December 2004

  Compiled by Mike McLeod...This month Mike McLeod takes a look at majolica, a vacuum cleaner museum, Early American pattern glass and corkscrews. Mike, who lives with his family near Atlanta, has written about a broad range of antiques and collectibles – from Sumida pottery to Gutenburg Bible pages. Readers who would like to share interesting websites with Mike may contact him via email at

Brown Westhead & Moore vase, leaves and birds design.
All majolica collectors should bookmark this website.

        Founded in 1989 by auctioneer Michael Strawser, the Majolica International Society is for  “…lovers of this whimsical, humorous, richly sculpted and brilliantly glazed Victorian ceramic.” Maiolica, as the 14th and 15th century Italians called this soft earthenware covered with tin and lead glazes because of it being shipped from Majora, Spain. Majolica’s long history traces through much of Europe. However, most of its fame hearkens back to Victorian England where it graced tables and gardens. (The protective lead glaze was perfect for the perpetually wet English weather.) Unusual and often surprising in its many forms, majolica continues to amaze collectors the world over.

The website features a history of majolica, tips on collecting, sample newsletters, information on “Majolica Heaven” (which is a preview of the society’s annual exhibition and sale upcoming in New York on April 28, 2005 and photos of cases of majolica from past Majolica Heavens), and an impressive photo gallery of majolica by Brown Westhead & Moore, Choisy, Eureka, Fielding, George Jones, Griffen Smith and Hill, Holdcroft, Hugo Lonitz, Massier, Minton, Sarreguemines, Wedgwood, Worcester, etc.

Membership is $40 per year and entitles you to the quarterly newsletter, attendance to the annual meeting and Majolica Heaven, e-mail of news, the members-only resources on the website and access to the membership list.


Wilfa mid-1950s Norwegian vacuum cleaner with chrome and ruby red canisters, straight out of Buck Rogers.
Cyberspace Vacuum Cleaner Museum

Proof again that there is a collector for everything. And proof that beauty can be found in any and all collectibles.

From Norway comes this website of vintage European vacuum cleaners. It’s hard to admit that vacuum cleaners can be eye catching, but these are. In fact, most look more like equipment created for Buck Rogers and Star Trek. Sleek designs, highly polished chrome, and vintage/retro canister colors of sky blues and ruby reds make one pine for this old style of carpet cleaner – just to look at them.

Admittedly, the places where the vacuum cleaners were found (“a second-hand store in Oslo”) is more interesting than the listings of model numbers and wattage for each vacuum. Granted, there is too much info at (such as, 75%-85% of the dirt in the home is dead human cells) and the vacuum cleaner background sound doesn’t exactly add to the attraction, but there is a charming story of a man enamored with vacuum cleaners since his childhood. He loved them so much that Santa brought him a toy vacuum cleaner in 1960 – so he would leave his mother’s alone. It’s worth a look.


Blue basket water weave design, pitcher, 1880.
Early American Pattern Glass Society

          For glass collectors of this genre, you ought to stop by this website. There are at least 25 articles on various patterns (like diamond spearhead, beaded loop, Manhattan, early moon and star, etc.) reprinted from the society’s newsletter, “The News Journal.” Since reproductions scare off new collectors, the website also offers good insight on avoiding them, such as this from an article from Phyllis Petcoff on the website: “…of the thousands of patterns produced, only a few dozen have been reproduced and only a few forms in these patterns. One can read the basic reference books, learn the fakes and generally avoid them. Also, the makers of reproductions would hope to sell more than one piece, so they did not make all forms of a pattern, often making only goblets or plates to sell in multiples.”

In addition to links to glass dealers, the website lists address, contact information and links to 34 states with museums of significant glass collections. Other glass clubs are listed, too, including those collecting Fairy Lamps, Fenton, Vaseline, Findlay, Milk, Imperial Duncan, American Pattern Glass and others.

Founded in 1994 by Bill and Jo Reidenbach, the EAPG Society offers members a quarterly periodical with original research articles, show and sale info, free want ads and society news. The cost is $20 per year.

Marked “Old Snifter” on one side and “Demspsey” on the other, this 1930s corkscrew’s hat is removable and reveals a space the right size or toothpicks.

Corkscrews, from whimsical to utilitarian

           Corkscrews, from whimsical to utilitarian, antique to vintage, are loved by collectors. And there are many that are very valuable: an Abraham Russel sold on eBay in 2000 for $13,550 and in 1974, an 1802 Thomason’s that sold for $375 (a record price at the time) would go for five figures today, as the website reports.

Kind of gives you more respect for these everyday items. If you collect corkscrews or would like to, this website is a very good primer. “…corkscrew enthusiasts value information printed, stamped, raised, etched, etc. on the corkscrew, indicating any or all of the following: patent date, manufacturer’s name, name of the design, advertiser’s logo, or (on the stratospheric European side) a coat of arms.”

A critical year for collectors is 1891 when the McKinley Tariff Act of 1890 required the date on all imported goods. In 1914, the imprint of the words “Made in” were required. But there are exceptions. England required “Made in” on their imports in 1887.

While antique corkscrews are the rage, contemporary cork pullers are also collected. They are less expensive, but if past experience holds true, they could also increase in value.

The good thing about this area of collecting is that some neat old corkscrews can be found in the $5 to $25 range, particularly in flea markets and second hand shops. Look for figurals with animals and people, advertising, logo, and promotional corkscrews with wine, liquor and beer company names and icons.

Beer companies? “If you are puzzled by finding such a corkscrew put out by a beer or whiskey manufacturer…before the invention of the Crown Cap in the 1890’s, beer, whiskey, and even oils, medicines, and perfumes were sealed in bottles by using a cork.”

The website lists many resources, books and price guides for finding values and learning more about collecting, along with photos of the different types: direct pull, assisted pull, torque, leverage, pocket, promotional, novelty and miscellaneous. Give them a turn.

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