Q: I have several pieces of china made for the New York Central Lines in Syracuse. Whom can I contact about current values?
— Patricia, Fowlerville, MI
A: Douglas McIntyre is the author of “The Official Guide to Railroad Dining Car China,” one of the better reference books in this field. Since it is an expensive book, try to request a copy through your regional public library. Robert D’Archille is a serious collector who also might be helpful. His address is 3972 NY Route 26, Whitney Point, NY 13862.
Q: I recently purchased some glassware from a neighbor, including some stunning pieces of Steuben, Lalique and Boehm. I got the items at such a reasonable price that I wonder if I should simply hold on to them until economic conditions improve.
— Betty, Waco, Texas
A: You might begin by purchasing some of the better price guides. I especially like the Warman guides published by Krause, since they are easy to use and I think accurately reflect marketplace values. You also should find a dealer you trust for advice.
Q: I have a full set of Russel Wright dinnerware in the American modern. I love the simplicity of the pattern, and I’d like to know a little more about the company. — Susan, Batavia, IL
A: Russel Wright was one of America’s most creative industrial designers and was instrumental in creating several lines of dinnerware, glassware and aluminum items. All are extremely popular with collectors. The “American Modern” pattern was manufactured at the Steubenville Pottery Company in 1939 and production continued until about 1959. Pieces of this pattern in White, Bean brown, Cantaloupe and Glacier Blue are especially desirable. Typical prices are mug, $50; coffee pot, $150; refrigerator jar, $160; and 10-inch dinner plate, $10. If any are in the colors mentioned earlier, values would double.
Q: I have 12 postcards from the New York World’s Fair of 1939. What would they be worth? — Josie, Ormond Beach, FL
A: There were millions of postcards printed and sold during the fair. Most sets sell in the $15 to $25 range, depending on quality and views.
Q: My great-granddad was from Italy and a great opera lover. When he immigrated to the United States, he brought along about three dozen recordings, including two Zonophone discs by Enrico Caruso. I read in one of your recent columns that Caruso’s American Victor Real Seal recordings are fairly common and not worth that much. What about the Zonophones?
— A Reader in Kissimmee, FL
A: You are correct about the Caruso Red Seals. Most sell in the $5–$25 range, pending on rarity and condition.
Caruso, probably the most legendary classical tenor who ever lived, was born in Naples in 1873. He made his operatic debut in 1894 and after establishing his singing chops in Europe, arrived in the United States in 1902 where he began a long association with the New York Metropolitan Opera. His first major recording in the U.S. was “Vesti La Glubba” from “I Pagliacci,” cut in 1904 at the Victor studios. It charted as the best-selling recording in the country that May.
Caruso made only a few Zonophone recordings. Since they are scarce, they also are expensive. Several have sold in the $5,000 to $10,000 range. Someone who might be able to advise you is Richard Gesner, owner of “The Music Connection,” one of the premier record shops in New England. You can contact him at 1711 South Willow St., Manchester, NH 03103.
Q: During the 1960s, I purchased a set of vanity license plates with the logo “Texaco.” I understand that my plates were one of a kind, and I would now like to sell them.
— Tom, Holly Hill, FL
A: License plates have become popular with collectors in recent years. Some of the earliest ones were made of porcelain and can now bring hundreds of dollars in the marketplace. Typical prices are a 1935 Colorado plate, $45; a 1915 Texas plate, $300; a 1939 New York plate, $35; and an Arizona solid-copper plate, $40.