Q: Any info on a Pairpoint reverse painted lamp given to me by an elderly aunt? It’s signed by a Pairpoint decorator. My aunt told me it was very valuable and would possibly sell for six figures in New York and for half that where I live.
A: The reader adds that the table lamp is signed with the initials of Herman Knechtel, a Pairpoint artist of the 1930s.
She adds that she wants to sell. She approached known buyers of Pairpoint lamps, and one confirmed that it was Pairpoint, but he was not interested.
Another offered to buy the lamp for $1,500.
The Pairpoint Manufacturing Co. of New Bedford, Mass., began in 1880. At that time, the company made silver plate items, including lamp bases.
Concurrently, the Mt. Washington Glass Works settled in New Bedford following a move from Boston. The companies merged, and up to 1930, Pairpoint produced lamps with blown glass shades that are collected to this day.
Pairpoint is celebrated for three kinds of glass shades: Reverse painted landscape shades, blown out or “Puffy” reverse painted shades, and ribbed reverse painted shades, many with scenes. Reverse painted means the glass was hand painted on the inside surface so colors appear through the glass. The effect is soft.
Pairpoint lamps have always been known as quality, but fashions come and go. Several decades ago, Pairpoint puffies were all the rage and in one or two cases, extremely fine and rare versions commanded six figures.
More commonly, less rare versions and rare nonpuffies could and did sell for high four figures.
But exemplary prices were for exemplary lamps. Not every vintage Pairpoint lamp is a star. Values quoted by the reader’s aunt are misinformed, and today is another story.
Since the advent of the Internet, selling has gone international. Collectors buy with the click of a key. Your potential buyer could be in New York, Shanghai, Tulsa, Virginia, or wherever. Goods, once posted, are available to the world.
Smart collectors know that the first step to successful pricing is correct identification. They also know that original company catalogs are the gold standard for IDing. For Pairpoint lamps, that translates to “Pairpoint Lamp Catalog,” a two-volume set of hardbound catalog reprints from Schiffer Books. At $95 each, they’re not cheap, but they are the best.
Based on images sent, the reader has a Directoire shade on two-light base No. E3010, from Pairpoint’s Fine Arts Line in the 1928-29 catalog. Available in old brass, Egyptian brass, Flemish, Antique and butler finish, it listed then at $23.35 for the base, $14.65 for the shade.
The exact shade painted design is not listed, but artists had some leeway on execution.
As in other cases — one example is Rookwood pottery — work by some factory/studio artists is considered “better” than others. Unfortunately, the signer is not a known Pairpoint standout.
More telling, the floral in bright colors shade painting is not an easily identifiable Pairpoint style, popular with collectors. That’s probably why one dealer passed.
Before selling, our reader needs to access realized prices online for similar lamps. Identical shade paint may not exist.
On artfact.com we found a Directoire shade lamp shown in the books that sold for $2,400 in June, 2011. At worthpoint.com we saw a pair without shades sold on eBay in 2010 for $137.50. Visit liveauctioneers.com to see puffies sold for up to $6,000-plus in 2012. All sites list auction houses where lamps sold.
After studying results, shop the lamp carefully. Don’t let it go until you’re satisfied you’ve made the best, most informed decision possible.
Auction Action: The “Buckner Ball,” so named because it cost the Red Sox the 1986 World Series, recently brought $418,250 in a $7 million-plus sale of sports memorabilia at Heritage Auctions in Dallas.
As game six went into extra innings, the ball rolled through Boston fielder Bill Buckner’s legs, giving the Mets the championship. Buckner’s error made baseball lore, and the ball became history. Retrieved by an umpire, the ball was given to a Mets official, then inscribed and dated by Mookie Wilson. It later sold to actor Charlie Sheen, then to the present consignor.
The ball sold with letters of provenance and photos from ensuing travels.
Q: In what year was the Aladdin lamp introduced: 1889, 1903, 1919, 1909? How did the company’s kerosene lamp change America?
A: The year was 1909. The Aladdin mantle lamp brought bright white light to rural areas.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.