Dear Helaine and Joe: Enclosed are pictures of a blue-gray object with a group of three cherubs or babies standing back to back to form the pedestal for a bowl. The inside of the bowl is a light turquoise.

The mark on the bottom is a "P" surrounded with short curved lines with "XX" and "2440" below and another "X" of to one side. Any information about the identity of the maker would be greatly appreciated. Also, what was it used for and does it have a value? — J.S., Fort Pierce, Fla.

Dear J.S.: Sometimes reading a mark impressed into the base of a piece of ceramic can be difficult. The "P" reported by J.S. is actually an "RP" placed back to back, and it is the insignia of the famous Rookwood pottery of Cincinnati.

Rookwood was founded in 1880 and in 1886 adopted the mark found on the piece belonging to J.S. In 1886, however, the mark was just the initials "RP" placed back to back. Then in 1887 a flame (the "short curved lines" mentioned in the letter) was placed above the initials, and each year after that another flame was added until there were a total of 14 flames surrounding the initials like a halo.

The last time a flame was added was in 1900. For the years after that a Roman numeral was placed below the initials to indicate the exact year of manufacture. "I" was for 1901, and the "XX" found on the piece in today's question means that it was made in 1920.

Rookwood is typically associated with making fine, one-of-a-kind pieces of art pottery, and some of their pieces have sold for more than $100,000. These pieces were individually made by artists whose talents were unsurpassed in the field, and today's collectors scramble for choice pieces made by artists such as Kataro Shirayamadani, Jens Jensen and others.

The piece belonging to J.S. is not one of those. Rather, it is a production line item that was molded and marketed by Rookwood as being giftware rather than art ware. The neoclassical inspired, very sculptural representation of the three children around the base of this piece has a great deal of appeal to many collectors.

This piece is a compote, centerpiece or fruit bowl, whichever you choose to call it, and research tells us that this piece is approximately 10 1/2 inches tall and 9 3/4 inches wide at its widest point. Because it was marked as a second, this piece should be valued for insurance replacement purposes between $800 and $950.


Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson are the authors of the "Price It Yourself" (HarperResource, $19.95). Questions can be mailed to them at P.O. Box 12208, Knoxville, TN 37912-0208.