Antiques

Charleville Muskets and Antique American Firearms

March 24th, 2011 by

Contributed by www.Marks4Antiques.com – a membership-based service specializing in providing identification & appraisal advice on antiques & collectibles.

To find prices and values for Antique Rifles or Firearms and Militaria or Civil War collectibles of all types or styles and periods, please visit Values4Antiques.com service to search through millions of auction records to compare with yours.

The best of smooth-bore Muskets of colonial and Revolutionary days were the Charleville muskets of France. From 1717 to 1777, they were constantly being improved. French muskets previous to the model 1763 were extensively used by French troops in this country and Canada during the early colonial wars, and demonstrated their superiority over contemporary British muskets, which remained practically the same from early colonial times until long after the Battle of Waterloo. After the embargo of 1774, no British arms were allowed here, except for those in the hands of British troops.

The Charleville muskets were made in St. Etienne, Tulle, and Mauberge, besides Charleville itself. The first one, model 1717, measured 62 1/2 inches, with a barrel length of 46 7/8 inches, the barrel being secured by four pins and one iron band situated a third of the way from the muzzle to the vent hole. This model had a walnut stock made with a high comb; round sling swivels mounted on the left side, one at the band and the other in an eye in the stock Just to the rear of the side plate; a flat lock plate, with the rear edge oval; and a thin butt plate secured by pins and a screw. All mountings were of iron. An iron strap or tenon connected the frizzen screw with the frizzen spring screw – a unique feature in this lock. The hammer was flat and goose-necked, with beveled edges. The ramrod was of wood.

The next Charleville was the model 1728, the measurements of which were the same as the model 1717. The rear of the barrel was finished off with eight flat faces, the top one extending to within six inches of the muzzle, the others each five inches in length. A rigidity stud on the under side of the barrel extended into a notch in the stock. The barrel was secured by three bands, the upper one with two rings over the barrel and a spring to the rear, the middle one with a projection on the under side. All the fittings of the model 1728 were of iron and of light construction to guide the ramrod, held by friction. The lower one, also held by friction, was beck shaped at the bottom. The lock plate, flat-faced with a point to the rear, measured 6 1/2 inches by 2 3/8 inches. The hammer was flat and goose-necked, and the jaw screw was notched. The walnut stock, of rather light construction, had a deep comb and a decided drop.

All the fittings of the model 1728 were of iron and of light construction. The iron pan had three flat faces, a fence at the rear, and a tenon to the frizzen screw. The trigger guard was 11 5/8 inches long and finished with ball points at the ends. The lower swivel ring was secured by an eye in the left of the stock just to the rear of the side plate, the upper one by the middle band. The ramrod of the 1728 and all succeeding models was of iron.

The next model, the 1746, was much the same as the one preceding, except that the rear of the barrel was octagonal, the rear of the lock plate convex, and the muzzle band shorter.

The model 1754 was a great improvement over preceding weapons. The total length was reduced to 56 inches and the barrel length to 41 inches, with a uniform weight of 10 1/4 pounds. Officers’ guns were still further reduced to 7 pounds, with a total length of 54 inches. Oval sling rings were placed under the stock, one at the trigger guard and the other at the middle band. The muzzle band was greatly lengthened, and all three bands were spring fastened. The hammer remained flat-faced and goose-necked.

The next model, the 1763, has been called the Lafayette musket, owing to the fact that he supplied several thousand to our forces at his own expense during the Revolution. This model was selected as the pattern for our Springfield muskets, model 1795. The length was 59 5/8 inches, and the barrel, which was 44 3/4 inches long, was secured by iron bands, all spring fastened at the rear, with sling swivels placed as on the preceding model. There was a flat face on each side at the rear. The lock plate was 6M inches long and flat-faced, and the hammer was flat with a reinforced under jaw that was much stronger than the goose-necked varieties. The regular bayonet for this musket was in advance of its time; it was of the contemporary socket variety with a three-sided blade, but it was secured by a locking band.

Only minor improvements were made in the models following the 1763 – the 1766, 1768, 1770, 1771, 1773, and 1774 – and very few if any were used here. But the model 1777 was the best smooth-bore musket of its day. It had a caliber of .69, and its superiority was due in part to the greater exactness of the caliber and the closer fit of the bullet. The total length was 60 inches and the barrel was 44S8 inches. This weapon was used by the French infantry in the Yorktown campaign.

In this model there were five short flat surfaces at the breech end of the barrel, which was secured to the stock by three iron bands with springs to the rear. Oval sling swivels were secured to the under side of the middle band and in an eye just forward of the trigger guard. The lock plate had an oval surface with beveled edges forward; the hammer was oval, instead of flat as in previous models, and had a reinforced under jaw; and the frizzen was made with a slight bend forward at the top.

Two features of the model 1777 Charleville were adopted in U. S. muskets. The cheek recess, 3 5/8 inches by 2 inches, on the left side of the stock was used in the U. S. musket model 1812; and the improved pan of brass, set at an angle tilting forward, with no fence at the rear, was adopted in the U. S. musket model 1822.


 

Sotheby’s – The Meiyintang Collection

March 24th, 2011 by

Join Nicolas Chow, International Head of Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art and Regina Krahl, Sotheby’s International Research Consultant and the curator of the Meiyintang Collection, as they discuss highlights from this extraordinary collection of imperial porcelains.  The Meiyintang Collection will be presented at auction on April 7th.

Click Here to View Video

Sotheby’s – Property of a Palm Beach Private Collector

March 24th, 2011 by

This eclectic collection reflects the sophisticated taste of the original collector who combined 18th century French, Italian and English furniture with the Chinese porcelain.  Highlights of English furniture include three pairs of splendid George III giltwood mirrors, and a rare pair of George III giltwood and papier-mâché pier tables as well as a William and Mary red-japanned cabinet on stand and an exceptional giltwood console table attributed to Matthias Lock.

The collection is unusual in comprising both Chinese Export ceramics and fine Chinese taste ceramics and works of art: in total over 80 lots.  This includes a magnificent large pair of famille-rose ‘soldier’ vases, unusually painted with figures, and a further group of four identically decorated famille-rose soldier vases.  This is possibly the first time that six vases of this rare and highly decorative type have appeared together in one sale.  The first pair of vases last appeared on the open market in 1969 when they were sold at Sotheby’s in London, whilst a pair of finely painted famille-rose fishbowls, circa 1740, have provenance back to England in the mid-19th century when they formed part of the celebrated Chinese ceramics collection at Fonthill House, Wiltshire.

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Dealers Wanted for Discovery TV Show!

March 21st, 2011 by

Dealers Wanted for Discovery TV Show

UK TV production company Fever Media are looking for U.S. antiques and collectibles dealers to appear in a brand new TV show for the Discovery Channel.

The program sees members of the public attempting to sell their items to a panel of dealers. These items could be anything from a vintage car, to a collection of Star Wars toys, to an original Picasso sketch.

We are seeking dealers with a good knowledge of different areas and periods to feature on the panel. We are very keen to get a U.S. based dealer involved and if the show is successful there is potential to screen it in the U.S. A fee would be paid.

If you are interested or would like to know more, please contact Kieran at kieran.clubb@fevermedia.co.uk

M.S. Rau Antiques – A Masterpiece by Monet

March 11th, 2011 by

Antique Toy Soldiers & Miniatures

February 22nd, 2011 by

Contributed by www.Marks4Antiques.com – a membership-based service specializing in providing identification & appraisal advice on antiques & collectibles.

There is a long-standing interest that seems to be growing of collecting Antique Toy Soldiers or troops and battalions of these metallic Lilliputians. The most widely known organization for Antique Soldier collectors is the Miniature Figure Collectors of America that regularly convenes at various locations where avid collectors and dealers meet in admiration of the miniature martial arts. In these collectors meetings, many awards are usually handed out with a categorical diversification rivaling the Oscars.

To the regular person, this may seem a passion appropriate only to little boys, but amassing toy soldiers is becoming ever more recognized as a serious collecting concern. It is certainly becoming a great deal more expensive, a fact that may contribute to its apparent new image. Commerce is definitely taking accelerated note of the hobby. Toy soldier shops have sprouted up in such cities as San Francisco, New Orleans, Boston, Pittsburgh and Denver. On upper Madison Avenue in New York stands the oldest of such stores, the Soldier Shop. Nearby, the Burlington Bookshop has been converted a balcony into a glassed-in barracks for small troops; and a midtown Manhattan store, The Complete Strategist, not only sells the toys but also entertains aficionados at Saturday afternoon “war games.”

Not coincidentally, the fine art auction house, Phillips, has frequently held many auctions in the United States devoted entirely to toy soldiers, sales that often include more than 5,000 pieces from various private Toy Soldier collections. The sums fetched are always noteworthy, rivaling amounts produced at London Auction houses.

These auctions provide good examples of what models sell for – and how, in general, prices are exceeding expectations. The appreciation in value of miniatures is dramatic. Models now sought-after used to be purchased by children in Woolworth’s – when five-and-dime meant five-and-dime. Orson Munn, who should know on two counts, since he is both an avid collector and a money manager, recalls: “Toys that cost ten cents not too long ago are today worth six dollars. I remember walking home from school to save subway money so I could buy a box of soldiers for sixty-nine cents. Those soldiers are now bringing up to eighty dollars a box.” Mainly mass-produced and inexpensive, many of these early toys are indeed treasures today. An increase in value of 50,000 percent is not uncommon. It must be acknowledged that individual soldiers once cost as little as a penny and also that fifty years of rising prices cloud the true value.

Most of the models are identified by the brand names of their manufacturers: Britains, Mignot, Heyde, Courtenay, Stadden, Warren, Johilico, Timpo, Metayer, Authenticast.

Nobody really knows how many collectors there are in the United States. We don’t even know how many important collectors there are, because, for so many years, there was closet collecting. You were considered a bit odd if you were still ‘playing with kids’ toys’ when you were in your twenties.” However, Peter J. Blum has apparently opened some closet doors. He owns The Soldier Shop, the flourishing New York City enterprise that has a mailing list of some 25,000 in the East, between Boston and Washington. He estimated that there are between 80,000 and 130,000 collectors in the nation.

The ultimate proof of the growth of this hobby has been the steady development of specialists within the field. Some collect certain brands, such as Britains, Heyde, Mignot. Others concentrate on specific units, such as colonial troops of the British Army. Still others are involved as converters, who artfully change – by welding, painting, substituting weapons – the era of a model. For instance, one patient and finicky hobbyist turned a World War II German storm trooper into a Napoleonic grenadier. Other specialists include the aesthetes, who narrow their choice to figures they consider particularly beautiful: without being pressed they will suggest that someday these may be regarded as works of art, albeit tiny ones.

Among the ranks of collectors are such aficionados as Malcolm Forbes, the publisher; Andrew Wyeth, the artist and others. Winston Churchill also collected toy soldiers; so did Charlotte and Emily Bronte. One factor common to them seems to be a basic pride combined with a wry admission of addiction. Many collectors of toy soldiers confess that they have trouble stopping once started. One is quoted as saying “I am the nuttiest of the toy soldier nuts. I started collecting troops at platoon level, and now I’m up to battalions and regiments.”

There are a huge number of different types of Toy Soldiers and many collectors seem to prefer one type over another. For example, in our research, we have encountered mounted Algerians with flying capes, Mexicans with sombreros, kilted Greek evzones, Prussians with backpacks, Chinese of the Boxer Rebellion.

The surest way to tell the collector from the dabbler is that the collector differentiates between true “toy soldiers” and miniatures. The vast majority of collectors have concentrated on the toys, which were mass-produced and originally intended as playthings. They were usually about two and a quarter inches high. The so-called “Big Three” of this field are Britains, Heyde and Mignot. Heyde, which was located in Dresden, Germany, was wiped out during the bombings of World War II, a fact that gives its products extra collecting value. Mignot is a French firm that goes back to 1825; it was from Mignot that Napoleon III ordered a small lead army for his son. Britains, which made mechanical toys in the mid-nineteenth century, decided to take a fling at toy soldiers to help celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897. It introduced hollowed soldiers, rather than the traditional solid type, a technique which led the manufacturer to a preeminent position in this small world. In contrast, Germany has long been the source of a special flat metallic soldier about half the size of the standard toy and, as the name suggests, two-dimensional.

Miniatures, as distinct from toys, are made as individuals. They tend to be larger, up to ten inches tall, and they are extremely exact in terms of military detail. Miniatures are intended for adult collectors; not unexpectedly, they tend to cost more than toy soldiers. Addicts of miniatures, though they may have grown up on the garden-variety soldier, search most avidly for the more exact and historically accurate “non-toys.” These are sometimes called Collector Figures, with such brand names as Stadden, Metayer, Desfon- taines, Berdou, Courtenay and, more recently, Imrie/Risley or Historex.

The collecting dichotomy is not rigid; some collectors have both toys and miniatures, and even the price differential can be uncertain. Toy soldiers were often destroyed, mangled and abandoned by their young owners. Given this fearful casualty toll, toys from as recently as the early twentieth century have gained “antique” status simply by having survived the child wars. Reflecting this situation, for example, pre-1914 soldiers by Britains are called “Ancient Britains.” Also, rarity increased the price of many toys to above the level of the miniatures. These overlaps have led to the use of the term “model soldiers,” encompassing both types.

As with any aging objects, there is the problem of maintaining models in good condition. Lead is a soft metal; the little figures can lose arms, legs, banners, guns and spears. Their paint can be chipped. Any repairs or repainting lowers the value, but honest dealers and collectors make no effort to palm off repaired merchandise under false pretenses; on any piece that has been fixed or repainted, they paste a bit of paper with the letter R.

An overall change in the entire manufacturing field occurred in 1962 when England ruled that toy soldiers made of lead were dangerous to children and should not be produced. This spurred the already growing production of plastic soldiers, and, naturally, increased the value of pre-1962 English models. Coincidentally, the ruling gave birth to a number of companies that sidestepped the legislation by specifying that their product was not intended for children.
There have been little soldiers, plastic or pewter, as long as there have been their life-size counterparts. In a book-lined office at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Dr. Helmut Nickel, curator of arms and armor, has evidence that the history of the breed goes back to antiquity. He has a photograph of a clay Greek Hoplites, the original of which was found in an ancient Greek tomb of a child dating ca 800 BC, around Homer’s time. “Much later, we can see knight-like toys from between 1360 and 1370, now in the Cluny Museum in Paris. They are about two-and-three-eighths inches high and is made of pewter.” Around 1500, there were small brass jousting figures, about five inches high.

In the eighteenth century, little armies of figurines were turned out, generally in larger quantities and all in the same mold, like tiny robots. Though mainly for museums, some were made for rather special little boys: a toy army is said to have been made for young Louis XIV.
In the nineteenth century, the largest producer of metal soldiers was Heinrichsen, in Nuremberg, Germany. These were of pewter and, as was typical of Germany, flat. In a museum in Kulmbach, Germany, specializing in metal figurines, there are 350 dioramas of such little soldiers; one battle scene uses nearly 10,000 figurines. Similar representations of battles – the American Revolution’s Battle of Harlem Heights and the 1476 Battle of Grandson in Switzerland – are in the Metropolitan’s Hall of Arms and Armor.

In fact, it is this kind of “view down the corridors of the past” that motivates many present-day collectors. Most Toy Soldier collectors are inquirers; they usually are interested in history. Although, amassing a collection is fun and exciting, especially if one can find pieces before others do. Everyone is always looking for the great treasure. Even collectors with less zeal have their moments. This is evident at gatherings of collectors, say at flea markets; it is easy to spot excited bargain hunters haggle away towards their next addition to their collection of toy soldiers.
Interestingly, many collectible toy soldiers tend to be on parade. For example, most are in the formation best calculated to show off their dress uniforms. Because of this, some of the most coveted items are noncombatants, such as military bands. Moreover, many models are only peripherally warlike, for example Hannibal’s elephant or Lord Nelson with Lady Hamilton. Others are frankly pacifistic: a brewer’s wagon with shire horses and barrels; a deep-sea diver, an archbishop.
In fact, many collectors believe that Toy Soldier design and manufacturing is an Art form. Although “Aesthetics” may be a heavy word, these figures were not made as altar pieces for a cathedral. Personally, I think the correct word is charm. They have charm, and they isolate little pieces of the past.

Seeking Passionate Pickers for The Untitled Antiques-Collectibles Competition

February 14th, 2011 by

Fill out our online application at:

https://ccasting.wufoo.com/forms/untitled-antique-collectible-competition-show/

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Is Rare Book Collecting Done for Profit or for Fun?

February 14th, 2011 by

Contributed by www.Marks4Antiques.com – a membership-based service specializing in providing identification & appraisal advice on antiques & collectibles.

Rare book collecting, once the privilege of the squire with a baronial library and the staff to tidy it, is becoming the province of the literate Everyman. The signs are persistent.

Attendance at auctions is rising, the number of book dealers increasing. Membership in the Antiquarian Booksellers Association continues to grow. A few years ago, there was only one book collectors’ fair in the United States; today there are tens of major ones and many more smaller ones. If a bellwether of the widened and deepened interest were needed, one could find it in the appearance of three Gutenberg Bibles within one single year, each for sale in the $2 million price range. Normally, said John Fleming, a noted New York dealer, a Gutenberg turns up about once in a decade. Mr. Fleming called the triple surfacing “an imponderable coincidence,” but others took it as an omen – as one of the indicators pointing toward increased action at all levels of book collecting.

There is no single factor to explain this upsurge. Some say it is based on a heightened awareness of our literary and historical heritage, but dealers with longer memories say it is a natural reaction to long years of drought. After the boom years of the 1920s, capped by the spectacular 1929 sale of composer Jerome Kern’s collection, which netted almost $2 million, the Depression set in with a vengeance. Prices plummeted. Noted buyers, pressed for cash, became sellers; such buyers as there were maintained a low profile; it seemed frivolous to spend substantial amounts for books when so many needed bread. In the war years that followed, serious collecting continued to be more or less in limbo. Thus a vacuum was created, a vacuum that has filled gradually over a fifty-year period, matching the increase of popular interest in all cultural areas. En route, the overall picture of a “book collector” was found to have changed.

Collectors on the scale of J. Pierpont Morgan, Henry C. Folger, Henry E. Huntington (who spent $4.5 million with the legendary Dr. A.S.W. Rosenbach – the flamboyant book dealer from the early part of this century – alone) were mainly gone. “Most of the famous American bibliophiles have died,” said H.P. Kraus, a leading New York dealer, “and few big ones have come to take their place.” Those who have taken their place are much more modest in aim, reach and resources: young people, professionals (doctors, teachers, architects). They have some money and a desire to do something with it, something special but not spectacular. There are those who argue that this is just as well, since assembling a really complete and important collection today is not feasible. For instance all the quarto editions of Romeo and Juliet are in institutions. What’s the sense in a man’s starting to collect Shakespeare when he knows in advance there’s a lot he can’t get?

People ask whether it is possible to put together a library like the Morgan. After all, there is excess and duplication in other libraries. All it takes is money and devotion. New libraries can be built. Dealer H.P. Kraus, acting as agent for the University of Texas, claims to have offered $60 million for the complete library of Dr. Martin Bodmer of Geneva, an offer apparently insufficient to the Swiss collector, because he turned it down. His library was given instead to the city of Geneva.

Collections of considerable magnitude are still being assembled – and disposed of. Knowledgeable people speak of the William H. Scheide and Robert H. Taylor collections with hushed respect. And still warm in the memory is the dispersal in 1977 of the Jonathan Goodwin collection of mainly modern first editions. That sale netted a million dollars, and in it the first books of two poets, William Carlos Williams and Ezra Pound, went for 16,000 and $18,000 respectively. Interestingly, Mr. Goodwin began his collection by poking around in secondhand bookstores, where he picked up a couple of Faulkner first editions, among other works, for three and four dollars apiece.

Books can fade from fashion and prices go down as easily as they go up. Virtually every dealer can cite chapter and verse on the hazards of buying for profit. The most commonly mentioned case of the ephemeral value of a given author is that of John Galsworthy. In the 1920s an early Galsworthy could go for as high as $1,500. A 1970s catalogue offered a first edition of The Forsyte Saga for thirty-five dollars. Other of his titles could be had for as little as ten dollars. The market for some of his contemporaries who also once had great vogue is likewise down: James Branch Cabell, Joseph Hergesheimer, Christopher Morley, James Barrie.

The situation is not new, of course. At the 1929 Jerome Kern sale, Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s first book The Battle of Marathon – privately published in an edition of fifty – was bought by Dr. Rosenbach for $17,500. Within a decade two copies of the same book could be had for $5,000 each. In the nineteenth century, the great library of Richard Heber, consisting of 150,000 items, was disposed of over three years and yet did not come near returning to him the £100,000 he had spent in assembling it.

The future value of many books is clouded; taste and demand fluctuate. Today Faulkner, Fitzgerald and Hemingway are very high. Among other contemporary writers, John Updike, Eudora Welty and Christopher Isherwood have a strong following. How will each rate in, say 30 years? In addition to having to be prescient about “in” writers who may wilt with time, the collector has to cope with late bloomers. It’s commonly accepted that the collection of John Quinn – an American lawyer with avant-garde taste in art and in books – was ahead of its day. Its dispersal in 1923-24 was a disaster, in terms of profit for Quinn’s heirs. It was at this sale that the indefatigable Dr. Rosenbach bought the manuscript of James Joyce’s Ulysses for $1,950, an incredibly low figure in terms of Joyce’s now recognized artistic importance. A measure of what the dealer had in hand can be gathered from the sale in 1972 of a published copy of the book for $8,000.

There can also be still more whimsical fluctuations: in the early 1970s a first edition of Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter sold for a mere eighty-five dollars. Only a few years later, the book sold for $625. The truth seems to be that although good and “complete” collections do go up in value, and that books of genuine literary and historical importance almost have a floor to sustain their price, the real key to every great collection is personal involvement. Collectors must have, of course, a healthy interest in the value of their collections, but also the wisdom to see profit as a bonus, not an aim. Some great collections have often centered on individual figures: Wilmarth Lewis’s collection of Walpole, Donald and Mary Hyde’s Johnsonia, Edward J. Beinecke’s Stevensons, Frazer dark’s Hawthornes come to mind. It is hard to believe that they were interested in the cost of what they had put together.

And although it is true that Arthur Houghton received ten times as much for his Gutenberg as it had cost him, he sold it because his insurance company asked that he keep the book in a vault, and he saw no purpose in owning a book he could not keep around. It was also personal reasons rather than the condition of the market that spurred Jonathan Goodwin to sell his collection of moderns; it was a bonus that in some cases he received almost ten times more for an item than he had paid for it.

Personal involvement, even when dealing with modest, far from rare materials can yield superlative results. A case in point is that of Frances Steloff, for many years owner of the famous Gotham Book Mart, a literary stomping ground in New York. Miss Steloff is no critic and has said so; but for fifty years she had an almost gut reaction to the literature of her own time, some of it avant-garde. She seemed to possess an uncanny knack for collecting those writers who would appear of greater and greater importance as the years went on. She also took a serious view of motion pictures, theater and the other performing arts, especially dance. She acquired the items she chose for her collection more than reasonably – the books at list price or less and the magazines at subscription rates. When she sold the store to Andreas Brown in 1968, her cache ran to 200,000 items. And when Mr. Brown decided that the store was not the place to keep the material, he sold it to New Mexico State University for just a shade under half a million dollars – and this without the literary manuscripts and correspondence.

A similar example can be cited from the seventeenth century. Starting in 1640 George Thomason began to gather tracts, broadsides, pamphlets and every sort of document relating to the English Puritan Revolution and the establishment of the Commonwealth. He did this for twenty-one years, assembling material that was common, fugitive and, in the eyes of many, trifling. The gathering finally totaled 23,000 items and has subsequently become one of the richest resources for the study of the period. It is now in The British Library in London.

Today, areas of interest to collectors have broadened. The old, basically literary patterns – such as concentrating on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century first editions, on Shakespeare or on incunabula, as books printed before 1501 are called – have been expanded to include early books of geography and exploration, music (especially scores by the great composers) and the history of science. The Victorian period, including books in their original Victorian bindings, has become fashionable, and the classic private presses – Doves, Ashendene, Kelmscott – are holding their own.

People are continuing to collect modern first editions and modern private-press books, though some say that there are too many of each and that some are too expensive. Signing sessions at readings and at book stores have made author-autographed books common, so collectors now seek presentation copies, on the order of, say, the Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog by Dylan Thomas, in which the author wrote for a friend, “Bow wow from Dylan Thomas.”

One of the more entertaining aspects of recent book collecting is that the collector can, in effect, invent his own specialty. One man collects all texts of a Greek lyric poet, in the classical Greek and in all translations. One couple concentrates on books that have been made into movies. Collecting cookbooks is becoming common, but what about the young super-specialist who goes after Swedish cookbooks, printed in France? There is no place a collector cannot start. Or, in the words of Henry James, books should be collected with “passion at the height of perception.”

CARE, CLEANING and CONSERVATION METHODS for ANTIQUE METAL WARE: Useful tips in restoring Antique Lamps, Clocks, Ormolu, Spelter, Bronze etc

February 11th, 2011 by

Contributed by www.Marks4Antiques.com – a membership-based service specializing in providing identification & appraisal advice on antiques & collectibles.

NOTE 1: Any form of cleaning or restoration of antique metal objects may necessitate the use of various chemicals, many of which are poisonous. Even if by themselves they are not, sometimes combinations of them can produce fumes that are harmful and occasionally lethal. Therefore, it cannot be emphasized too strongly that no cleaning should take place in a confined area or in close proximity to food. All of the methods described below should be performed very carefully and with every safeguard that can be made available.

NOTE 2: Not all antique Metalware items should be cleaned and no general diagnosis can be applied. Each individual object must be subjected to individual attention. Obviously what is suitable for a pair of antique brass candlesticks of the 19th century, for example, is not applicable to a considerably earlier object such as a Sheffield silverplated tray. Also, the use to which an item will be put is an important consideration; for example, is your Georgian antique Coffee or Tea Set or your pair of collectible candlesticks going to be used or are they purely for display or to be kept as cabinet pieces? If used for food or drink still more difficulties will arise. All items should be handled with extreme care until you have discovered your own abilities and the techniques that you can manage. In early stages of experimentation in cleaning and polishing you should practice on articles of no great value and, broadly speaking, the more antique an item is the less you should clean it or even handle it.

The information in this article is of a general nature: if you have a piece of antique metalwork that you value a great deal or that is of such merit that it needs extra careful handling, the advice of a museum or of a specialist expert should be sought. There are so many different blends of base metals used on antique metal ware that the cleaning methods applicable to some will do more harm than good to others. There are also certain individual pieces of metalwork, which, because of their very nature, require specialist treatment. At all times it should be aware that in cleaning an antique metal ware item, your aim should be to clean and restore an object as near as possible to its original condition.

There are, however some exceptions to this rule: one is the case of an object of some age which has acquired a permanent and pleasing patina, an antique or collectible Lamp, for example, or a medieval candlestick or bowl, which has become dark green, brown or black with age. If there is no deterioration of the metal, then this patination should under no circumstances be disturbed. A sparing application of a good quality transparent wax polish carefully removed with a silk cloth should not do any damage to a patinated object and will improve the surface.

Another example of an antique which does not benefit from the attempt to restore it to its original state is a piece of old Sheffield plate which shows signs of wear. The color of the metal showing through the silver – this is known technically as ‘bleeding’ – is to some collectors a point in its character. In any case, replating by modern electroplating will never give back the original color. The charm of antique Sheffield plate lies in the mellow color of the old silver, nowhere near as white as modern electroplating. In its own lifetime, if there were a fault or if, through heavy usage, Sheffield plate had to be repaired, this was done by French Plating. This method of restoring antique Sheffield plate uses a very fine silver foil that was laid over the worn part and made to adhere by a little gentle heat or by burnishing. French Plating is rarely used by craftsmen nowadays. Only when a piece of antique Sheffield plate has completely lost all its original plating and is reduced to an entirely copper appearance is it perhaps permissible to electroplate and then merely in order to restore it to something like its original state, especially if it were used for food.

In general, the first step in the care and conservation of an antique piece of metalwork is the removal as far as possible of whatever is causing deterioration, such as rust in the case of iron and steel, then thorough cleaning and polishing followed finally by the application of waxes or lacquers to help to delay decay.

It is impossible to arrest decay on antiques completely: all one can do is to delay it for as long as possible. As in any other form of antique a moderate even temperature is required, and it is necessary to avoid extreme cold or damp. These are in effect the main essentials of what is known in an antiques museum as ‘conservation’. What techniques and practices you use and how you tackle the work depends largely on whether the metal is brass, steel or pewter and of course the composition of the actual item.

Antique Iron and Steel

With antique iron or steel objects, which are frequently found in a rusty state, the first step must be to remove this rust. Any that is loose may be removed with a wire brush and then, if the object is fairly small, boiling in caustic soda will remove a great deal of what remains. CAUTION: Do not let this mixture come in contact with your hands or your eyes. If an accident should occur, wash any skin surface that has been exposed lots and lots of clean fresh water.

For a larger object it is necessary to soften the remaining rust by soaking the item for several hours in paraffin oil or in one of the commercial derusting oils. However, most chemical derusters tend to leave a dull matt-grey surface, which the original antique piece rarely had. They are excellent, however, for treating antiques which are going to be painted a dull black such as wrought iron lamps or railings.

Another general method is to use a fine grade of emery cloth and oil. The emery cloth may be wrapped round a shaped stick for getting into the various contours of a pattern. The oil will help to prevent too many scratches. If you use emery paper dry you will get a very scratched surface indeed. Use the mildest emery that will do the job, and when you think you are near to finishing, cut it to a yet finer one. Coarse emery should not be used except in very bad circumstances. Never clean too heavily upon a raised surface as you will tend to blunt the pattern.

Having cleaned the item to the degree you want, wash with methylated spirits, dry with clean cloth and place it, wrapped in a piece of newspaper, in some form of heated cupboard (an airing cupboard is ideal) and leave it there for two to three days to drive out any damp that may be in the metal. If you are not going to put it to practical use, at this stage seal with lacquer or wipe over with an oily rag. Some antiques collectors wax polish their ironwork: if your house is very dry this is quite a good finish. The great enemy of iron and steel is of course damp, and this will cause rust very rapidly. As in almost every other form of antique metalwork, a dry atmosphere is the most beneficial. If the atmosphere is damp and there are chemical impurities or salt in the air, you should periodically wipe the piece over with a slightly oily rag. From time to time, inspect antique iron or steel specimens for signs of rust.

Antique Wrought Ironwork

Some specimens of antique wrought ironwork may be rather large, as for example gates or window grills. Remove as much loose rust as possible with a wire brush, clean off with emery paper, seal with a derusting fluid and finally paint with a dull black paint. For a really fine piece of antique wrought iron, the treatment should be left to an expert.

Antique Cast Iron

In the case of antique cast iron objects, usually of the 19th century and which are now very collectible, there are two treatments. They can be either cleaned of all loose rust, dried and painted black, a very good treatment for any form of antique iron item, or they can be sand-blasted by a professional. This gives a sort of silvery effect. The object should then be lacquered.

Georgian or Victorian Cut-Steel

The cleaning of an antique piece in cut-steel must be approached with great care, and if possible each little facet should be cleaned separately. Please use extra care and be patient because it is important that the edges of cut-steel do not get dull. This applies to all examples of cut-steel from large objects such as Georgian andirons to small pieces such as a buckle, an antique buttonhook or a collectible corkscrew. The great glory of cut-steel is its many facetted surfaces, and these should be kept as crisp as possible.

Antique Brass and Copper

The age-old method of half a lemon and salt is excellent especially for a flat surface such as an antique tray. Apply, rinse off, dry carefully and clean with an impregnated wadding, polishing finally with a soft cloth. A piece of old silk is ideal; manmade fibers such as nylon tend to scratch the surface. Sometimes with deeply engraved or repousse decorated antiques, extensive cleaning in the past may have clogged the pattern with the remains of old dry polishes. This should be removed with a little methylated spirit and a stiff brush and then cleaned with impregnated wadding as described above. This wadding is less likely to leave traces of cleaning material behind.

Another method for an antique brass article is to wash it in a mild ammonia solution and then to clean with either oxalic acid and salt or vinegar and salt. Following this treatment, it should be washed with water, polished and lastly lacquered.

To save cleaning, and consequently to preserve antique metal ware, a modern technique much used by museums is to lacquer with a cellulose lacquer specially made for brass or copper. This should most certainly be carried out with any early or rare pieces and for pieces with fine crisp edges. The item should first be thoroughly cleaned, either as above and finished off with a succession of cloths until none is soiled, then cleaned with acetone. This should not be done in a confined space or near a flame because this liquid is very volatile. Cotton gloves should be worn to avoid fingerprints which would show under lacquer. Note: rubber gloves should not be worn as some types are destroyed by acetone. When cleaned, the piece should be lacquered with a good cellulose lacquer painted on slowly and liberally with slow easy strokes and avoiding bubbles. Do not worry too much about brushmarks since these usually disappear in the drying. If the piece has been previously varnished or lacquered, this can be removed with paint stripper, following the manufacturer’s directions, then treated as above. If the object is not handled too much, this type of lacquer will last for some years.

Antique Bronze

Antique bronze pieces, either in the form of a figurine or a really antique goblet or lamp, have normally over the years acquired an all-over patination, ranging through many shades of brown to green. If this patination is breaking up and there are spots of a brighter color, as for example bright green, action should immediately be taken to stop this because this efflorescence is the change in the surface of the metal which is known as ‘bronze disease’. It is extremely difficult for the amateur to treat and a museum or a specialist antiques restorer should be consulted at once.

As a temporary measure, if it is quite definitely active and the collector is unable to get professional help quickly, the light powder should be brushed off and the piece kept as dry as possible. To clean a normal bronze, wash it with a very mild soapy solution, dry thoroughly and then apply a little fine wax polish.

Antique Ormolu

Ormolu was frequently used for antique candelabra, antique candlesticks, on handles of andirons, antique desks and other antique furniture and small ornamental pieces in general. The gilt was applied in various ways, but with some forms of inferior ormolu, it was only a thin layer of gold lacquer painted over finely finished and polished brass. This method was frequently used by English craftsmen copying the French. Cleaning should be tackled with great care; gold at best is a very soft metal and harsh cleaning will remove it. As a first step in the cleaning of an ormolu antique piece, choose an inconspicuous area and observe the effect of cleaning on this. Use warm water to which has been added a mild solution of household ammonia and a good quality soap-based washing liquid. If no ill effects can be seen, continue with this cleaning for the complete piece. If a stronger cleaning mixture is needed, add more ammonia. Work in a current of air and wear protective gloves.

To clean ormolu mounts on antique furniture, carefully remove each from the piece of furniture, making a note of its original position. Save the pins, nails or screws that were used to fix it. It is a good idea to make sketches of mounts; the fixing pins can then be stuck through the equivalent holes. This is not just good advice: it can be very necessary as antique mounts were individually made and will not always fit into another position. Once removed, they may be dealt with as described above. If ormolu needs regilding, consult a professional Metal Plating Specialist. Modern gilding by electroplating is rather bright and produces a shade different from that of the old antique ormolu. On the other hand, the old technique of mercury-gilding (fire-gilding) is very expensive and gives off poisonous fumes. Very few craftsmen use this method, but for a superb piece it is worth trying to find a firm specializing in it. Never use a gold paint or lacquer because under no circumstances does this give the right appearance.

Antique Pewter

If you collect this interesting metal, your first and immediate problem is whether to clean your pewter bright or to leave it patinated to a dull natural sheen. Some pewter collectors prefer it in a bright state, whereas others like the quiet soft gray color. In most cases, antique pewter, if in reasonable condition, should be left as far as possible undisturbed.

If the metal has deteriorated through neglect or by being exposed to extremes of heat and cold, and obviously needs attention, it should be conserved with extreme care. Any dent or damage of that nature should be dealt with by an expert.

On the subject of cleaning antique pewter there has been an amazing variety of methods advocated over the centuries. A few of the standard cleaning techniques are based on methods used as early as the 17th century. During the period that pewter was in common use for food and drink, it was kept bright by a very mild abrasive, such as crushed eggshell, fine sand etc., was washed in soapy water, rinsed in clean water and dried. Then, if not being used at once, wiped over with an oily rag. If pewter purchased today is bright and clean and the intention is to keep it that way, clean the piece with impregnated wadding, polish with a clean cloth and olive oil or a similar oil.

If pewter is not kept polished, it gradually dulls down over the years, by a process of oxidation, to a soft gray sheen, much admired by many collectors of antiques. This patination is certainly attractive and to preserve it, the piece should be kept very slightly oiled all over with olive oil. Oil of any description seems to revive antique pewter by penetrating into the metal.

Unfortunately, due to the nature of pewter, its susceptibility to extremes of heat and cold and the consequent corrosion that can develop, this attractive metal is often purchased with bad oxidation or patches of what is known as pewter disease. This must be treated or the piece will be ruined. Great care must be exercised in this treatment both for the metal and also the person handling it, as the materials used are often poisonous or harmful to the skin.

If there is heavy corrosion (or pewter disease) one of the following methods may be of some use.

1. Add one pound of caustic soda slowly to four gallons of cold water, using an iron container. Heat the mixture slowly. Place some hessian or canvas in the bottom of the container and lay the pewter piece on it. Keep the mixture boiling for some hours, examining at intervals. If this shifts the corrosion, remove from the mixture, rinse thoroughly in warm water and clean with a fine abrasive such as crocus powder, rotten-stone or very fine emery powder and paraffin, finishing with powdered chalk or plate-powder. Lastly, oil the piece.

2. Another method, for perhaps a less corroded piece, is to wash in a strong mixture of soap and soda, then cover the whole surface with a watered-down solution of hydrochloric acid applied with a rag on a stick. The strength should be 60% water and 40% hydrochloric acid. (Warning: always add the acid to the water, never the water to the acid.) Leave on for a short while, then rinse off. Reclean with fine emery powder and oil. Wash, first in soapy then in clear water, and polish.

3. Another recipe for cleaning is: 2oz caustic soda, 2 oz lime, 6 oz common salt. Dissolve this in three quarts of warm water. When dissolved, add the mixture to two gallons of cold water. Leave the piece of pewter in this solution to soak and finally clean with fine emery powder and oil.

Also useful as a cleaning agent is oxalic acid, either used neat or watered down. Rub in with fine emery powder, rinse off and polish, then oil.

After using any of these methods of cleaning, a prolonged soaking in paraffin oil for several days will do no harm and should revive the metal.

For general cleaning, if this is necessary, the safest method is to use very fine abrasive powders such as rotten-stone or crocus powder or a very fine emery powder. Put on with an oily rag and work in a circular motion to avoid obvious signs of scratching. Grades of ‘fine’ emery paper, liberally drenched in oil, may be used for cleaning but must be used with care. Always use the finest grades and again rub in a circular motion to try and avoid scratches that show. The piece can be finally cleaned with a little white spirit or methylated spirit, dried and then oiled.

All antique pewter will remain in good condition if kept behind glass. When properly cleaned it can remain in a good display cabinet for at least a year, and this of course is the best way of preserving it. A good display of cleaned antique pewter may be seen in the American Museum in Great Britain. Pewter should never be stored in an oak display case or on oak display racks as this wood contains acid fluid, which reacts against any metal of the pewter-spelter-lead group. An open oak dresser, against which it is often seen, is less dangerous to the metal as the collector would polish both dresser and metal fairly frequently and so prevent corrosion.

Antique Lead and Zinc (Spelter)

The above remarks also apply in the main to lead. Objects in this metal that you may come across are antique tobacco-jars or small lead figurines. Zinc is also known as Spelter. Antique Zinc objects of the 19th century are frequently found and are often in a very dirty and distressed condition. It is possible that a stiff wire brush and a little oil will get these articles up to quite a high degree of polish. Wash the pieces in hot soapy water using a stiff brush; on no account use caustic or any soda. Clean with a wire brush and oil, and polish with an impregnated wadding. Finally clean with acetone or methylated spirits and, if you wish, lacquer. If you prefer not to lacquer them, some 19th-century antique pieces can be cleaned once a week with impregnated wadding without doing much harm.

Antique Tole, Pontypool, Barge Ware and Japanned Tin

Extreme care must be taken to preserve and not destroy the existing paintwork. You might find it useful to try a mixture of one-third white spirits, one-third methylated spirits and one-third linseed oil. This is a good and fairly harmless cleaning agent for antique paintwork. Apply with a cottonwool pad to a small corner of the object and see what results you get. If you are satisfied that you are not attacking the paintwork, clean the whole surface and apply a little good quality wax polish. If the piece is in definite need of paint restoration, try to find a competent professional antiques restorer who will take the job on. The restoration must never alter the feeling of the original piece and the object should not be entirely repainted. As much as possible, the original antique paintwork should be preserved. Do not attempt to paint it yourself unless you are experienced and competent, and then be careful not to overdo the restoration or the spirit of the original will be lost.

A final note: Please use extreme care when cleaning your antique metalwork, both for your own sake and also for that of the metal collection. Please always bear in mind of the varying compositions of the individual metals and the state of decay in which an individual antique item may be found. Never rush into cleaning a piece. Never hesitate to consult a museum or a specialist on any problem that may arise.


Seeking Passionate Pickers for The Untitled Antiques-Collectibles Competition!

February 9th, 2011 by

The Untitled Antiques- Collectibles Competition!

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