Q&A on Collecting: Sick call box a journey to the next life

Anne McCollam answers readers' questions about their antiques.
BY Anne McCollam, For The Oklahoman Published: March 18, 2013
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Q&A on Collecting

Q: Enclosed is a photo

of a Sick Call box that hung in my husband's bedroom when he was a boy. It originally belonged to his grandmother. The frame is wood, and there is a compartment at the bottom that contains a crucifix, tray, a cruet for holy oil, candles and a holy water bottle. At the top are painted figures of Mary and Jesus. Below there is a door that drops open to reveal a storage area. The outside of the door is decorated with a picture of the Last Supper. On the inside of the door is the word “VIATICUM.” The overall measurements are 24 inches high by 12 inches wide and 4 inches deep. I would like to know anything you can tell me about my sick call box, especially its age and possible value.

A: You have a circa 1900 Religious Call shrine/shadow box. They were often found in Catholic homes in the late 1800s and early 1900s and used by a priest to administer the Sacrament of Last Rites to a seriously ill or dying person. They usually contained a bottle of holy water, a silver tray with the letters “IHS,” candles, candleholders, a crucifix and a cruet for holy oil. “IHS” are letters that stand for the Greek words for Jesus Christ and “Viaticum” is Latin for “provisions for a journey to the afterlife.” Despite antique Religious Call boxes not being in high demand, value for one in good condition can run from around $150 to $250.

Q: I will be 90 years old in March, and I have a service for 12 set of porcelain dishes that includes all the serving pieces. I have drawn the mark that is on back of each dish. The dishes are decorated with big pink roses, green leaves and gold trim. They are around 50 to 60 years old, in absolutely perfect condition and have never been used. My daughter wants the set when I'm gone, so please let me know the value of my dishes.

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