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Dear John: I have two paintings my wife, now deceased, inherited from her parents. My wife’s parents told her they purchased the paintings from Mr. Bierhals when they both lived in New Jersey. Mr. Bierhals lived in Tenafly, whild my in-laws in nearby Ridgefield. They are signed “O Bierhals” on the landscape of a path in the woods and “A Bierhals” on the still life of the vase of roses.
Both are also signed on the back. I believe, based on their history in my wife’s family, that they are authentic Bierhals. I would be interested, if they are indeed authentic, in your opinion of their value and advice regarding who to contact for a possible sale. — J.L.H., Beverly Hills
Dear J.L.H.: Otto Bierhals, 1879-1944, produced a large body of works — landscapes, figurals, still life florals, and illustrations for paperback novels. His oil on canvas paintings have sold in the $300 to $3,000 range.
Within the artist’s oeuvre, the two you have are low on the totem pole of market interest. I think it would be better to hold on to them for now. Potential dollar value in my opinion is less than $500 each.
Dear John: I never wrote a Dear John letter before, but I think your mystery farm tool is a corn planter. The arm to the side weighted; the funnel closed while you stuck the point into freshly plowed ground. Then you pulled a string, which was attached to the arm, releasing one to three kernels of corn as you removed the tool from the dirt. Pull the tool up, repeat a foot further down the row, and repeat the process. — R.S., Hernando
Dear R.S.: Well, there is a first time for everything. I am glad you wrote. I suspect you used the planter in your youth.
Dear John: I have a couple of boxes of books that belonged to my dad and his older brother back when they were 8 to 12 years old. They are 78 and 80 now.
The books are a miscellaneous collection of fiction, “Terry and the Pirates vs. The Dragon Lady” for example. They are cheap hardbounds. I was just wondering if they might be worth anything or how I could find out. I hate to just toss them. — T.L., Internet
Dear John: I have the platter in the attached picture. My great aunt brought it over from England early in the last century. It has always been used for Thanksgiving turkey as long as I can remember.
It is 13 inches wide and 16 1/2 inches long. It has several very definite marks on the underside. In a circle within a circle it says C&W; inside the inner circle is a figure of a kneeling man on a block with “1790” on it, and underneath the circle it says Late Mayer.
There is also a diamond-shaped mark separated into sections, I have sent a picture, since it is quite complicated.
I am not interested in selling it, but would like to know when and where it was made. I always enjoy reading your articles. Thank you for any information you can give me. — R.R., Internet
Dear R.R.: You have a very attractive platter. The condition appears to be excellent, a testimonial to the care it has had over a century of use.
The platter was made in England. Your photographs are good and the backstamp is quite visible. The diamond shape mark is a design registration mark. The letters “Rd” in the center stand for registration design; the Roman numeral at the top indicates ceramics: the letter K is the date letter for 1883; the letter G is the month February; and the number 20 is the day of the month.
I was not able to find a listing for the maker’s mark. The pattern is Japan. Potential dollar value is $100 to $200.
Dear T.L.: There is some interest in the books you have. I suggest you contact the Florida Antiquarian Booksellers. The website is www.floridabooksellers.com. Good luck.
John Sikorski has been a professional in the antiques business for 30 years. He hosts a call-in radio show, Sikorski’s Attic, on WJUF (90.1 FM) Saturdays from noon to 1 p.m. Send questions to Sikorski’s Attic, P.O. Box 2513, Ocala, FL 34478 or firstname.lastname@example.org.