Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Dear Tsadik,

Do you know anything about this item? We think it’s from the earlier part of the 20th century and that the material is linen. Thanks.

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B. Katz
Balitmore, MD

 

Dear B.,

I have seen a number of these Hebrew letter eye charts over the years, both in cotton and linen. The cotton examples are made in a modern method, and upon handling them in person, I am of the opinion that they date to no earlier than the 1970s. The linen examples are something else entirely. When one first appeared on the auction market in 1996, it sold for an astounding $8,750. Since then, more and more examples have appeared at auction in varying conditions (pin holes at the corners, stains, etc.), with the most recent auction examples selling in the range of $450-$1,200.

Having handled linen examples as well, I believe yours is a legitimate, pre-World War II-made item, likely dating to the 1920s. The final five rows of Hebrew letters are actually Yiddish words that read “Sol Haber / Printer / Type-Binder / South Street/ Philadelphia / PA.” As a promotional item for Mr. Haber, this fits in with other types of promotional items small Jewish business owners used in New York during this era, such as pocket watches, shoehorns, letter openers, etc.

Your linen example appears to be in perfect condition. In today’s market, your eye chart would sell for $800-$1,000.

Best,
Tsadik

 

 

Dear Tsadik,

I am sending you some pictures of a chanukiah I was given over 40 years ago for my bar mitzvah by an Australian couple who were in the antiques trade. I believe it’s handmade. Can you tell me anything about its origin and perhaps some idea of its value?

Joel Marks
Jerusalem, Israel

 

Dear Joel,

First, your brass chanukiah is not handmade; different parts were cast and then fitted together. Your chanukiah is something of a puzzle to me: While the arms are of the form that are found on a wide array of chanukiot that hail from the Netherlands and date to the first quarter of the 20th century, the large leaf decoration by the base is quite German and is found on German chanukiot that are late 19th to early 20th century in manufacture. The candle holders are very odd in shape and decoration, especially the servant light. After looking at your photos closely, the details in the casting, especially the leaves, are quite weak and soft. Beginning in the 1950s in England, all sorts of brass and chrome-plated metal chanukiot were made, with many of them being in the Dutch or German style.

I believe your chanukiah is such an example when I put everything I see together – especially the casting quality, as that points to a low standard that was uncommon in pre-war Europe. As a post-war made example, your chanukiah has a value of $25-$50. However, I have not inspected your piece in person, and there is a chance I could be mistaken and that you do indeed have a pre-war-made Dutch or German chanukiah. If that is the case, the value would be $200-$300.

Best,
Tsadik

 

 

Dear Tsadik,

Attached are photos of some items whose value I would like to know. The siddur from Hebrew Publishing has no printing date to be found. Thanks for your help.

Herman Lurie
Boynton Beach, FL

 

Dear Herman,

While the prayer book itself was printed on the Lower East Side of New York around 1920 and is of no monetary value (just spiritual!), the decorative covers were made in Vienna, Austria, around the same time as the printing of the siddur. The outer white strips are made of celluloid, while the cut and pierced white pieces featuring designs of flowers are made of bone.

Before the advent of the Internet, Jewish prayer book covers like yours were considered a respectable mid-level collectible; they were displayed in antique shops and sold with ease. However, with the rise of Internet auctions over the past 20 years, it is now known that these covers from Vienna were made in tremendous numbers and are readily available. Unfortunately, your example is missing the center decoration of luchos, which would have been in brass (if you look closely, you can still see the imprint of them on the black cloth backing). If they were still there, your siddur would be worth $50-$75; with them lost, perhaps $20.

As for the ceramic wine decanter with Hebrew writing that states it is for kiddush, this is a new copy of a late 19th century example found in the collection of the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam. This is a popular item that is offered all over Europe and Israel, notably in museum gift shops that tourists frequent. On the secondhand market, it sells for $50-$100.

Best,
Tsadik

 

 

Dear Tsadik,

Attached is a photo of a menorah that has been in my husband’s family a long time. If you can tell what year it’s from and the value, I would love to know.

B. Rebhun
Monsey, NY

 

Dear B.,

Indeed your chanukiah has been in your husband’s family a long time – quite likely well over 100 years. I instantly recognized your piece as a classic Gothic example, as these are referred to in the field of antique Judaica, due to its backplate in the form of a Gothic edifice, a style of architecture that in this country we most associate with churches.

Your chanukiah is from Austria, and based on the photos of the silver hallmarks you sent me, was made between 1867 and 1872, most likely in Vienna. The center image of the luchos is typical of mid and late 19th century chanukiot from Austria, and is often flanked by inwardly facing lions. Your example has lions located on the bottom edges of the backplate, and they are facing outward, which is unusual. The detail in the fruit clusters is sharp and crisp, and it appears your chanukiah is in immaculate condition and retains the original servant light. Value: $4,000-$6,000.

Best,
Tsadik

 

 

Dear Tsadik,

I’m sending you pictures of two of our Chanukah menorahs from our collection. One I think is an original Bezalel with a missing leg and shamas. The other I think is from the 50s. Can you tell me their values?

Roberta Strauchler
West Orange, NJ

 

Dear Roberta,

Yes, you do have an original Bezalel School-made chanukiah dating to the 1920s. The lack of servant light is to be expected, but the missing leg does affect the value. If your piece had all four legs, in today’s market it would be worth $300-$400; with the missing leg, perhaps half that.

Your other chanukiah was made in Israel during the late 1950s or 60s. It has an unusual gunmetal gray color, and retains the kind of patina collectors of Israeli metal menorahs desire. For your complete three-piece set of chanukiah, oil pitcher, and servant light, the value is $150-$250. Do not ever polish it!

Best,
Tsadik

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Tsadik Kaplan is a collector, certified appraiser, and speaker/lecturer on the topic of Judaica. He is the author of the book “Jewish Antiques: From Menorahs to Seltzer Bottles” (Schiffer Publishing). For questions or comments – or to send pictures of your Judaica for future columns – email tsadik613@gmail.com.
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