Trash or Treasure? Mid-century lamp true “conversation piece’

By Khristi Zimmeth
Special to The Detroit News
Tim Hefferon and his wife, Leeann Konrad, with their 1950s lamp. Leeann Konrad grew up with the rotating lamp in her family's home.

“Once seen, never forgotten” is how Donald-Brian Johnson, co-author of “Moss Lamps: Lighting the ‘50s” described the fixtures in the Journal of Antiques and Collectibles ( “These Plexiglas marvels first cast their unique glow on households of the 1950s and have delighted collectors ever since,” he continued. With features that included spinning figures, clocks, radios, music boxes and even fountains, the unusual pieces are the product of a mid-century manufacturer that also turned out other decorative items such as coffee tables, wall plaques, even bars and aquariums, according to the article.

Leeann Konrad remembers a revolving lamp being part of the family decor when she was growing up. “It does work,” she told Brian Thomczek at a recent appraisal session held at the Michigan Design Center. “She spins, and when she does it is hypnotic. Konrad thinks the piece entered the family’ possession about 1954. “We could only spin her at Christmas,” she told the appraiser.

Thomczek said the unusual 78-inch-high lamp may have once been part of a pair and is made of materials that include Plexiglas and a faux mohair shade. “Definitely don’t keep it near a heat source or it could go up in flames,” he cautioned.

Konrad’s original email said the lamp brings mixed reviews from visitors to the family’s home. “Here’s a lamp that people either seem to love or hate that’s on display in our living room,” she wrote. “When guests start getting too argumentative about politics, we turn on the hypnotic drummer figurine.  He/she spins around in an enchanting green-glow-light that stops all political rants immediately!  Opinions then fly about whether the lamp is hideous or a mid-century masterpiece.”

Thomczek said the decision would be in the eye of the beholder. Either way, there are a few condition issues. “It broke in the car on the way here,” Konrad explained. Thomczek said it could use repair, recommending Michael’s Lamp Shop in Lathrup Village. Another appraisal attendee also recommend Village Lamp Shop in Rochester. In its current condition, Thomczek said it would bring about $150 to $175 at auction, more in an antique shop.

The lamp is not marked or signed, but the appraiser didn’t doubt its authenticity, adding mid-century modern art and design is currently a hot commodity, “There’s definitely someone out there who would love this,” he told Konrad. “This stuff is big in L.A.”

It would probably also find a mid-century fan closer to home were she to sell, but Konrad thinks she will keep it in the family. “It definitely makes a statement,” she said.

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About this item

Item: Lamp

Owned by: Leeann Konrad

Appraised by: Brian Thomczek

Estimated value: $150 to $175 at auction