Metal pieces aren’t antiques, but their popularity makes them valuable

Published 3:18 pm Friday, December 28, 2018


Personal Effects

Question: Hi J. Can you help me with these brass pieces? Mom and Dad loved all things that were from Colonial Williamsburg and Virginia Metalcrafters was a big part of that. Though they

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could have bought antique pieces, they mostly bought VA Metalcrafters pieces from 1970 through the 1990s. Many a gift came from the Gazebo or La Fayette Galleries. Was that a bad thing for them to do?

I’ve got lots of candlesticks, some of which are huge; door knockers; door stops; book ends; trivets; and much, much more. I think that VA Metal is out of business. Are they worth anything? I want them in my home but my decorator thinks they look dated.

Answer: What a great question. I love Virginia Metalcrafters, too. For clarity, I’m just going to use the abbreviation of VAM for Virginia Metalcrafters. VAM was created in the late 1890s in Waynesboro, Virginia.

In 1925, with the rise in popularity of historic sites like Colonial Williamsburg, Old Salem and Mystic Seaport, VAM built a massive complex. This complex, located at 1010 East Main St., consisted of one main multi-section brick factory, with several other smaller buildings for shipping, inventory and a warehouse. These buildings were used until the company’s closing in 2006.

As far as I can tell, most of these buildings are not derelict. The factory was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2015. A sad ending for a great American company.

Sigh. Where to start. Of course, your parents didn’t do anything wrong! They bought things they loved and they used and enjoyed them. That’s the purpose of the antiques and decorative arts. Let me tell you, I’ve got a counter loaded with antique brass candlesticks. I would gladly sell a pair for $50 — gladly! If I had a pair of VAM large pricket-style candlesticks, they would sell with a phone call for triple of what an antique pair is begging to be sold for. It’s funny in a world that is turning away from the traditional arts, if someone loves VAM pieces, they are passionate about them. VAM pieces do sell and sell well. Large items or limited editions can bring hundreds.

VAM once had a massive outlay of products. For decades, they supplied Colonial Williamsburg, Old Salem and Mystic Seaport and other historic sites with giftwares and architectural hardware. The catalogs that Williamsburg put out in the 1970s were epic in size, quality and products offered. VAM was featured very predominantly. Sadly, with the change in tastes and trends, this source of pride has changed, if not been totally eliminated.

Dated? Of course it’s dated. Many VAM pieces are direct copies of 17th, 18th and 19th century objects and many original articles were inspired by designs found at many of the historic sites they worked with. Unless your decorator is going to live in your home, I’d have all of these wonderful pieces there to use and enjoy. Perhaps, your decorator is one of those “no walls, white everything and no stuff” decorators. In that case, I can understand their angst.

You sent me lots of photos but I selected this one of the trivet in the shape of the King George cypher.

This looks like it could be one of the 4.5-inch sizes. The cypher trivets were and are very popular. This one in a retail shop should be priced at about $24. Thanks for some great questions.