Serious collectors favor lamps as old and original as possible

Posted June 08, 2012, at 2:04 p.m.
When jewelry by Suzanne Belperron sold recently at Sotheby’s Geneva, the rock crystal and diamond ring brought almost $500,000 and the brooch $324,483.
Photo courtesy of www.sothebys.com
When jewelry by Suzanne Belperron sold recently at Sotheby’s Geneva, the rock crystal and diamond ring brought almost $500,000 and the brooch $324,483.

Q: How do find I out what my small collection of antique lanterns is worth?

A: The query arrived with a list of five items. There are images of only two; a hanging kerosene lamp and an early hanging gas or electric fixture. They are not lanterns, but early 20th century lighting fixtures.

What the reader calls a Bradley and Hubbard store lantern from the 1800s is a simple nickel-plated, hanging kerosene lamp in a wire frame. It’s a type that hung in railroad cars or other sites where a utility, not decorative lamp, was used.

The Bradley and Hubbard Manufacturing Company, Meriden, Conn. (1868-1940), was one of the largest makers of kerosene lamps. Their center-draft lamps were industry standards.

But the reader’s lamp is not typical of B and H lamps. I suspect that at some point, someone “married” a marked B and H burner or flame spreader into loose non-Bradley and H parts to assemble this lamp. The form and material of the lamp absolutely points to that scenario.

Another image shows parts of a gas ceiling light, but it has been married to much later shades that are possibly reproductions. Later brass rings have been plopped atop each shade as decoration.

In short, neither fixture is original. Serious lamp collectors want their lamps as original and old as possible.

But not every collector is picky. Some don’t care about authenticity. Others buy for the look or parts — whatever. We found similar lamps sold on eBay for $150-$200 each.

FYI: Nadja Maril’s classic “Antique Lamp Buyer’s Guide: Identifying Late 19th and Early 20th Century American Lighting” is now out in a revised 3rd Edition from Schiffer ($29.99). From whale oil lamps to electric lamps, shades, parts and more, the book is a good way to learn about and start IDing old lamps.

Q: We bought these prints in a sale when a church rectory was to be demolished. I bought them because I liked them. Someone suggested I should have them appraised for insurance. Who can help me with value?

A: Ordinary household insurance will cover almost all art in reader homes. If/when a piece has serious value and cannot easily be replaced, the owner usually knows it. And it happens less often than one would think. Rare objects and art call for separate policies, and they’re not cheap.

Astounding art values seen on TV reality shows, even “Antiques Roadshow,” are exceptions. Those items rate air time because they are newsworthy. For every one that airs, hundreds more come through the doors.

Smart collectors always buy what they like because they may have to live with their treasures for a long time. Some items are hard sells and difficult to unload.

Religious art, unless aesthetically remarkable or linked to a known artist, is a very tough sell. The black-and-white prints seen in images are typical 19th Century sentimental studies. One, a Madonna with child, is nicely framed and would probably sell for more because of the framing.

A print of Mary and John has serious water damage at one corner and is unsellable for that reason. The market in 19th C. religious prints like this is so small that buyers can, and do, demand perfection.

Sales records on similar prints, unframed, are in the $5-$10 range.

Auction Action: Suzanne Belperron was one of the most influential jewelry designers of the 1930s-’50s. When 60 jewels from the French designer’s personal collection came up at Sotheby’s Geneva recently, it was a “white glove” sale. That’s auction talk for 100 percent sold. A rock crystal and diamond ring brought almost $500,000 and a brooch of the same materials in descending scrolls sold for $324,483. Sale total was close to $3.5 million.

Collector Quiz

Q: These names share a history with what industry: Prisco, Dietz, Buhl, Adlake?

A: All were makers of hand-held fuel oil lanterns. Source: “Classic Lanterns: 2nd Edition” by Dennis Pearson (Schiffer, $29.99).

Danielle Arnet welcomes questions from readers. She cannot respond to each one individually, but will answer those of general interest in her column. Send email to smartcollector@comcast.netor write Danielle Arnet, c/o Tribune Media Services, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 1400, Chicago, IL 60611. Please include an address in your query. Photos cannot be returned.

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