Antiques & Collectibles: Spanish-American War art records key naval events

Folks who collect militeria or naval items presently pay $70 to $150 — based on condition and frame — for art such as this antique chromolithograph titled ‘The Battle of Manila Bay.’

Question: My photo shows "The Battle of Manila Bay," a matted 16- by 24-inch heirloom picture I own. A companion picture, "The Battleship Maine," was inherited by my sister. We hope you will be able to tell us about the art, including value. - D.B., Beesleys Point

Answer: Your chromolithograph depicts the historic May 1898 Battle of Manila Bay, first major engagement of the 1898 to 1901 Spanish-American War. Led by American hero Commodore George Dewey (1837-1917), whose portrait is superimposed on the scene, the naval battle resulted in the complete destruction of the Spanish Pacific fleet in less than seven hours. As a result, Spain ceded Puerto Rico, the Philippine Islands and Guam to the U.S., abandoned its claim to Cuba, and Dewey was promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral.

Following the victory, Dewey's fleet of four cruisers, two gunboats and his flagship "Olympia" was de-picted in numerous artworks portraying the en-counter. Your piece by artist F. Fetherston was first issued in 1898 by M.F. Tobin, a New York City art publisher. From the mid-1800s to the early 20th century, Tobin produced framed pictures and signs, advertising novelties and baseball cards as well as cartoon and children's books.

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Your sister's related "The Battleship Maine" chromolithograph, previously published by Tobin, depicts the American second-class battleship sent to Cuba's Havana Harbor in January of 1898. On Feb. 15, 1898, a massive explosion initially believed to have been caused by a submerged mine rocked the ship and sank it immediately, killing most of the American crew. A portrait of the Maine's commanding officer, Capt. Charles B. Sigsbee, appears on the art. Public outrage over the sinking soon led to the Spanish-American War and the rallying cry, "Remember the Maine."

Folks who collect general militeria or naval items search for memorabilia associated with the Olympia and the Maine. Collectibles include documents, souvenir glassware, ceramics, pin back buttons, postcards, stamps, handkerchiefs, ship models, clocks, stereo views, lantern slides, jewelry and rare items such as the USS Maine Baseball Team photo that has fetched $2,200. Many chromolithographs such as your family's art presently sell for $70 to $150, based on condition and frame.

Question: How can I quickly sell the antiques and collectibles I recently inherited? Prices found on Internet auctions vary a lot and dealers sometimes pay less. Your advice is appreciated. - V.N., Smithville

Answer: I recently re-ceived several similar re-quests from this column's readers who are liquidating estates or downsizing. Initially, I can suggest if the items you wish to sell are fine art and antiques, you may want to invest in advice provided by a certified specialist who is a member of the American Society of Appraisers (ASA) or Inter-national Society of Apprais-ers (ISA), both leading professional organizations.

If you plan to base values on results of Internet auctions, be certain the dollars you record are those actually paid for recently "sold" items and not asking prices. Also, consider listing and possible shipping costs will impact receipts. Many folks find a more timely and efficient way to dispose of old treasures is to contact a well-established, reputable area antiques or collectibles dealer. Joseph Hughes, longtime owner of Cobweb Corner antique shop in Galloway Township offers both appraisal and liquidation services. He can be reached at 609-748-2522. Rich and Ilona Chapman, whose Only Yesterday shops are in Ocean City, are collectibles specialists. They can be reached at 609-398-2896. Hughes and the Chap-mans will be happy to discuss their services with you.

Alyce Hand Benham is an antiques broker, appraiser and estate-liquidation specialist. Send questions to: Alyce Benham, Life section, The Press of Atlantic City, 11 Devins Lane, Pleasantville, N.J. 08232. Email:

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

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