Trash or Treasure: Lamp old, but not valuable
It’s not trash, but it’s not exactly treasure, either. That’s pretty much the verdict appraiser Brian Thomczek gave Michael Frasier about a vintage lamp he brought in to the Michigan Design Center recently. The unusual lamp had been in his wife Cheryl’s family for generations and they had long wondered about its worth.
“This is a light that my mother had talked to me about for years,” Cheryl explained in her email to the column asking for advice. “My grandfather who was an attorney bought it in the 1930s from an estate sale he was the executor for,” she continued. “It is a gas light… converted to also be electrical. I would like to see if there is any value in this.”
“My mother thought everything old was worth something,” Cheryl added. While some vintage lamps can be certainly be valuable, according to the appraiser, “not every lamp can be a Tiffany.”
Some, like Frasier’s, are more utilitarian and were made in larger quantities, which means they are less rare and usually less valuable. Frasier’s lamp is an example of a hurricane lamp, Thomczek said, but it has very little identifying information. The top is glass; the bottom is a mixed metal known as spelter. There are no markings that would indicate a manufacturer or a serial number. “This was made for kerosene originally,” he told her. The only mark on it reads “Leviton,” he said, adding “I think that’s just probably referring to a part, not to the lamp itself.”
An internet search confirmed this, revealing a company of the same name that has been in business for more than a century. According to Leviton.com, the name refers to a manufacturer of electrical parts, one that is still in business. Company history on the site explains that it was founded in 1906 by Russian immigrant Isador Leviton, who set up shot in New York’s Bowery and went on to manufacture products in the coming years that were featured in the new Empire State Building, the New York World’s Fair and even the bead chain used in the ID tags worn by American GIs in World War II.
Unfortunately, even with its interesting history, the lamp has condition issues, the appraiser said. “There are chips in the globe, which definitely affects the value,” he added. “If you really liked it or it was special to you it could be repaired.”
In its current state, he gave it a value of approximately $40-$50. While he would have liked to have heard a higher number, Frasier said even that information was helpful in their decision-making process and its low value may make it easier to get rid of it. “We’ve been trying to decide what to do with it,” he explained.
Calling All Collectors!
With so many of us sequestered at home, now seems like a good time to resurrect our occasional series spotlighting what people collect and why. Do you have a collection you’re proud of? Whether you inherited it or spent years hunting it down, we’d love to hear about it and you might be featured in an upcoming column. Interested? If so, send an email to email@example.com with “Collector’s Spotlight” in the subject line. Please send a few lines about what you collect and why and a photo of you with your collection. If chosen, we will be in touch for additional information.
About This Item
Item: vintage lamp
Owned by: Cheryl and Michael Frasier
Appraised by: Brian Thomczek
Estimated value: $40 and up