Household Collectibles – The term ‘domestic bygones’ encompasses items as varied as copper saucepans, pewter jugs, dairy equipment and wooden carpet beaters, but few individual collections include examples of every type of object that contributed to the running of a household.
Many collectors of metalware , for instance, would not dream of buying treen (small domestic wooden objects) and a collector of jelly moulds would not necessarily seek out copper warming pans or smoothing irons. Collectors in the United States were probably the first to appreciate what is often termed folk art, attaching significance to the mundane but often beautifully made objects which tell us so much about how ordinary people went about their daily lives.
The hand of the maker and the years of hard use so often evident in these pieces are now so thoroughly appreciated by collectors that prices have risen considerably in recent years, although bargains can still be found.
If you want to display a collection of household objects, choose an area which works as a decorative theme in your home. A row of Edwardian vacuum cleaners may look out of place and take up too much room, whereas a good selection of copper jelly moulds might work much better. A nice pair of brass candlesticks can prove a good match for the more expensive silver counterpart.
Reproductions have been manufactured in many areas. There is a lot of copperware which may have started life in a Middle Eastern bazaar not too many years ago. It lacks the precision of the European counterpart in the area of the joins, and swing handles are often crude and stamped with lattice decoration.
18th century, or earlier, French copper chocolate pot. The bronze body has charcoal residue embedded in the patina. The copper lid and handle have a more uniform very rich red patina. The hardware on the lid and handle are hand-made copper nails. The lid has a swivel cap covering a small hole for the chocolate stirring stick. The bottom has a layer of metal sealed to the body metal which has separated a bit.
German spoon rack, 18th century – Spoon racks were made in all sizes and shapes, some to hold the large, wooden spoons used for cooking, and smaller examples for holding the spoons which the family used for eating. In buying something of this quality, the collector is paying not only for the decorative shape but for the patination of the wood, which helps to date it.
Antique copper tea pots – Copper items, cheaper and more hard-wearing than silver, tended to be made for use in the kitchen. Copper must be tin-lined so that food and liquids do not become tainted. Most original tinning is worn, but occasionally it is intact, which adds to the interest, although not necessarily to the value, of a piece.
Cast-iron smoothing iron, 19th century – It is hinged at one side and opens to allow the insertion of a fire-brick, which heated the metal enough to make it effective in pressing clothes. Other version took charcoal and these are often fitted with a funnel to allow the fumes to escape. Smoothing irons were made in a wide variety of shapes and sizes and for various functions from ironing newspapers to pressing linen.
Antique Cast Iron Balance Scale, early 19th century