Our 20th Antique Corkscrew sale has seen the usual mix of great (and expensive) pieces, many interesting lots and good contests and a few standout bargains. Results were, in every respect, much better than weak November sale, though still less buoyant than recent years.
In total 450 lots were sold for over $250,000, a completion rate of 45%, better than the 37% in November, but still lower than our long term average of 54%.
It was very pleasing to see that the numbers of successful buyers (100) and sellers (70) were the highest for several years reflecting our steadily increasing number of registered participants, now up to 1050. Since November, we have added 40 new participants, several of whom bought in this sale.
THE HIGH END
The corkscrew which attracted the most interest and bidding competition was unmarked and of uncertain origin. From Don Minzenmayer’s collection, it has a distinctive articulated leg-shaped frame like the German registered leg frame of Ernst Steinfeld. The “snail faces” lock on the shaft resembles Kummer’s German patent. So it “looks” German. But, as explained in the listing, there is an expert view that this is American, perhaps a prototype for a Chinnock 1863 patent. Which explains why a determined US patent specialist prevailed at $12,300 over concerted bidding from German, Romanian and Dutch bidders. A great result considering the broken worm!
There have been no other recorded sales of this corkscrew but another example of it can be seen in World Class Corkscrews p 210.
Another big ticket sale was a very rare 1884 English patent of Henry Perry in fine condition. The Perry at first glance is not particularly impressive, resembling several other 19th century English framed corkscrews. However close inspection shows how Perry employed a very complicated clutch mechanism which largely duplicates the function of Coney’s more elegant patent 30 years earlier. Both Perry and Coney used a clutch to engage and disengage the worm from the shaft, to prevent the worm rotating during withdrawal. Peters provides a detailed comparison on p119-20 of Mechanical Corkscrews.
The Perry went with a single $12,000 bid to Ion Chirescu’s Bucharest museum. The price properly reflects the rarity of this corkscrew. In a somewhat unscientific survey of British patents and registrations in 2008, the Perry was found to be one of the rarest English mechanicals, rarer than the iconic Jones 2 which would probably sell for twice that price.
To our knowledge,the only other public sale of a Perry was at Christie’s in May 1997 for $3,600. At that Christie’s auction the Perry was not valued as highly as a Jones 1. In our latest sale two Jones 1 corkscrews sold under $2,000 . The Jones 1 may be a more impressive display piece but we now appreciate that it is fairly common while the Perry is very rare indeed.
Other high end sales which attracted keen bidding competition, and illustrated the importance of real rarity, were;
-a previously unrecorded Lund style lever in a very decorative ‘dragon’ style. The listing (#18885) suggested it may be related to an 1875 British Registered design. A serious bidding competition pushed it to $6,700, a big result for a mystery lever with no matching worm.
– An otherwise routine King’s Screw with an interesting badge we haven’t seen before, “Barret&Son 63-64 Piccadilly”, was bid up to a stunning $6,300
-a very rare variation of Hull’s Presto 1867 direct pressure patent. The variation is that the button releasing the threaded shaft is under the handle rather than at one end of the handle. This impressive piece was good buying at $5,240
Some other interesting higher end sales included;
– a L’Express French Waiter’s friend with a decorative Lion motif. Not so rare but a great design and a “must have” for most collectors, so it always sells well- $3,770
-a King’s Screw with nicely marked Lund bottle grips. Another iconic piece, good buying at $4,000
-a very early and attractive “wide rack” 4 pillar King’s Screw reached $3,000 with a determined bidder prevailing over Ion Chirescu. The “wide rack” is less common than the “narrow rack” King’s Screw and is usually found with a barrel. A“wide rack” in conjunction with a 4 pillar frame seems to be very rare.
SOME OTHER INTERESTING LOTS
There were many interesting sales at all price levels.
Two were simple-looking American pieces,but super rare, the type of thing you dream of finding in a junk shop for a dollar or two.
Three American collectors wanted a prohibition figural marked “Blue Nose”. It represents My Dry, the creation of the prohibition era cartoonist Rollin Kirby. Mr Dry is the basis for the common “Old Snifter” corkscrews, but “Blue Nose” is very rare with no records of any other examples . So $425 may be a bargain even allowing for the paint loss.
Three other American collectors were bidding for a plain but distinctive McGill can opener. Patented way back in 1867,it is rare to find one in such good condition and it sold well for $1250.
We usually have a good range of “non-screw extractors” but these are usually just prongs or spikes . In this sale we had some real variety from a Dutch seller:
-A French sabre sword used for removing the top of a Champagne bottle was bid up to $285. A great party trick! The delicate art of Sabrage is described on p150 World Class Corkscrews. Or see numerous demonstrations on YouTube
-A decorative Dutch silver extracting pin perhaps from as early as the 1600’s.This device is explained by Peters in Mechanical Corkscrews p20. In the days before corks were fully inserted into the bottle, this pin was simply inserted into the side of the cork with the edge of the bottle providing leverage. So it was the first mechanical! In a good contest, a French non-screw specialist outlasted Ion Chirescu to buy this piece for $535.
In most sales there is usually one type of corkscrew more heavily represented than usual. In this sale, thanks particularly to Don Bull, we had a great range of German “ladies legs” and similar folding pieces. As usual there was broad demand for these “must have” pieces which display so well and prices were strong. The legs start at about $250-300 for the more common single colour all-stocking celluloid varieties and over $300 for those
with flesh coloured thighs. Prices increase further for features such as rarer markings and colours, multiple colours, metal scales and miniatures with the most prized pieces fetching over $2,000
To date we have had about 120 sets of legs in our sales with 23 in the recent sale. This provides a great data base for research and pricing. A few highlights in the recent sale were:
–three coloured stockings with flesh thighs sold for $2500 after very strong bidding from 9 different bidders. (Two sets which were 3 straight coloured, no flesh, sold for $1000-1100 each)
–plated brass legs advertising Loerzel Brothers, a New York brewery for $980
– a miniature and very decorative bronze set which attracted 7 different bidders and reached $1600. A lovely set of legs!
– celluloid striped legs with mother of pearl thighs for $955
–miniature legs with cream and pink stripes. This one reached $2,230- a high price but that’s what was needed for a very determined German collector to outlast Ion Chirescu!
AND SOME GREAT BUYS
Picking out the best buys is quite subjective but comparisons with prior sales are a good starting point. Condition is a huge factor. For this category we only consider pieces in very good condition. There are plenty of pieces with condition issues which sell for low prices and may still be great buying if the price is low enough. And for the rarest pieces, condition problems can sometimes be discounted. Consider the “Chinnock” legs discussed above which sold for $12,300. The broken worm didn’t hold it back too much!
A few standouts we noticed were;
-a bone handled Jones 1 for $1650. As noted above, the Jones 1 is not particularly rare. Twenty one have now been sold in our sales. But it’s in that “must have’ category for many collectors. This is not the cheapest example we have seen, but taking account of condition which is quite variable for this 170 year old piece, this one looks like a great buy.
-a Berkeley UK registered Henshall type easer with a rare splayed shank sold for $190. Perhaps some buyers were deterred by the conventional worm. Ellis says the Berkeleys “always” seem to have a cyphered helix.(p90 Ellis Registrations). But this one with the splayed shank usually has a conventional worm. Good buying.
– a “U-Neek” 1917 US patented cork extractor sold for $375. The price of this aptly named piece has steadily declined. 14 have sold on the site of the past 8 years. The price has declined from around $1000 in early sales to closer to $500 in recent years. Condition is not a factor. It is simply not as rare as once thought and as ebay has shown it pops up regularly in the US. Still, $375 is cheap!
-a Moet& Chandon goliath style double lever for $160. There are a few variants and this one was the more recent, clumsier and easier to find version marked “Made in France” on the arms. But still $160 is a bargain.
– French erotic legs for only $100. This is a good brass piece with very nicely detailed stockings etc… Search “erotic” in “Past Sales” to compare the variety available. Legs going in different directions.
Our next sale will be in November with listings opening on 28 October. In the meantime there is always a decent selection for sale in BUY NOW.
And Don Bull’s sale continues. Don has recently listed further pieces from Don Minzenmayer’s Collection.
If you know of other corkscrew sales or events, let us know. We would be pleased to publicize them.