Ericsson phone 'sleek' for 19th century

By Terry Maurer, What's it Worth April 22, 2012 

Before the internet revolutionized modern communications, there was another innovation that, in its day, was equally momentous.

The invention of the telephone in 1876 brought one-to-one immediate connection to homes and businesses around the world.

In today's What's It Worth? we'll answer a reader's question about their early phone and also explore the field of collectible bookends.

Q. We've always thought this telephone was foreign, perhaps from Ecuador and not American-made. It is right at 12 inches high. What can you tell us? -- Johanna in Kennewick.

A. You are correct the phone is not from anywhere near here. It is an Ericsson telephone, made before the turn of the 20th century in Stockholm, Sweden.

Lars Magnus Ericsson started his company in 1876, and by the mid-1880s the firm had really taken off. They still are in business today.

We talked with Tri-Cities' telephone collector and expert Paul Ziemer, who has helped with past What's It Worth? telephone questions. He told us your phone is called the Eiffel Tower, because of its sleek, towering steel structure.

"It is also called the Skeleton, because of the open frame or the Coffee Grinder, as it resembles that old-time appliance," Ziemer said.

He also pointed out the unit is not all original, since the handset has been replaced with one from a different manufacturer.

Telephones manufactured by Ericsson are treasured and valued by collectors today for their appearance and uniqueness. This particular style of phone is one of them.

"It still has value," he said. Ziemer estimated it at $200; more if it had the original handset -- also as pictured. Some Ericsson phones can bring as much as $1,000 from today's collectors.

Q. I have two bookends, each 8 1/2 inches high. They are marked for the Pompeian Bronze Co. of New York and are quite heavy for their size. What can you tell me? -- Elmer in Kennewick

A. Not a lot is known about the Pompeian company; not with any certainty.

Some sources say they were in business in New York as early as 1900 as the Marion Bronze Company, later sold to its employees and re-organized as Pompeian. Other references will tell you Pompeian was founded as late as 1921 and was out of business by the early 1930s.

According to author Louis Kuritzky's Collector's Guide to Bookends (Collector Books, 1998), although it was called Pompeian Bronze, the company actually made bronze-clad, not solid bronze pieces. They also produced items like lamp bases in heavy gray metal.

Many Pompeian bookends were painted in bright colors. Over the years, the paint finish can be lost. It is hard to tell if these, called "Sunset Devotion" by collectors, were painted when they came from the factory.

Bookends are popular collectibles as well as useful objects. We see them at just about every antique shop and show.

To get an idea of availability, we did a quick check on Ebay late last week and looked only for bookends listed with the word "Indian" in the description. Nearly 700 were up for sale or had been offered in the past several months.

Not surprisingly, bookends bring the highest prices when sold as pairs. Single bookends are often seen for sale and, according the Kuritzky, "Buying singles isn't a bad idea and you should generally anticipate paying about one-third or less of the price of a pair."

Some bookends can be quite expensive -- up to several thousand dollars. Others are in the $25 range.

Pompeian pieces can bring as much as $750 or more. Highest-priced examples will have all the original painted finish.

We wouldn't be surprised to see this pair priced in the $500 range.

-- Terry Maurer, Tri-Cities personal property appraiser, is a member of the Certified Appraisers Guild of America. For possible use in a future column, direct questions on your antiques and collectibles to What's It Worth? by email to tchwhatsitworth@ gmail.com

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