A 4 1/2-inch-high heavy glass pyramid was in a recent house sale. It was inexpensive, but no one knew what it was used for. It was almost too heavy to lift, so it wouldn’t be a practical paperweight, but we bought it to display on a table with our obelisks.

A long search of pictures online revealed what it is … a “deck prism.” It was used to give extra light to parts of an antique sailing ship that were below the waterline.

The first deck prisms were used about 1840. Fire was the best source of light, but it also was very dangerous on a wooden ship, so oil, kerosene lamps and candles were avoided.

My prism was inserted upside down into a hole on the main deck. The glass pyramid point hung down and shed some light into the room below.

The base of the prism, now at the top, was set flush into the wooden deck. After a while, the caulking that held the glass would leak and the glass could chip, so the prism was carefully remounted and caulked.

In 1861, a patented threaded light that could be screwed into a metal frame was invented, so prisms lost favor. But reproductions in colored glass still are made and used, and old ones are collected. They usually sell for less than $50.

I have my great-grandfather’s accordion, a pre-1900 Hohner two-row button diatonic. It was appraised, and I was told it would fetch four figures. I’d love to keep it, but no one in my family wants it. It’s normal fifth scalar organization, 20 plus treble buttons and 12 bass buttons in very good condition. Where should I start?

You probably will get the highest price by selling the accordion at an auction of other antique musical instruments. Expect to pay the auction gallery a commission, a percentage of the hammer price. Fees are negotiable.

Find out in advance what costs are and what it includes. Will the instrument be pictured in a catalog? What is the cost of shipping it to the auction? Insurance? Do you want a minimum bid? What are costs to you if it doesn’t sell?

You also can try a music store in your area. They may know someone who collects vintage instruments.

Current Prices

1938 Calendar, Esso, “Happy Landing,” child jumping from green plain, Standard Oil Co. of Pennsylvania, 21 x 14 inches, $129.

Sewing stand, drop leaf, mahogany flame veneer and pine, three drawers, dovetailed, original pulls, carved leaves, c. 1835, 18 inches, $300.

Buff-Lo-Maid cleanser tin, cardboard body, tin lid & base, Indian woman, 4 5/8 x 3 1/8 inches, $672.

Donald Duck figurine, long-billed, movable head, stationary legs, Knickerbocker, 9 inches, $1,357.

Tip: A magnet will not be attracted to solid brass. It will cling to brass-plated iron.

For more collecting news, tips and resources, visit www.Kovels.com. © 2019 King Features Synd., Inc.


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