Personal Effects, Oct. 23, 2016
Question: Dear Mr. Sampson, these cufflinks, and many others like them, belonged to my late uncle. He passed away in the late 1970s. As a banker he wore cufflinks almost every day. Do they have any value? Are they even relevant anymore? Thank you for your time.
Answer: These are great! Many cool things have disappeared from men’s wardrobes over the years. Things like spats, watch chains and most “real” hats. But one constant, has been the cufflink.
Of course, they used to be the status quo for all business or working men earlier in the last century. It’s changed a little to that of the upper level business man or professional.
At one time, all good shirts required cufflinks to close the wrist openings. An interesting history the cufflink.
Now, first off the shirt was merely a protective sleeve, between your dirty, greasy and smelly skin and the fine velvet or woolen coat or jacket you wore as outer wear. OK, we’re talking the 16th century here and bathing was not common. The cotton shirt could be laundered, the coat could not, or not easily or successfully anyway.
The openings at the neck and wrists were secured with ribbon, tied through a hole. That’s the first cufflink.
Everyday shirts just had a button on the cuff. As time went on elaborate lace cuffs were attached to these cuffs. Fast forward to the 19th century and the new money remembered the splendor of the aristocracy and the ribbon was changed out to a metal closure.
This is where imagination and money took over. Edward VII increased the popularity of luxury cufflinks, by wearing solid gold links made by Faberge. Today, you can find just about any type of material, size, theme and shape in a cufflink. The sky is the limit or your pocketbook anyway.
I was able only to submit one photo to the paper but you sent me photos showing dozens and dozens of cufflinks. A nice collection. It looks like that the majority of the links that you have date from the 1940s to the 1970s.
I’ll bet if you look closely, you’ll see that they are marked Swank. Swank was and is a huge manufacturer of men’s accessories. The more unusual or tied to a particular collecting field, the better. They also use them for craft projects, so singles are also mildly collectible. Many women have them made into earrings.
Most of your cufflinks I’d have priced in the store, anywhere from $5 to $15 a pair. So, on a retail level your cufflink collection has a value of hundreds and hundreds of dollars. Be sure to pay attention for famous makers like Tiffany or Cartier, or cufflinks that are sterling, solid gold or platinum.
Thanks for sharing. Go out and get a nice shirt with french cuffs and wear some of them.