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What's Selling on eBay: January 2016

What's Selling on eBay: January 2016

by Deborah Abernethy and Mike McLeod
Overall appraiser notes: in making evaluations concerning the relative prudence of monetary decisions involving collecting, it comes to mind that collectors are usually different and make decisions based on emotional rather than fiduciary concerns.
$5,850 (51 bids, 11 bidders): DuPont Eagle Gun Powder Round Tin Hunting Wilmington Delaware.
Just acquired from a fine doctor’s estate, offering a quite early and rare gunpowder tin: DuPont Eagle Gun Powder Wilmington Delaware. Approximately 5.25 inches tall x 3 inches in diameter with all that wonderful original paper label and lid intact! For its age, it does not get much better, maybe 18th century or early 19th.
(Photo: eBay seller pulledahammy.)

This is the highest price that I have seen for a gunpowder tin. However, this tin is in unusually good condition. Many of these tins were simply discarded after use.
The DuPont Company was established in 1802 in Wilmington, DE, and for many years, only manufactured gunpowder. During wartime, the United States Government was a major customer. The company marketed to hunters during peacetime. DuPont moved the focus of their business to chemical innovations in the early 20th century.
The slogan for the Eagle brand powder was: “Matchless for its power, strong, swift and fatal, as the bird it bore.” At a time when advertising was not brand conscious, the Eagle was one of the first used.
My belief is that this particular tin sold for so much more due to the DuPont branding, the Eagle advertising, and the overall condition of the tin. The most similar gunpowder tin that I could find sold for $1,000 at auction.
$2,146 (22 bids, 6 bidders): Vernis Martin & Solid Gold Bodkin/Needle Case, French, circa 1780.
This rare bodkin, or needle case, is carved of wood and at least 230 years old. The sides and ends have been hand painted with an elegant striped design. The paint has a few very small dings but no chips or serious loss. The center and both ends are mounted with embossed bands of solid 22kt gold (tested and guaranteed). They may be pure gold, but my testing acids only go up to 22kt. This style of painted and varnished decoration is known as Vernis Martin. It is a type of lacquer named for the French brothers Guillaume and Etienne-Simon Martin. Vernis Martin means “Martin varnish.”
The condition is excellent for a piece of this age and fragility. It has a natural shell tube in the center with lovely patterns, and the top slides over that. It measures 4 7/8 inches long.
(Photo: eBay seller elegant.arts.)

DBA: Needles were once very difficult and time-consuming to make and an important household tool. Containers would hold these valuable implements, and those boxes were frequently of exotic materials. This particular one has gold embellishments, and that feature could make the difference with a similar size and age case selling for $1,200 compared to $2,200.
Matches were another item that once had elaborate boxes to hold them because of their value and most useful purpose. Antique silver match safes are often seen and collected. Boxes of many types have been collected for years.
$6,783 (43 bids, 19 bidders): Antique Bitters Bottle Pineapple-Shaped Figural W & Co Bitters / Whiskey Bottle.
Here’s a nice bitters bottle circa 1870. It features an overall knobby pineapple design in a deep green color. The bottle measures 8.5 inches high x 3.75 inches in diameter. It is embossed on the front “W & Co. N.Y.” It’s in very good condition with no chips, cracks or repairs with some contents residue inside.
(Photo: eBay seller fanjab.)

DBA: Of all the collectible bottles, the bitters category seems to bring the highest money. Bitters were essentially herbs infused into alcohol and marketed as medicinal cures. These were expensive at the time and came in novel packaging including colors, shapes and “over the top” claims. The Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 ended this segment of the patent medicines business.
Comments about this particular bottle: the pineapple shape is a very desirable in that the facets catch the light and shine in a way that the rectangular ones can’t. This is an earlier bitters bottle with a pontil mark. The light green color is rare with the colors amber, brown or dark green more prevalent. Still, this is at the high end of pricing for the pineapple shape. I did find where an amber pineapple bottle was sold for $1,200 at auction in 2010.
I believe the record for a bitters bottle is $40,500 for a Kelly’s Old Cabin bitter bottle in light green color that sold in 2014. Bottles have always been collectible and I have seen prices rise for this segment of the market for years.
$4,251 (28 bids, 6 bidders): White Hall Pottery Works Birdhouse.
Selling an antique two-compartment Wren birdhouse that was made by the White Hall Pottery Works of White Hall Illinois. The piece is bottom marked. The piece is in excellent, mint condition. There are no chips, no cracks, no hairlines and no repairs. The piece is in two sections, the roof and the base. It still has the original threaded rod and nut to hold it together. It also has the wood piece to separate the two floors. It stands about 11 inches tall to the top of the rod holding the house together. The piece is unglazed pottery highlighted with brown Albany glaze between the brick pattern and on the windows, the base and roof. The roof section is about 10.5 inches in diameter. The top of the base has three air vents to keep the bird house ventilated. The round base has a diameter of 8 inches. At the bottom edge of the base are three holes for fastening the birdhouse to a wood post. They are intact and not broken out. Looks as if the piece has never been used or used very little. I have an original brochure from White Hall Pottery Works describing these as a Terra Cotta Wren House. New, they cost $4.50.
(Photo: eBay seller ajiaco.)

DBA: White Hall is a town in central Illinois where the clay for stoneware and pottery production is particularly fine. Many potteries were established there, and the pottery/stoneware from those businesses has become very collectible. The White Hall Pottery Works was one of the more successful potteries, and the fact that there is an
original brochure showing this particular birdhouse with an original price of $4.50 makes it more desirable. This birdhouse has several features making it different from other White Hall birdhouses: it has two stories built into the design along with air vents making it particularly comfortable for the birds. It appears to not have been used outside. I was not able to find a similar birdhouse offered for sale. I did find a White Hall (one story with a detachable roof) bird house which sold for $200.
Deborah Abernethy is a certified appraiser with the International Association of Appraisers.  She can be contacted at 404-262-2131 or Her website is

What’s Selling on eBay: January 2016