Personal Effects, Feb. 25

Published 1:30 am Saturday, February 25, 2017


Contributing writer

Question: Hi Jerry, my dad and I often buy metal items from a man who deals in scrap. I saw this door knocker in the brass pile and knew that I had to have it. I love foxes and know that it’s a high quality piece. There is a hinge inside that opens and closes the mouth. Can you tell me how old it is and where it’s from? It’s big and measures about 5.5 inches. I’m in it for about $9 so I don’t care what it’s worth. Thank you.

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Answer: Hmmmm…. Well…. Wow! First, let me congratulate you on your obviously keen and very sharp eye. Good job! Now, let’s get to the real object at hand.

This is not a door knocker, it’s kind of similar, but it’s a wall mounted paper or letter holder. This would have been hung on the wall next to a desk and would have held urgent or important papers for easy access.

That’s why it has a spring — to keep it clamped shut.

You didn’t say if it had any markings, but I doubt that it does. More than likely it’s English. The English just have a way with casting and finishing brass.

The detail and finishing of this piece is outstanding. It’s going to date to 1880s to the 1890s. This was likely once part of a large and expensive desk set. Inkwells, blotter edges, stamp box, paste pot, ruler and on and on, would have rounded out this set. I imagine that it would have been in this woodsy forest theme. Wouldn’t that be cool?

You’re right, about its being big. I combed some auction records and I found only one reference for an American example. Trust me, it pales in comparison to this monster.

I would have no problems seeing this piece priced at a high end antiques show for $300 or more. It’s a fine and choice piece. Congratulations on saving this wonderful piece from a smelter’s pot. Keep looking, you have a great sense about quality.