Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Sell Corkscrews on eBay

I knew I'd found something special when a colleague who normally sells vintage postcards turned to listing corkscrews on eBay instead.  

She's someone I check out often and use as a role model because she regularly achieves high prices for her postcards.  I have learned a lot from her.  But I stood to learn - and earn - a great deal more from this new-found interest of hers: vintage corkscrews.

The very first of her offerings, a corkscrew with handle shaped like a mermaid, made over £1,000.  Others, also with novelty and ornate handles, have fetched double figures and, from my experience, they're commonly found at offline auctions and flea markets where price tags of twenty or thirty pounds are common.

Marvel at these recent eBay finishing prices: a rare 'flip out' corkscrew made from brass and resembling a flick knife made £2,051.61; an Italian stirrup shaped corkscrew went for £2750.00; a ratchet corkscrew from 1869 fetched $1812.77, not one of which were well described or blatantly unusual.

Tips to Help You Buy and Sell Corkscrews for Profit

* Corkscrews have been around since the mid-1600s but it's those from 1850 onwards that fetch the highest prices at auctions on and off the Internet.  Before the middle 1800s, most household objects were made to be used, not looked at, so they were plain, functional, not ornate and grandiose such as some appearing later and which now fetch fabulous high prices on eBay.  So, generally speaking, the more ornate and elaborate the corkscrew the higher its price is likely to be.

* That said, I've seen very plain corkscrews priced about £1 a time at flea markets fetching a fiver or more on eBay so it's worth buying anything that's genuinely old and very cheap.  'Dirty' usually suggests the item is old and because few plain corkscrews become auction best sellers you'll rarely find them faked or made to look older than they really are. They are almost always worth buying!

* The earliest designs comprised a steel spiral fixed to a wooden handle. Subsequently handles became precious works of art, made from silver or gold encrusted with diamonds or inlaid with ivory or mother of pearl.  In time the simple spiral was replaced by mechanical devices to make opening bottles easier still, some even had a small brush attached for cleaning dust from bottles.  More desirable and consequently more valuable are specimens with unusual attachments such as brush or bell cap (a metal piece to fit over the bottle neck), and sometimes containing precious jewels or painstaking artwork.

* The Victorians' love of all things new-fangled, somewhat risqué, and heavily ornate, spawned some of the most beautiful and highly prized items. They include a multitude of corkscrews sold not all that long ago on eBay, with 'Victorian' in the title and fetching forty to eighty pounds each.  All were ordinary looking with simple wooden handles and commonplace screw. Similar vintage items not labelled 'Victorian' reached lower prices. So that word 'Victorian' could double your corkscrew's value, as long as it's true!

* My research revealed antique French creations fetching two to three times their corresponding English manufacture values.

* Add something a little unusual or with separate use and corkscrew prices rise, such as a folding antique corkscrew that fetched £158.00, a French creation depicting a champagne bottle with pocket knife in the handle that made £159.99, and a UK corkscrew shaped like a lady’s legs that went for £185.00.

* The screw is sometimes called a 'worm' or 'helix' and was made from twisted wire or cast into shape.  Because corkscrews were constantly used and in regular contact with water and alcohol, the worm on older corkscrews is frequently found broken, damaged or heavily rusted.  

Rust can be cleared or reduced with oil which also helps keep moving parts in working order. Serious damage or sloppy repairs to screw or handle can render a common corkscrew almost worthless and will seriously reduce the value of most highly prized specimens.

* The most collectible corkscrews are those with ornate handles, unusual mechanisms, popular maker's name.  Popular makers include Merritt, Gaskell and Chambers, Lund Lever, Samuel Pemberton.  Precious metals add significantly to resale value. 

* A past famous owner increases value significantly and there are collectors specialising solely in items once owned by the likes of Al Capone and other gangsters alongside more respected citizens such as U.S. Presidents, well known entertainers, writers, and so on.  

Study the long list of corkscrews with past famous owners at the Virtual Corkscrew Museum:

* As for virtually any collectible, the addition of a popular theme or subject, for instance a dog or frog depiction, a sport or hobby, leads to multiple bidders from several eBay product categories and can fetch unexpectedly high prices. By far the best corkscrew-related web site I studied values a corkscrew with a rare Swedish penknife attached at £150 and another with a boy's head made from a golf ball at £170. 

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