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This pyramid-shaped tin lithographed can is hand-soldered. It probably was made before 1940. It sold for $4,830 at a William Morford auction in Cazenovia, N.Y., in March.

Kovels Antiques & Collecting: Week of June 16, 2014

This pyramid-shaped tin lithographed can is hand-soldered. It probably was made before 1940. It sold for $4,830 at a William Morford auction in Cazenovia, N.Y., in March.
This pyramid-shaped tin lithographed can is hand-soldered. It probably was made before 1940. It sold for $4,830 at a William Morford auction in Cazenovia, N.Y., in March.

BEACHWOOD, Ohio – Vintage motor oil cans are popular among men. There is very little information available about the cans, but there’s a lot about the companies that made the oil. So it’s easy to date a can by its logo and style, which makes it easy to find great early examples.

The tin can was invented in 1810 to hold food for Napoleon’s army. Cans were made by hand in the early 19th century. About six could be made by one man in an hour. By 1900 the main products stored in tin cans were food and petroleum products. Cans made around the turn of the 20th century had a soldered seam on the side that looks like a gray strip.

Cardboard cans were introduced in the 1940s but were widely used from the 1950s to the 1980s. The first soft drink aluminum cans were used in 1953. The first aluminum cans for motor oil were made in 1958. The square cardboard quart oil can came into use in the 1960s.

Most popular with collectors are the quart size, then the gallon, then the 5-gallon, and it does not matter if the can is full or empty.

An unusual Marathon motor oil container sold in 2014 at a William Morford auction. It’s shaped and decorated to look like an oil well. The 15-inch-high can has the brand’s “Running Man” logo, a silhouette of an ancient Greek runner and the slogan “Best in the long run.” The logo dates back to the 1920s, but the brand was purchased by the Ohio Oil Co. in 1930.

Q: I have a New York Mets pennant from the 1969 World Series. It’s red with white and blue lettering that reads “New York Mets, 1969 National League Champions.” It has the Mets logo, Mr. Met, and the words “World Series.” The last names of all the players and the manager are listed. The pennant is in good condition. What is it worth?

A: The New York Mets was an expansion team that ended up in last place in 1962, its inaugural season, and second to last the following seasons until 1969, when they clinched the National League pennant. The “Miracle Mets” upset the Baltimore Orioles and won the World Series that year, too. Mets pennants like yours in good condition sell for about $50 to $100.

Q: We have a Fleischmann’s model steam engine that’s 9 1/2 inches tall. It’s in a box marked “Fleischmann 105/1” and “Western Germany.” There also are operating instructions. We can’t find a date or any other information, but it seems to be an old toy. Can you give us any information about this model?

A: Jean Fleischmann founded his toy company in 1877 in Nuremburg, Germany. The company began making steam toys after World War II. Model steam engines were made to power model trains and other toys. Fleischmann was taken over by Modelleisenbahn (Model Railways) in 2008 but continues as a separate brand. Your model steam engine was made between about 1950 and 1964. The steam engine sells for under $50.

Q: My small Victorian parlor table is made of oak. It has a shaped top and intricately turned legs and four little claw feet, each holding a little glass ball. I cannot find a mark or label. What would the table sell for today?

A: Those glass ball-and-claw feet were popular during the late Victorian Golden Oak period of furniture-making. If your table is in excellent condition, it could sell for $300 or more.

Q: I have a deck of playing cards with pictures of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, and his henchmen. The joker lists the ranks of Iraqi military next to ranks of the U.S. military. Can you tell me anything about these cards and their value?

A: A set of “personality identification playing cards” like yours was developed in 2003 to help members of the U.S. military identify “wanted” Iraqi government officials and party chairmen. Each card had the person’s picture, if available, his or her last known location, and their government or committee position. High-ranking officials were pictured on the aces and face cards, and less important people on low-number cards. Saddam Hussein was pictured on the highest-ranking card, the ace of spades. The day the deck of cards was announced, an enterprising civilian downloaded the images from the U.S. Department of Defense website and offered them for sale on eBay. Soon other people also were selling the cards. Decks of Iraqi Most Wanted Playing Cards have sold online for $5 or less.

Q: In the 1970s, I was a salesman for Wilson’s tennis equipment. I recently uncovered long-forgotten boxes of unused tennis rackets from the days when Wilson was far and away the leading manufacturer of rackets. The rackets are in perfect condition. Most of them have never been strung and most also come with a cover. Is there a market for these?

A: There is a market for vintage tennis rackets, although competitive players would never use them today – technology has improved rackets too much. You should contact a dealer or auctioneer who specializes in sports collectibles. And organize your collection and any related printed material to prove the age of each model. It is likely that a single racket could sell for $25 to $50.

Tip: Check wires and screw eyes before hanging an old picture.

Take advantage of a free listing for your group to announce events or to find antique shows, national meetings and other events. Go to the Calendar at to find, publicize and plan your antiquing trips.

Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel answer questions sent to the column. By sending a letter with a question, you give full permission for use in the column or any other Kovel forum. Names, addresses or email addresses will not be published. We cannot guarantee the return of photographs, but if a stamped envelope is included, we will try. The amount of mail makes personal answers or appraisals impossible. Write to Kovels, Auction Central News, King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019.


Current prices are recorded from antiques shows, flea markets, sales and auctions throughout the United States. Prices vary in different locations because of local economic conditions.

  • Postcard, “To Dear Dad,” flowers, anchor, embossed, 1908 postmark, $5.
  • Factory wheel tool, six spokes, wood, metal, Gifford Wood Co., Hudson, N.Y., circa 1900, 40 inches, $20.
  • Accordion, metal, cutout design, ivory keys, side strap handles, Alfred L. Fischer, case, 1950s, $70.
  • Cuff links, oval, mother-of-pearl, 10K gold, 3/4 inches, $120.
  • Teplitz pottery pitcher, applied dragon handle, berries, impressed Amphora mark, Austria, circa 1900, 11 inches, $270.
  • Shaving mug, occupational, cooper, man standing with barrel, gilt lettering, Haviland, stamped CFH/GDM, 1800s, 3 1/4 inches, $330.
  • Victorian chair, griffin-shaped arms, carved front legs, grotesque masks, shaped top rail, upholstered, late 1800s, 53 x 27 inches, $425.
  • Radiator cap topped by Indian hood ornament, headdress, thermometer, metal, H. Briand, Paris, circa 1930, 6 inches, $900.
  • Napoleon figurine, wearing coronation robes, porcelain, Scheibe-Alsbach mark, Germany, circa 1945, 14 inches, $1,000.
  • Cigar store Indian, standing, zinc, multicolor paint, William Demuth & Co., circa 1859, 65 inches, $2,070.

Contemporary, modern and mid-century ceramics made since 1950 are among the hottest collectibles today. Our special report, “Kovels’ Buyers’ Guide to Modern Ceramics: Mid-Century to Contemporary,” identifies important pottery by American and European makers. Includes more than 65 factories and 70 studio artists, each with a mark and dates. Works by major makers including Claude Conover, Guido Gambone, Lucie Rie, as well as potteries like Gustavsberg, Metlox and Sascha Brastoff, are shown in color photos. Find the “sleepers” at house sales and flea markets. Special Report, 8 1/2 x 5 1/2 inches, 64 pp. Available only from Kovels for $19.95 plus $4.95 postage and handling. Order by phone at 800-303-1996; online at; or mail to Kovels, Box 22900, Beachwood, OH 44122.

© 2014 by Cowles Syndicate Inc.


This pyramid-shaped tin lithographed can is hand-soldered. It probably was made before 1940. It sold for $4,830 at a William Morford auction in Cazenovia, N.Y., in March.
This pyramid-shaped tin lithographed can is hand-soldered. It probably was made before 1940. It sold for $4,830 at a William Morford auction in Cazenovia, N.Y., in March.