising and everything collectible about firearms.
Of the four objects seen, two are made of cow horn. One is a short-handled horn spoon. The other is a small, shallow oval dish with high sides. The other pieces are a powder pouch and powder horn.
Smart collectors know that powder horns, pouches and flasks are avidly collected. Some early gunpowder horns are works of art that bring serious money.
According to Julia, almost any engraved early horn will bring "a few hundred dollars." He has sold horns with very artistic engraving and/or verifiable history for up to $50,000 and more.
Artistic carving was done in different techniques, even scrimshaw, on horns of all kinds. Key "engraved powder horns" on http://www.liveauctioneers.com to see examples and sale results.
The reader's horn with a leather thong attached contained gunpowder used to charge the user's shotgun. The pear-shaped leather pouch held birdshot. The long brass nozzle on the pouch served as a measuring device, guaranteeing that enough birdshot was meted out for each round. The cow horn dish and spoon were carried by the hunter in a leather necessities bag that kept equipment together while hunting.
On the plus side, the reader's items are old and in good condition. But they are not rare, as every hunter had at least one set of similar equipment. The tip of the horn once had a wooden peg, now missing. Most significantly, there is no artistic decoration on any item.
"Because there is no particular artistic decoration on any of the items, there is no great demand or appeal to the collecting community," says Julia.
Smart collectors know that collecting involves all sorts of wild cards: Here's a perfect example. Yes, the items are old. Yes, they are in good condition. But they are not what collectors want, and that affects value.
"Had the horn been engraved with decorative designs or the owner's name and date, etc., it would have changed value of this collection significantly," he added.
Julia places retail value for the four pieces at $200 to 400.
Q: Are my four figurines original Meissen or fakes? I bought two at an estate sale. The others belonged to a family member.
A: The reader no doubt asks because images sent show a bottom mark intended to (somewhat) resemble the fabled crossed swords of the Royal Porcelain Manufactory in Meissen, Germany. The mark was first used in 1725.
The figures are not Meissen. We cannot call them fakes or forgeries, because they in no way resemble true Meissen. Nor does the mark. We've said it here before: Meissen's crossed swords and the Royal Vienna beehive mark are the most copied marks on porcelains.
From the look of the mark and figures, I suspect they are Made in Japan products from the rebuilding of that country.
I suggest that our reader check her local library for "The Book of Meissen" by Robert Rontgen to view the real thing and authentic marks.
AUCTION ACTION: When a letter written by George Washington to his wartime aide in December 1783 sold for $362,500 recently at Doyle New York, it set an auction record for a one-page Washington letter. In it, Washington expresses his intent to resign his command and "get translated to a private citizen." Written following the British evacuation of New York, the letter was bought by a private collector.