Personal Effects

BY JERRY SAMPSON

Question: Hello, Mr. Sampson. My son sends me your articles every month. He saves them up for me and my wife. We’re looking at downsizing and wanted to know if this was worth what they used to be. We collected English lamps for years and years. Bought many from Pinkstons and from Zula.

We’ve been in Florida since 1993. I think that we have room for all the ones that we love. But we have many smaller ones and lots of parts. I don’t see them much anymore. 

This one is a short-stem with a dark olive green font and the base is brass with a pottery dome. We always thought the color was unique.

Thank you for your time and your good works.

Answer: I like English lamps too. For our readers why might not know, what we Americans call English lamps, the English and Europeans call them banquet lamps. 

They are just a kerosene burning, single or double flat wick, type of lighting. They can be tall or short. Most collectors like them really jacked up tall. They date as early as the 1850s to the 1890s or so. 

Lamp scholars, this is a very simple explanation, so please don’t email me. 

The variety that you can find is staggering, every color, shape, pattern and size can be found. If you were buying from Bill Pinkston of Harrodsburg and Zula Hensley of Danville, both long-time and well known old guard dealers and antique shop owners, you were likely buying great lamps. Boy, those were the days. 

I knew them both but just caught Zula on her way out. The knowledge that those people had was amazing. 

There has been a massive change in tastes and trends in the aspects of this business. The fancy, fussy or formal pieces that were once so collected can be troublesome to sell today. Sadly, English / banquet lamps are part of it. 

There are still collectors who collect, upgrade and trade. But like you, they have established collections and aren’t adding to those collections like they were 20 years ago.

Generally, prices have stumbled and fallen. I like your little green lamp. Do you think that the base might have married up with the font sometime in the past? Never the less, It’s a pretty but minor lamp. 

Cranberry, vaseline and cobalt blue are three of the main colors that still sell today — though your olive green is unusual. High end art glass like amberina and peach blow, overlaid colors or really fine cutting or stems, also tend to increase the value. Even that can be a struggle. 

You’re right, you don’t see English lamps in the market. You’d think that if no one wanted them they would come onto the market. But collectors who love them tend to keep them until the very end. 

I think your lamp, as it sits, in a nice antiques store would be priced for about $60. Thanks for sharing it and for reading.