Question: I recently attended a house sale where some very unusual items once owned by a popular New Jersey politician’s wife were offered.

When one of the pieces caught my eye, I was about to buy it until I looked at the price tag and realized it was not on my budget. However, I wonder if you can tell me something about a “King of Tarts” cookie jar. It is 10 inches high, incised “Red Wing USA” and resembles the crowned head of a smiling cookie king. M.T., Absecon

Answer: “Red Wing USA” refers to the Red Wing Stoneware Company, maker of the cookie jar you described. Located in Red Wing, Minnesota, the firm was founded in 1877 by German immigrant John Paul, a potter. Throughout the late 1800s, the company had several names and produced stoneware and pottery as well as sewer pipe.

By the early 1900s, Red Wing had added flower pots, vases and art pottery to the list of items it created, and the company was a leading generator of dinnerware throughout the 1920s. In 1936, the firm’s name was changed to Red Wing Potteries, Inc.

In the early and middle 1940s and later, King of Tarts portrait style cookie jars were produced by Red Wing in a multicolor design as well as in pink, blue, cinnamon, cream, lime green and yellow shades. The popular, jovial Royals were favorites until discontinued in the mid-1950s.

Although capable of commanding as much as $1,200 to $3,000 each in the late 1990s, a single King of Tarts cookie jar presently can be purchased for $400 to $600, or sometimes less, based on condition.

Question: While my mother’s great uncle served his military duty in occupied Japan after World War II, he frequently sent home old items marked “Made in Japan” or new ones marked “Made in Occupied Japan” that were created while he was stationed there.

The collection is composed of many interesting pieces including dinnerware, toys, figurines and other useful and decorative things. I will appreciate information about a covered china bowl with enamel decoration, a pair of small vanity lamps, each decorated with a hand-painted colonial man and woman on a floral base, a cat figure tape measure 2 1/2 inches wide and a black and white 4-inch-high cat couple figural toothpick holder. All are marked “Made in Occupied Japan.” K.B. Rio Grande

Answer: When WWII ended, Japan’s economy was ravaged. To secure necessary currency, the Japanese pottery industry produced knick-knacks to export.

The almost endless list of products includes figurines, ashtrays, dinnerware, lamps, planters, souvenirs, vases and toys. Although figurines attracted most early collectors, many current collectors are drawn to a variety of items that have become popular collectibles over the years.

From the beginning of the American Occupation of Japan in 1945 until 1952, items made in Japan were marked “Made in Occupied Japan.” Pieces marked with “Made in Occupied Japan” were and are of major interest to many Occupied Japan collectors.

A toothpick holder like the one you describe recently sold for $17, and a set of hand-painted colonial couple figural boudoir lamps brought $19. A similar cat figure tape measure cost $30, and a decorated china bowl $12.

Alyce Hand Benham is an antiques broker, appraiser and estate-liquidation specialist.

Send questions to: Alyce Benham, Living section, The Press of Atlantic City, 1000 W. Washington Ave., Pleasantville, NJ 08232.


Letters may be used in future columns but cannot be answered individually, and photos cannot be returned.

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