Light Fixtures: Just Don't Make Them Like They Used To
Uncle Sam mechanical bank
Image from James D. Julia
The Uncle Sam mechanical bank brought $977.50 at James D. Julia this summer
Q: My husband and I found these two discarded lights. They have such style and beauty that we want to refurbish them. We've looked on the Internet to see what they looked like complete, but no luck. Any ideas?
A: This is one smart collector! Good design is forever, and quality today is not what it was 70 to 100 years ago. The light fixtures seen in images are design standards of their periods, and were well made. One is top quality and the other, while only part of a hanging fixture, has great lines. Good eye!
Lamp and lighting collectors squirrel away bits and parts of old fixtures exactly like these. When they have enough of the right components, they can put together a new old lamp from the gathered parts. Any lamp parts person would love to have these finds.
Both are early 20th century electric fixtures. The wall sconce with two arms that hold drop lights is probably from the 1920s. It looks to be solid brass, with excellent decorative raised casting. Amazingly, there are no dings or dents, and all original components look intact, in super condition.
To check what the sconce looked like when new, see if your library has "Lighting Fixtures of the Depression Era," in two volumes, published by Collector Books. Now out of print, the books by
Books showing period fixtures will be your best source of visual information. Too many fixtures for sale on the Web are "marriages" that combine parts never meant to be together. Better you should learn from printed references.
The sconce looks so complete that all you need to do is rewire and fit it with glass shades. Catalog photos will show you what style went on the original. Many are reproduced, and you'll find them on the Net or in a shade shop. Even purists get frustrated trying to find originals, and end up with repro shades.
The second piece was originally chrome plated. Now corroded, it was the middle piece of a 1930s drop light. A glass bowl or similar drop was suspended from the large metal fitting. This is when catalog illustrations can tell the tale.
Not as complete as the sconce, this fragment presents more of a problem. On the positive side, a Deco piece holding the chain is a gem. Large angular links of the hang chain are original and attractive. But for best effect, the fixture should be re-chromed or plated. And there's also the matter of that bowl. If you like a challenge, I say go for it!
Q: I have a 1914 Illinois chauffeur's license issued to a family member. Value? How do I sell it?
A: The license (and anything for sale) is worth only what someone will give you for it. I'm not being evasive, but that's the way collecting works.
A smart collector would start with a look on
There may be a collector for that license: If there is, you'll find him or her online.
AUCTION ACTION: A cast iron Uncle Sam mechanical bank made by Shepard Hardware sold for
QUESTION: Mexican hammered copper vessels have been tourist and visitor favorites since the 1920s. How did making the vessels change in the late 1960s?
ANSWER: Before then, copper items were hammered mostly from the inside using hammers. Today, curves are formed from the outside using a variety of different tools. Source: "Hammered Copper" by
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(c) 2010 Danielle Arnet