Kovel’s Antiques and Collecting: Playing Cards Once Considered a Sin | Lifestyles

Playing cards allow you to have fun in all innocence: a game with friends, a magic trick to amuse a child, a game of solitaire to spend time alone. So what the heck is doing here?

This novelty pitcher made by Royal Bayreuth circa 1930 has a body that resembles playing cards and has a smiling devil figure for a handle. It sold for $250 at a Potter & Potter auction.

In the past, playing cards were considered a sin, whether associated with gambling, divination, or simply idle frivolity. (Do those friendly games, magic tricks or solitaire sessions seem any less innocent now?) Many of their earliest mentions in European history come from their banning.

In 1890, Mrs. John King Van Rensselaer published a book on the history of playing cards called The Devil’s Picture-Books, after a Puritan name for cards. According to an anecdote in the book, sailors from Columbus brought decks of cards with them on their voyage across the Atlantic Ocean, but threw them overboard out of superstitious fear in bad weather. After the ships landed safely, the crew crafted new cards from tree leaves. Later, even the Puritans endorsed certain card games if they had educational themes. Viewing playing cards as a sin does not eliminate their appeal. In some cases, it can even help.

Q: I have seen different types of maple furniture, such as “bird’s eye maple”, “striped maple” and others. What are the differences? Do they come from different varieties of trees? Do they affect the value or quality of the furniture?

A: Maple is a strong, sturdy wood that is popular for furniture. Figured maple has natural variations in its grain pattern. The cause of these variations is not known, but environmental factors such as climate, soil type, tree disease and injury may contribute. Birdseye maple and tiger maple are two types of these patterns. Others include spalted and quilted maple. Tiger maple is also known as curly maple. Figuration does not mean lesser quality wood; in fact, figured maple is especially sought after for decorative pieces like furniture, crafts, and musical instruments. Since the 19th century, woods and other inexpensive materials have been painted to mimic grain patterns, and naturally patterned wood adds to the value of a room.

Q: In the early 1980s, a nurse in Qatar gave me this coffee set as a gift to provide medical supplies for her hospital. I was told it came from Anwar Sadat’s palace. It has been a treasure to me and is in excellent condition. It is very heavy and made of brass. It engraved flowers with vines and calligraphy on the bottom. I’ve never used it for coffee and I keep it polished. Can you tell me something about this type of coffee service?

A: Your coffee service includes a traditional Arabic coffee pot called a dallah. Sets like yours are used for celebrations and social functions and are symbols of hospitality in the Middle East. Dallahs are used on coins and watermarks for currency. In Doha, Qatar, there is a giant dallah sculpture which is considered a sign of welcome to visitors, extending the hospitality with a cup of qahwa (coffee beans boiled with spices, often cardamom) . The coffee is served in small cups without a handle and may have a zarf (a metal holder) so that you can comfortably hold the hot drink. Sets can be crafted from many types of metals and are crafted from 24k gold for royalty. Documents confirming his provenance (history) would be needed to prove any connection to Anwar Sadat in Egypt. It could be very valuable if it belonged to Sadat.

Q: How do I know what Hummel figurines and plates are worth? Thank you and have a nice day!

A: The German factory FW Goebel started making Hummel figurines in 1935 using the art of Berta Hummel (Sister Maria Innocentia) aka MI Hummel. The figurines attracted collectors but did not gain international attention until after World War II. American soldiers were stationed in Germany after the war and sent the small figures home as gifts. The first Hummels are the most requested.

For more information on the value of your Hummels, visit www.mihummel.com or contact the Hummel Collectors Facebook group (www.facebook.com/groups/309054562836977.

TIP: Don’t use the popular aluminum foil and baking soda system to clean antique silver. It leaves the silver with an unwanted pewter color.

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