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Ask the Experts: Scale represents transactions of Gold Rush era

In the latest Ask the Experts column, Susan Mullikin, shares some gold mining history in her assessment of a subscriber's 20th century scale.

QI would like to know the approximate value of this gold scale and the weights in the other box.
The scale was found at a shop in Sutter Creek, Calif., which was gold country during the 19th century gold rush. The weights were found with the scale, and the scale works fine.

Torrance, Calif.

A Thank you for sharing this with us. The balance scale itself has been in existence for thousands of years. It’s accuracy has dramatically improved over the last several centuries, but the principal behind the tool has remained the same.

The parts of your scale consist of a fulcrum, a beam that balances on it, two pans at the end of the beam to hold the material to be weighed and counter balancing weights. The most accurate mechanical equal-arm scales such as yours are housed in wood and glass cases to keep dust from tipping the scale. I did notice a small gold plaque at the bottom of your wooden case, perhaps highlighting the name associated with your scale. Firms known for high quality balance scales included Philip Harris of England, Becker of Belgium, and U.S. maker Kohlbusch.

As you mentioned, your antique gold scale and weights from the early 20th century was found in Sutter Creek, California, an area where the gold rush was active. When weighing coins in those days, on scales such as yours, it was not uncommon for the value of the gold in a coin to exceed the coin’s stamped denomination.

Your scale appears to be in excellent condition, and as you mentioned, works fine. With that, I would value it at $450 to $500 in today’s market, and the weights which also appear to be in excellent condition with none missing, I would value at $150 to $175.


QI enjoy your column very much! I hope you will be able to help me identify these vases. They are lattice and look like porcelain, with greenery and roses all over. The lattice is white and 12 inches tall. On the bottom, it has markings that appear to be two forks and a knife across them, and the number 433 engraved in the glass. Plus, it has three cherubs carrying it, and another set of numbers that may be 14.

Would you please tell me the origin and value of these vases? I bought them at an antique show.

Mountain Grove, Mo.

A Upon examining many marks, I believe the mark on your lovely pair of vases with lattice, greenery and roses is very similar in nature to the “campolide” mark, which was found on 19th century traditional ceramics made in Lisbon, Portugal.


While in operation, businesses changed their marks and trademarks regularly. The “campolide” mark in the book of marks shows only one fork with a knife going through it and the mark is painted in blue, as your mark is. I feel that your mark is a variation of the mark pictured in the book of marks. You mentioned the number 433 is engraved on the bottom, as well as a possible number 14. The number 433 would have stood for the pattern or catalog number, and the number 14 may have indicated the worker number.

Without any other possible information as to origin, and the fact that your vases are in excellent condition, with no cracks or chips either to all the delicate fingers as pictured on the cherubs or regarding the delicate lattice work and rose petals, I would put a conservative value on each vase of $150 to $175. If damage is present though, this would greatly affect value.

You did mention that you purchased this pair of vases at an antique show. I would recommend that the next time you make a purchase from a well respected dealer at an antique show, you may want to ask the dealer if they know any information about the items or their provenance.

About our columnist:
Susan Mullikin, owner of Mother and Daughter Vintage Clothing and Antiques is an honors graduate of the Asheford Institute of Antiques. For the last 25 years she has specialized in assisting clients across the U.S. in regards to fine antique garments, textiles, and ladies accessories. She was published as part of a “Child in Fashion 1750-1920,” and her business was honored at George Washington’s birth night ball. She provides conservation, restoration and appraisal services.