July 25, 2021

Antiques & Collecting: ‘Teakettle’ inkwell

Many people would never guess what this strange bottle was used for. Although it is called a “teakettle” by bottle collectors because of its shape, it is an antique ink bottle.

A quill pen made from a sharpened feather was used to write before a better pen was invented in the early 1800s. After the ink bottle’s cap was removed, the pen point was dipped into the ink.

Improved pens had a nib, a metal point with a small slit and a ball tip, and later, a reservoir with a feeding mechanism for the ink. When the pen was held in position to write, the ink flowed to the paper.

The first ballpoint pen was invented in 1888, but because the ink was wrong, it didn’t become a financial success until the 1950s, after many improvements were made.

The ballpoint pen is cheaper, so fountain pens have become status symbols used to sign important documents and proclamations. But collectors buy old and new fountain pens, and many also collect inkwells, ink bottles and related antiques.

I just found my grandmother’s sewing box along with a gold thimble, a strawberry-shaped pincushion, some unusual buttons, wooden spools of thread and a strange pair of tiny scissors. She also has many paper folders with ads on the front and needles inside. Are there collectors for old sewing items?

Yes. If the thimble is 14-karat gold, not just gold-colored metal, it is worth more just because it is gold. The other items are wanted by collectors who sew to actually use or by advertising collectors who like the small ads or use them to display items with old quilts or clothing.

Before the sewing machine was invented in 1845, all clothing and linens were handmade using tools like yours. The needle trade cards were popular giveaways. A few years later, the needle cases were improved and became small folded envelopes with a piece of fabric pierced by a set of needles.

The needles in all these advertising pieces are of top quality and often are taken out of the books to use. Sewing utensils are not expensive and are collected by many. Look for them at house sales, where they may be out of sight in sewing and knitting baskets.

Current Prices

Advertising sign, “You’re Miles Ahead with Mobil,” canvas, yellow & red letters, blue ground, rolls up, 1950s, 57 x 35 inches, $60.

Marble lamp base, neoclassical, gilt bronze, putti, acanthus base, 1800s, 19 x 34 x 9 1/2 inches, $220.

Danish modern chair, cherry frame, swooping arms, swivel backrest, woven back & seat, Selig, Denmark, 28 by 28 inches, $345.

Travel alarm clock, bicolor gold, decorative screws, folding burgundy leather case, Cartier, box, 2 1/2 inches square, $530.

Tip: Keep Barbie barefoot. Don’t store a Barbie doll with shoes on because the shoes may damage the feet. Store the shoes where they won’t be lost.

Terry and Kim Kovel

For more collecting news, tips and resources, visit www.Kovels.com. © 2021 King Features Synd., Inc.