Photo Credit: Tsadik Kaplan

Dear Tsadik,

This Esther scroll was gifted to me by a congregant who hails from Bombay. The case looks to me like silver. The parchment is very thin. It has Sefardi k’sav with color illustration. The height of the scroll itself is 2½ inches. Can you tell me its approximate value? Thanks so much.

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A Reader
Ellenville, NY

Dear Reader,

What a wonderful gift! Indeed, your Esther scroll does come from Bombay, and the case is silver. Generally, Esther scroll cases with angular handles like your example has are described as hailing either from Bombay or Baghdad because it is nearly impossible to differentiate the manufacturing techniques of these types of handles, with their accompanying tubular cases, from those two areas, as they appear too similar. So it is truly remarkable that you, with certainty, know it to be from Bombay.

Both the scroll and case were made sometime during the late 19th or very early 20th century. Now, as to the height of the scroll: The dimensions you gave make your Esther scroll a “miniature. “There is a subset of collectors of Hebrew books and manuscripts who are passionate about anything written in a very small size, so this helps in the desirability of your item. Finally, your scroll is not simply a scroll that states the Purim story, but it is beautifully decorated with floral bar borders between each column of text, as well as running bands of flora on the top and bottom of the scroll.

You have all the “bells and whistles” that a collector could want in a miniature Esther scroll with case from a Sephardic community. Therefore, the value is substantial. In a specialized auction, the estimate given for your item would be no less than $8,000-$12,000. I would expect it to sell at the high end of that estimate, and would not be surprised if it would surpass it; it all depends how many people in this area of collecting would see it and realize what a fine example it is.

I strongly recommend you get a letter that is notarized from the person who gave this to you, detailing how and where he acquired it, as it would strengthen the provenance of it coming from Bombay, which would in turn strengthen its value.

If your scroll was not decorated, and was just a standard Esther scroll in miniature size with the same silver case from Bombay, an auction estimate would be $3,000-$5,000.

Best,
Tsadik

 

Dear Tsadik,

We received this becher as a wedding gift 47 years ago. It is 2½ inches tall. The stamp states 1894. What are the origins? Thank you.

Eli Tisser
Brooklyn, NY

Dear Eli,

Your cup was made in Russia in 1894. It was made for a general audience, not exclusively Jewish, and these were made in a variety of sizes, from a very small “shot cup” size to larger and larger. These types of cups, lightly decorated with engravings of houses and flowers, were made in enormous quantities. Based on the size, which is larger than the shot cup size, the value is $30-$40.

Best,
Tsadik

 

Dear Tsadik,

This ancient lamp was purchased in the shuk in Israel about 30-35 years ago by my mother. She was hoping you can guide her with some information about it. Our thanks in advance.

Effy Landsberg
Brooklyn, NY

Dear Effy,

Your lamp is not ancient. It is a solid brass lamp that was hung above the dining room table in Jewish homes in Germany, and on Friday evening, would be lit for Shabbat. It is known as a judenstern. Apparently, every religiously observant Jewish home in Germany had one of these, and surprisingly, they have survived in tremendous amounts; even examples dating to the 18th century are quite commonplace. Your example dates to the late 19th century, possibly early 20th century. Because of the aforementioned quantity of these judensterns surviving, coupled with a rather sluggish collector market for them, your example sells in the $200-$300 range.

Best,
Tsadik

 

Dear Tsadik,

Attached is a picture of a beautiful Mizrach, 13” x 17”, professionally framed. It was in my parents’ home. It is at least 70 years old. Please let me know its value should I decide to sell it. Thank you.

S.
Teaneck, NJ

Dear S.,

Your Mizrach is indeed beautiful, with depictions of Moshe and Aharon, symbols of The Twelve Tribes, and more. It was printed in Germany during the early 20th century. These Mizrachs were issued in huge amounts, and a great deal were sent to the United States to be commercially sold. Many examples have survived today in very nice condition (passed down in American households, like yours), and when an example appears in the marketplace, it sells for between $100 and $200, depending on the condition. That generally means how bright and vibrant the colors are – as opposed to somewhat faded, which unfortunately, is what yours appears to be.

Best,
Tsadik

 

Dear Tsadik,

Can you tell me anything about this menorah?

Lillian Ciment
Brooklyn, NY

Dear Lillian,

Your Chanukah menorah is one of a vast number of types of examples made in heavy brass that originated in Poland and the Ukraine. These menorahs were made by a process known as “sand casting” and were cast repeatedly, spanning from the 18th century until the early 20th century. Generally, the heavier and more finely cast the menorah, the earlier the date of manufacture. Based on the photo you sent me, your piece dates to about 1900.

The collector market for your menorah and other similar pieces is based almost entirely on age. Eighteenth-century examples are always desirable, as these are from the first generations of castings. From the mid-19th century onward, the market shrinks rapidly collector-wise, as many examples are to be found from that era, and consequently, the value drops significantly. Value: $500-$700.

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.