Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Shelfie Wednesday: Toothpick Holders

A dozen toothpick holders I recently picked up. These 12
were manufactured by at least 8 different glass
firms, and they date from about 1885 to 1905.
While I mostly will write about books here, my business is, after all, Chancery Hill Books and Antiques, and I do buy and sell a good deal in the antiques field as well. Because my folks, for many years, were very active in the antique American glassware and art glass world, I picked up a lot of knowledge from them, and that knowledge is one of the things that makes my business possible.

So one of the categories I often buy and sell in is collectible Victorian glass toothpick holders. Like celery vases, spoon-holders, and salt cellars, toothpick holders, by their very existence and intended function, tell us something about the Victorian dinner table (and its associated manners) that we might not quite imagine otherwise. In the case of toothpick holders, it's simply important to note that toothpicks, apparently, were intended to be available at all times upon the table, and presumably they were there to be used. 

Produced at every conceivable price point, toothpick holders were popular, it seems, with all social classes: I'd probably hesitate to use a toothpick in public, but 120 years ago, it was apparently very much normal to do so, even at the fanciest tables.

Toothpick holders are still quite collectible today, because they are small and often cute (none of those pictured here is over 3" tall) and they are varied in both appearance and value: in the past two months, I've seen toothpick holders sell at auction for prices ranging from a dollar each to over thirteen thousand dollars. And yet, it seems to be the case that, like many older collectibles, toothpick holders have seen their collecting heyday pass: they are collected now mostly by folks older than me (often a good deal older), and they are not (yet, at least?) as highly valued by people in my generation or younger.

But each one is a little piece of history.

No comments:

Post a Comment