Chapter VI

Antique or Modern?

In a marvelous little article written in 1943, Evangeline Bergstrom wrote:

The collector whose experience with paperweights is still limited will do well to compare every suspicious piece with a known antique. As his knowledge grows broader—especially if he “lives” with even a small collection of fine antique weights for a considerable length of time, and observes them under all conditions of light and shade—there will soon be little danger that he will mistake the plebeian piece for the true aristocrat.

One of the questions most commonly asked by beginning collectors is “How can you tell it a paperweight is an antique?” Unfortunately, it is difficult to answer this question simply and without qualification. First, it is essential to train your eye by examining as many weights as possible, studying photographs, reading, and consulting with knowledgeable collectors or dealers whenever possible. Then, as you become familiar with the subtleties and details that make up fine quality paperweights, such hints as can be given will help determine the age of a piece.

These guidelines can only work for you if you keep in mind the many exceptions there are to almost even,’ rule. The most valuable reference tool is an educated eye.

Purchasing Paperweights

Anyone interested in collecting paperweights has heard stories about collectors discovering priceless pieces in flea markets, lining garden paths, and supporting grand pianos. Although many of these tales are true, serious collectors find most of their pieces through paperweight and antique dealers, private sales, and in auction houses.

The rarest and finest antique and modern weights command top prices. But a quality collection can be formed at a reasonable cost. Among antique weights, scrambled and simple millefiori are generally the least inexpensive. Some modern limited editions are also moderately priced.

Wise paperweight purchases can offer collectors an excellent investment opportunity. Although the market for many other types of glass, especially American art glass and French cameo glass, has experienced broad fluctuations based on fads and fashion, the antique and contemporary paperweight market has shown a steady rise in value. Still, it is important to consult with experts, research pieces carefully, and deal with reputable dealers.

Bearing all this in mind it is important not to forget the most important aspect of paperweight collecting: Enjoy yourself and your collection. The obstacles and difficulties of collecting are precisely what make the activity compelling.

In 1943, Evangeline Bergstrom wisely related:

Collecting antique paperweights would not have quite its fascination if all the procedure were cut and dried—if there were not certain pitfalls along the way, it it were not necessary to exercise your wits at least a little. Now and then vou can commit an error that leads to disappointment, and it is by no means impossible to make a foolish mistake that you always feel a little ashamed of—but do we not commit similar follies in even’ other department of life? Quite possibly Providence knew what it was about when it did not make life quite perfect!

Collections Sold at Auction

Paperweight expert T. 11. Clarke, for many years the chief auctioneer at Sotheby’s of London, examined and catalogued many of the finest paperweight collections of our time. He vividly remembers the early paperweight auctions and the influence they had on the market.

6.11 T.H. Clarke conducting Sotbeby

6.11 T.H. Clarke conducting Sotbeby

6.11 T.H. Clarke conducting Sotbeby V a in tion, 1952

In 1953 Clarke conducted the first large-scale sale of paperweights with the Applewhaite-Abbott Collection. Mrs. Applewhaite-Abbott, one of the first major paperweight collectors, amassed colored glass of all kinds dating from the Renaissance to the late nineteenth century. She listed all of her entries in a ledger, including her more than 500 paperweight purchases. According to Clarke, who studied her entries while cataloguing the collection before the sale, the lowest price she ever paid for a weight was two shillings (twenty-eight cents) and the highest was £3 5 (S100). The high price was paid in 1931 for “1 Weight Lizard Very Large Green.” One of her last purchases was the celebrated silkworm weight, which was described as “Silk Worms on Leaf Blue and White Latticinio Ground, Very Rare.” She bought it for £26 ($59).

When Mrs. Applewhaite-Abbott died she left her glass collection to her daughter. After two

major British museums declined the collection it was turned over to Sotheby’s for auction. The whole collection, which was sold in four separate sales over a year’s time, brought a total of $90,000. The Applewhaite-Abbott sale marked the beginning of a renewed interest in paperweights and a clearer realization of their investment potential.

In 1957 Clarke was the auctioneer for another great sale—the Maurice Lindon Collection. Lin- don, a French jeweler and collector of period furniture and other fine art works, started collecting paperweights just prior to World War II. He amassed an exquisite collection, part of which he donated to the Louvre in 1957. One hundred and seventy pieces were sold at auction for a total of $67,065. One of the prize pieces was the well- known Saint Louis yellow encased overlay, which sold for $7,560.

After selling his weights at auction, Lindon began again to collect. This time he was ev en more selective in his purchases, buying only the choicest of weights. Perhaps his most famous purchase was the rare Saint Louis encased overlay gingham weight, which Lindon purchased at Christie’s in 1978 for a record-breaking $117,600.

In 1983 Paul Jokelson, the progenitor of so much modern paperweight activity and founder of the Paperweight Collectors’ Association, sold seventy-one of his prized weights at Sotheby’s auction house in New York. Several weights sold for record-breaking prices; the entire lot brought over $500,000.

Jokelson never kept more than 105 weights in his collection at one time (this number does not include his collection of sulphides and related objects). Jokelson’s exemplary collection, which he carefully built up ov er many years, included pieces attributed to Pantin, weights bv Saint Louis, Cli- chv, Baccarat, and Mount Washington, as well as several weights by contemporary artists Paul Ysart, Charles Kaziun, and Paul Stankard.

The highlight of the Jokelson Collection auction was the selling of the rare and unusual silkworm weight which Mrs. Applewhaite-Abbott had owned several years before. The piece, attributed to Pantin, sold for a record-breaking $143,000 to

6.12 A room in the Bergstrom Museum

6.12 A room in the Bergstrom Museum

.Arthur Rubloff, who donated the weight to the Chicago Art Institute.

Collections Given to Museums The Morton D. Barker Collection: Morton D. Barker, a businessman and land developer from the Springfield, Illinois, area, first began collecting paperweights in the late 1940s after attending an estate auction of a friend. Wishing to take home some memento of his friend, Barker bid on a large greenish glass doorstop. Although he purchased the piece, he could not understand why the object sold for as much as it did.

From that simple introduction, Barker wanted to find out all he could about paperweights. He and his wife, Emily, searched for weights wherever they traveled. They gathered together an outstanding collection of over 240 pieces. In 1976 the

Barker Collection was given to the Illinois State Museum.

The primary focus of the Barker Collection is antique French paperweights. There are, however, a few contemporary pieces anti several antique weights from American and English glass factories.

One of the prize pieces of the collection is an orange-red salamander with yellow scales and green spots, believed to have been made by Pantin. .Another highlight of the collection is a pedestal weight containing concentric rings of canes and thirteen white Clichy roses. The piece has a gilded metal foot decorated with flowers, and the bottom is engraved with the inscription “Escalier de Cris- tal 1845.” It is the only known Clichy weight dated 1845.

One particularly beautiful piece in the collection is a Baccarat chequer weight containing several silhouettes and an 1849 date cane. The weight is unusual because the checkerboard pattern is created with turquoise blue rods rather than the more commonly used white rods.

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