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Part of the fun of collecting and going to shows and auctions is how often you see something that is a mystery. It's a learning experience. We took our children to shows as soon as they knew how to behave. Don't touch, hands behind your back, ask if you want to see something. We checked with the dealer before taking them into a booth and explained they knew how to behave and if there should be an accident, of course we would pay for any damage.

Each had a collection — small heart charms or tin spice boxes. We showed them the jewelry and named the colors of the stones, then the name of the stones, and by kindergarten, they were experts. They helped us buy things for the country store by asking the dealer the price of a sign or a box that they liked. Big, colorful signs with old-fashioned pictures were the favorites, so this paint ad was one they liked.

The tin sign is 27 inches tall and is unusual because it has a row of wooden color sample blocks at the bottom. But although we agreed it would look great at our house, the final bid was $3,186, and they learned you don't always get what you want at an auction. Sometimes the bidding goes past our limit.

Ungle Wiggily books

Q: I have a complete set of Uncle Wiggily books by Howard R. Garis. There are nine books, 10 stories in each one, copyright 1943 by John Sherman Bragg. They're in good condition. Do they have any value?

A: Howard R. Garis (1873-1962), a reporter and writer for the Newark Evening News, began writing stories about a rabbit named Uncle Wiggily Longears in January 1910. A new story was published in the newspaper every day except Sunday until 1947, when Garis retired. He wrote more than 15,000 stories for the newspaper. The stories were first published in a book in 1913. Seventy-nine books of Uncle Wiggily stories were published. Garis wrote stories for several other series of books under pseudonyms. Uncle Wiggily books with 10 stories sell for about $5 to $10 each. The price depends on condition and how early it was published.

current prices

Prices are from shows nationwide.

Bank, mother bird and two fledglings, redware, tooled details, slab base, 1800s, 4 1/2 by 6 inches, $83.

Box, lock, softwood, feather grain painted, pegged construction, wallpaper lining, 1800s, 6 by 15 by 10 inches, $118.

Kettle, copper, arched swing handle, goose neck spout, crimped seams, domed lid, J. Getz, Lancaster, Pa., about 1830, 11 inches, $148.

Redware bean pot, sgrafitto flowers, ribbed strap handle, Pennsylvania, 1800s, 5 by 8 inches, $384.

Durand glass vase, blue purple iridescent, bulbous base, tapered neck, flared rim, signed 1920s, 5 1/2 by 6 1/2 inches, $470.

Corner cupboard, white paint, two sections, arched glazed door over two raised panel doors, bracket feet, 86 by 47 inches, $472.

Write to: The Kovels, c/o King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019. The website is kovels.com.