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Antiques By Terry and Kim Kovel

Santa Claus traditionally arrives in his sleigh, but children born in the past 100 years or so have wondered why Santa doesn’t use faster, newer ways to make his Christmas Eve journey. Writers and toymakers have modernized the Christmas story in several ways – with a train to the North Pole, an airplane, an early car, modern cars and even Santa in a spaceship. One rare toy made in prewar Japan has Santa in an open car that’s decorated with pictures of toys, children and a Christmas tree. Santa is seated with his bag of toys. The car has a clockwork drive wound with a key. It can zoom across the floor. The 7-inch-long toy sold for $37,760 at a 2013 Bertoia auction.


Q: Our family has complete collections of both Bing & Grondahl and Royal Copenhagen Christmas plates. We understand only a limited number of these plates have much value, but we would like to know the value of the collection as a whole. Is it greater than the sum of its parts?

A: Bing & Grondahl, a Danish porcelain factory, began making annual Christmas plates in 1895. The company became part of Royal Copenhagen in 1987. Royal Copenhagen, another Danish porcelain factory, had introduced its own series of Christmas plates in 1908. Many of the old plates can be found on the resale market. The first Bing & Grondahl Christmas plate, “Behind the Frozen Window, 1895,” sold at auction for $2,320 in 2012. The first Royal Copenhagen Christmas plate, “Madonna & Child, 1908,” sold for $2,722 in 2011. Most Christmas plates sell for about $20. Only the very earliest plates and those made during World War II are rare and sell for more.


Q: I have a Bols Ballerina liquor bottle with a figural windup ballerina inside. When it’s wound up, it plays music and the ballerina spins and moves her legs. A label on the bottom says “Le Bleu Danube” and “Bottle and Unit Made in France.” The liquor has evaporated a little, but the ballerina works perfectly. The label says “Sale Distributors for the USA, Brown Forman Import Company, New York 16, New York.” Does this bottle have any value?

A: Bols Ballerina bottles were made between 1957 and 1978. They came filled with different kinds of liquor made by Lucas Bols, a Dutch distillery. The Bols family opened a distillery in Amsterdam in 1575, making Lucas Bols the world’s oldest distillery brand. The company is still in business. Brown-Forman offered the Bols Ballerina bottle as a Christmas item in 1959. It was produced in limited quantities at that time but proved so popular that thousands more were made. A full bottle in its original box sells for the highest price. Your partly full bottle without the box is worth about $50.