by Dan Simmons
A popular collectible
today, the spoonholder, or spooner, provided as much symbolic value as
function for Victorian society. The prominently displayed spoons were a clear sign of
ready hospitality, as well as a status symbol for the increased
affluence among the expanding middle class who could now afford silver
spoons, or at least a good facsimile.
Along with the majority
of other Victorian conventions, interest in spoonholders had almost
vanished by the 1930's. Today's collectible interest has generated a
ready supply of old spooners for the secondary market. Made in a wide
variety of metal, ceramics, and glass, you can tailor a collection to
many individual criteria. From German silver to sterling silver, from
stoneware to porcelain, from common depression glass to scarce art
glass, spooners are once again in demand.
A good number of
spooners are absorbed into broader-based collections such as majolica,
flow blue, R. S. Prussia, Limoges, pewter, silver, carnival glass,
opalescent glass, art glass, etc. Collections can also be very
specialized, but the majority of collections are pattern glass because
of its diversity and availability.
Depending upon their
condition and desirability, pattern glass spooners usually range in
value from $10 to $200+, with the majority of clear, undecorated ones
averaging in the $20-$30 range. Because some dealers at flea markets
and malls do not recognize spoonholders, they are often mislabeled and
drastically underpriced. The summer before last, at the end of a day
antiquing, I found two in a mall at a neighboring town. One was labeled
as a candy dish and the other as a bowl. They were both scarce
mid-nineteenth century flint glass patterns with a bell-tone ring and
in exceptional condition. I bought them both for $15. They wouldn't
have been there long.
Such bargains are not
isolated occurrences, but the beginning collector or dealer does need
to observe closely and study to differentiate spooners from open
sugars, sugar bottoms, celery vases, goblets, and tumblers.
range in height from 4" for those with a flat base to 6" for those with
stems. The height range for celery vases is usually from 6" to 9" for
the taller stemmed pieces. Also, spoonholders are narrower and more
cylindrical than sugar bottoms or open sugars. Unlike goblets, which
always have a smooth-rimmed lip, stemmed spooners are usually
scalloped, serrated or beaded at the top, and the stems are shorter.
Though many flat-based spooners have smooth rims, old tumblers tend to
be slightly shorter and narrower than spooners and are slightly flared
toward the top.
Though the mold shapes
of spooners may vary greatly with the pattern, the distinctions above
should be helpful for the beginner as he or she continues to acquire
experience. Some dealers at malls and flea markets, either through
ignorance or intentional deception will often put spoons in sugar
bottoms, goblets, or tumblers and designate them as spooners. Just keep
in mind as you search that everything that is capable of holding a
spoon isn't necessarily a spoonholder.
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