By J.W. “Bill” Courter
Collectors seek all models, beginning with the first lamps sold in 1908, through the MAXbrite Model 500 made today. The brand and model number are on the wick knob. The design, color, availability and artistic appeal all contribute to make one lamp more desirable than another. The demand, and hence price, is created by the collectors, or buyers, who are willing to pay the price asked for the lamp.
Most collectors search for one specimen of each design and style (color), some of which were originally made in limited numbers (i.e. the Solitaire). This relative rarity of certain lamps makes them unique and increases value to a collector.
Other factors may also limit the number of lamps available to collectors. Unequal regional distribution of lamps based on time of rural electrification, the activity of traveling salesmen, and even original selling prices explain why some lamps are found in certain areas. Many lamps, and especially the early brass models, have been stripped, burnished, and wired for electricity. In that condition, they have limited value in a collection.
The popularity and artistic appeal also influence the collectibility of individual styles. Some are popular for interior decorating (i.e. the Alacite Lincoln Drape) while others are desirable by virtue of their color alone (i.e. the cobalt and ruby lamps). These colors have always been high in demand by collectors and general antique dealers.
Lamps in near perfect condition with original finish and color, with no defects in manufacture or otherwise are prized. Lamps and burners new in box (NIB) are highly valued.
All of these factors combine with the condition of the individual lamp to influence the relative demand and values of Aladdin lamps.
Collectors should be aware that internet auctions may not reflect the true value of a lamp. Defects not visible in photographs, or recognized as a problem, may not be mentioned by the seller, or noticed by the buyer.
The Market Today
Today is a good time for the serious collector to seek the better, high-end lamps. Study your reference books and the tips for collecting. The rarities and better high-end collectible lamps find ready buyers.
Aladdin brand electric lamps were introduced during the 1930s-50s as a way to light and colorfully decorate your home. The collectors market for electric Aladdin lamps has virtually collapsed for the common lamps. The finial may be worth more than the lamp base and shade of many lamps. These electrics are utility lamps today – use and enjoy them as memories from the past. The exceptions are unique rarities and Aladdin Deco figural lamps of the 1930s. Although prices are down, bargains exist for the serious collector.
The common lamps, whether electric or kerosene, are best termed as utility or parts lamps. A collector who already has a common lamp may not buy another except for “parts prices” (value of the individual parts). Therefore a clear glass 1940s Washington Drape with good Model B burner may bring $60-70 (or less), mostly for an excellent burner (collectors seek the colored glass and rare Models); however, if you want emergency light and heat when the power is off, compare that with $150-$300 for a brand new 2016-17 Aladdin lamp with MAXbrite burner from a dealer today. And remember, the 1930-1940s vintage lamps are now 75-85 years of age! They still work and will emit 50 CP light and 2000+ BTU of heat.
Quality and condition of the lamp fount and burner, with original finish, and correct parts, are paramount to determine collector value. Models 1 thru 12 are center-draft lamps and Models A & B thru 23 and MAXbrite 500 are side-draft lamps. The MAXbrite 500 Series of burners replaced Model 23 beginning in 2015. All very important information to know. Parts are available to recondition and restore nearly every model of Aladdin lamp back to working order. Original parts are wanted by collectors.
Some Collecting Tips
- Learn to evaluate condition. Dents, cracks, chips, poor color, thin spots in glass and excessive wear reduce value.
- Know and check for original parts. Study the drawings and illustrations found in Aladdin – The Magic Name in Lamps. A premium is placed on complete early models with their correct galleries, flame spreaders, air distributors, and other parts that are difficult to replace.
- A complete burner, in good condition, is essential for those who want to light their lamps.
- Do not overlook lamps that are relatively easy to restore.
- Be alert for reproductions of the Short and Tall Lincoln Drape lamp, Vertique and Quilt patterns.
- Use care when cleaning your lamps. Do not use abrasive or harsh cleaning agents that can damage or mar the original finish.
- Be especially careful in handling the clear Venetian and all Cathedral and Colonial lamps. The molten glass joint between the font and stem is sensitive to cracking by temperature changes or sudden bumps.
This year the Aladdin Knights are celebrating their 45th Gathering in Columbus, MO this August, featuring their 28th International Antique Lamp Show and Sale on August 11-12 at the Holiday Inn Expo Center (check our 2017 Show Calendar enclosed in this issue for details.)