Trash or Treasure: 1940s lamp not Handel but still collectible
“We inherited it from my husband’s grandfather,” Marlene Mullin said of the reverse-painted lamp she recently brought to an appraisal fair at the Michigan Design Center in Troy. “He had it in his bedroom for years and years,” she added. She said that the piece moved from Pennsylvania to Cleveland with him, where her husband was born. “Everyone remembers it,” she said of the family’s memories.
Thomczek said that the lamp is unusual in one respect – it has a cabin scene instead of the more common floral motifs. “It looks like a sunset when it’s lit up,” Mullin told him.
Unfortunately, closer inspection didn’t reveal much that helped him identify a maker. “I was hoping to see Handel on here somewhere but I couldn’t find it,” he said, adding that the manufacturer’s mark is usually in small letters somewhere on the shade. “If it said Handel the value would be an entirely different story.”
The appraiser added that he thought the base may not be original. Made of a white metal, it is marked “Meteor,” he said, which doesn’t track with many of the lamps of this time. “It may be a marriage of two vintage piece that didn’t start life together,” he said, estimating its age to somewhere around World War II.
Thomczek said the piece could use a good cleaning. “It’s a little dirty,” he explained. “I would clean it with water and a mild dish soap and that would help the colors in it really pop when it’s turned on.” He advised that the best way to clean a vintage lamp is with a small amount of lukewarm soapy water and an old toothbrush, “but carefully or you’ll scrape it.” In its current condition, with an unknown maker and a possible “marriage” of parts, he estimated it would be worth $150 to $175 at auction.
Mullin said she wasn’t fond of the lamp at first but it has grown on her. “When I first saw it I thought ‘what an ugly lamp,’ she said of the piece “But I like it much better when it’s plugged in. It’s stunning when it’s lit up.”
Thomczek said taking it apart might help them find a manufacturer’s mark, which might be covered on an inside lip. He also said it’s always a good idea to get vintage lamps looked at and possibly rewired before modern use.
“Those old cloth cords just aren’t safe,” he cautioned.
Mullin agreed, saying that she had experienced what could happen first-hand. “I plugged it in and we had fireworks at the house,” she said with a laugh. Mullin later took it to a lamp store in Rochester and had it rewired. Despite that, she decided the piece would stay in the family.
“We are going to keep it and enjoy it,” she added.
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About this item
Item: Vintage Lamp
Owned by: Marlene Mullin
Estimated value: $150 to $175
Appraised by: Brian Thomczek