So, do you have a burning question about antique oil lamps? Could they be a good investment? Could they turn your abode into an Aladdin cave? Could they even be fun to collect?
For well over 20 years I have been restoring antique oil lamps, bringing them back as close to showroom condition as possible and I don’t mind saying there is an incredible feeling of satisfaction when you view the finished article. A week ago shabby and fit for a rubbish skip; today a clean glowing, perfect oil lamp worth a lot of money. I’ve found the thrill of discovery is absolutely out of this world.
Many of the lamps I’ve supplied customers worldwide 10 years ago will now be worth double, or in some cases substantially more than double the figure paid. How many could say this about a capital investment these days? So could antique oil lamps be a good investment as well as being objects of innovative beauty? The answer has to be categorically, yes. But you have to know what to look for.
The hunt can be exciting, you need to look for specific types of antique oil lamps. Maker’s names on wick winders are important. Hinks, Messenger’s, Young’s, Palmer’s, Veritas, Evered, P & A to name just a few whose quality lamps can be valuable. Material of manufacture is important. Color is important. Lamps made from glass and ceramic are the most sought after for investment. Brass is fine but generally, unless the maker is someone like ‘Benson’ it will not reach the same heights.
I prefer lamps with glass oil containers. So long as the glass is in good condition it will hold fuel oil without leaking and a nicely made coloured glass fount looks fantastic with a good glass Victorian shade of a matching color.
As I am UK based I tend to favour UK made lamps where many of the patents originated from. There are literally hundreds of different types of oil lamp but personally I prefer the type which uses a burner with two side by side flat wicks, known as a duplex. They are easier to work on and obtain spares and there are a great variety of different makes and qualities.
Can you pick up a good antique oil lamp for a reasonable price? If you are prepared to clean off 100 years or more of tarnish inside and out the answer is yes. If you don’t wish to do any work you may have to pay a bit more but there are plenty on the market which will hold their prices and increase in value.
Colored glass oil lamps are the most sought after of which cranberry is extremely popular. Blue glass fount oil lamps with matching blue glass shades tend to be highly prized and good ones fetch extremely high prices. Just imagine my excitement when I discovered a shabby lacklustre blue glass one at a local auction a few months ago… nobody knew what it was and my profit a few weeks later was 1500%!
Where to look? Local general auctions are great and it is not unusual to purchase for under £90 GBP and sell after a good clean up for 4 or 5 times that spent. Antique shops are also good places to look and most dealers are prepared to bargain. Car boot sales can sometimes also produce the most unexpected results.
No matter where you decide to purchase from make sure to inspect the lamps very closely. If glass is damaged do not buy as it will not increase in value. Look for chips, hairline cracks or anything broken. The main areas where there could be creeping hairlines would be from under the brass fittings top and under a glass fount. Run your fingers round a glass shade’s top and underside to find chips or cracks. The shade top should be perfect but the base where it fits onto a brass holder can have a few usage nibbles to the underside. In shops and antique fairs be careful of duplex lamps with the wicks turned up so high that they touch at the top. That usually means they are covering up a flaw or break to the brass burner.
Want to see how amazing cleaned and restored oil lamps can look? Follow the link http://tiny.cc/lovelyoillamps to go to a web page where you can view a few of the lamps I have restored and passed on to happy collectors over the years. Fantastic to look at and also lighting history accruing value!