Find the value of antique lamps

You have an old lamp you don’t use. Perhaps you picked it up at a garage sale, or discovered it down in the basement, or came across it while cleaning out a deceased friend’s house. After staring at it awhile, you begin to see the light: This thing might have some value. Our Savvy Specialists can help you determine if your light fixture is worth more than its weight in kilowatts.

HOW TO FIND THE VALUE OF ANTIQUE LAMPS

The oil or kerosene lamp, the earliest type of mass-produced lamp, was a simple vessel with an absorbent wick.  Manufacturers typically made the metal base and burner and bought the glass from another manufacturer. The oldest date from the 1840s. Electric lamps came along in the 1870s, and for a while the two coexisted, until the electric version took over, in all but the most rural areas, by the early 20th century. Of course, an electric lamp lacked the portability of an oil version – and, as if to compensate, it became a decorative, rather than just functional, item. Lampshades began to grow increasingly ornate, made of decorated, multi- patterned or colored glass. Standing floor lamps flourished, their bases made of heavy bronze, copper, or gilded metals.

Post World War II, lamps tended to be simpler, following the design trends of Mid-Century Modern furniture, or sillier. 1950s TV lamps (illuminated ceramic or plaster figurines) and the 1960s-70s lava lamps (vessels of heated wax, chemicals, and dyed water) were more about decoration than illumination, for example.

As an article of furniture, a lamp’s value is often determined by its designer or manufacturer; the collectability of giants of the American furniture canon – Stickley, Hubbard, Eames, Nelson – applies to their work with light fixtures, too. Then there are lamp specialists, like the Handel Company (a low-cost competitor to Tiffany’s stained-glass creations) and George Kovacs. Flip the lamp on its side to examine the bottom, gently raising the felt if there is any, and look for a sticker, a manufacturing label, a raised imprint, a nameplate or a company-embossed stamp. If no maker's mark is on the base, study other areas of the lamp:  Some manufacturers, for instance, placed a metal nameplate on the bulb socket. Examine any switches, plugs or metal pulls for clues. Not all lamps list a maker, but even a model number or a handwritten pencil number can help with identification.

Look at the wiring as a clue to the age and the lamp's maker. Cotton- or fabric-wrapped wires mean an older lamp (though an old lamp could have been rewired). Search for manufacturing clues on the lampshade, too.  Don't assume, however, that the base and shade came as a pair.

Include all this information with your form for StuffSavvy, or provide photographic close-ups. The more info our experts have, the easier it will be for them to complete the appraisal.


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MAXIMIZE THE VALUE OF YOUR LAMP

As with most collectibles, condition is (almost) everything. The better the shape the lamp is in, the more valuable it will be. Keep any lamps made of rubber or plastic in a temperature-controlled setting. Metal-base lamps can be prone to rust, so keeping them dry is especially important.

It’s best if your old lamp has all its original parts and pieces. If a lamp has been repainted, re-enameled, re-bronzed or overly polished, its value goes down: That old patina of age is priceless, and bases are expected to have some crazing or light cracks or worn spots. However, some repairs – like replacing a broken piece of glass or updating the wiring – can enhance a lamp’s value, if done correctly. Many collectors want to be able to switch on a lamp, to get the full measure of its beauty.

You can (and should) get rid of excess dirt and dust, of course, and keep any glass clean. You might also have a pro deal with any rust, as that can spread and eventually destroy a piece.

Find the value of your antique lamps by uploading photos of your old lamps.

HOW TO FIND A LAMP’S VALUE

Once we've identified the manufacturer, age, model, and condition of the lamp, our Savvy Specialists complete a Quick Appraisal which includes research, stories and special features about it. We can also tell you more about the specific model, including a valuation analysis that includes what similar lamps have sold for.

SELL LAMPS ONLINE

After our Quick Appraisal, StuffSavvy can match you with Online Partners to get you the most value for the lamp you'd like to sell. This is a good option once you know the value you want to sell the item for.

FIND PLACES TO SELL USED LAMPS NEAR ME

After our Quick Appraisal, StuffSavvy can also match you with local consignment shops and auction houses. This is the best option if you want to work with additional Specialists to maximize the resale value of your lamp.