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How to identify antique handcrafted copper items

Updated on November 21, 2010

Bailey and Mackay mark


Handcrafted copper was made in America from early in the 18th century until about 1850, with the center of production in Pennsylvania. Examples have been found signed by such notable coppersmiths such as: Kidd, Buchman, Babb, Bently, and Harbeson. Of the many utilitarian items made, teakettles are the most desirable. Early examples from the 18th century were made with a dovetailed joint which was hammered and smoothed to a uniform thickness. Pots from the 19th century were seamed. Coffeepots were made in many shapes and sizes and along with mugs, kettles, warming pans and measurers are easiest to find. Stills ranging in sizes of up to fifty gallon are popular with collectors today. These are some of the things to look for when finding antique handcrafted copper items.

• Be familiar with the 1850’s style of design. Look for teakettles with similar design features of the period so that you are able to narrow down the possibilities of a mass manufactured item. Be careful when selecting a piece to make sure that there is minimal amount of damage and wear and tear on the joints.

• Do a general search for coffee pots, mugs, kettles, measurers and warming pans when you are looking for antiques. Manufacturer’s of this time period produced mostly practical everyday items and far less decorative items for the home. So when you are lut hunting for pieces in antique shops keep in mind if the piece that you are looking at is highly decorated and very fancy looking you might not have a piece that is from the time period.

• Look for clues of dovetail joinery within the seam of the piece to help narrow down possibilities. This is a dead giveaway that you could have an original design that is from the period. Take a tip from my past experience, I always find it to my benefit to do my homework on a specific time period or manufacturer before I go shopping to make sure that I have the shapes and lines well established in my mind. If need be, I keep a visual notebook to keep me on track when I look for specific pieces from a certain era.

• Be familiar with different types of manufactures marks. Benham & Fround , Herbert Benham & Son and many other manufactures have specific marks that help to identify their own brand. To remember these marks can sometimes get quite confusing when you have so many to remember, that is why a visual notebook to carry with you is quite handy when you go out on your antiques hunting adventurers.

Be aware that there are wonderful reproductions that are out there on the market and many professional antiques dealer s have been fooled by fakes. So if you find out that you actually bought a fake item or a reproduction, be sure that you have your receipt and take it back to the dealer that you bought it from. One thing that you need to try to do before you take the piece back to the dealer is take a picture of the item. Do you remember that visual notebook that you have this image would be a perfect example of where you can start a area in your book of fakes and reproductions. So if you ever come across that style again in a piece you will not make that mistake again.

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