Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Collecting Thimbles

On my website I have a page where I post eBay listings for thimbles. I started this page right after Thanksgiving because I watched some of the best examples of American thimbles come up for sale and I was enjoying following the auctions. I have no financial interest in the listings I post, but I love to collect and like most collectors, I love a bargain.

There was a time when I spent untold hours shooting photos and writing about thimbles and the effort resulted in my book, American Silver Thimbles. At the time the book was published, thimbles were substantially more expensive than they are today. Thimble collecting reached a feverish pitch for some of the iconic American silver thimbles and prices then were sometimes more than 4-6 times what I saw them fetch this past Christmas season (with some notable exceptions of course).

Yesterday I saw a prime example of fallen glory: a little Columbian Exposition thimble sold for $89.89. Under $100.00. An unheard of low price back in the 1980's-1990'a.

I also remember well the days the Simons Bros. 'Stitch in Time' thimble fetched over $700.00; this past Christmas one went for $128.00.

Why have thimble prices fallen? I would guess a series of reasons.

Several substantial thimble collections have come back on the market and eBay has made comparisons more efficient; we know, for example that 3 or 4 Stitch in Time thimbles came on the market all in a month's time and we could compare the prices they fetched. We also found out there were likely more of them than we thought.

At the height of a collector fad, the prices soar beyond expectation, then when the fad dies off, the prices fall lower than we might imagine.

Sometimes a poorly photographed and written eBay listing results in a bargain price. I took advantage of this factor within the last month: I found a thimble I have always wanted, at a bargain price because the photo was terrible and the write up very vague. I almost missed the listing altogether, clicked my heels when I found it and it is proudly sitting in my thimble case now.

For years after I wrote American Silver Thimbles I didn't pursue thimbles. I don't like to search for collectibles in the midst of a fad; I would rather look for something not in favor. So when, quite by accident I rediscovered thimbles at much more reasonable prices all these years later, I thought the time had come to see if I could fill in some holes in my collection.

I have had a great time posting thimble auctions on my website and indulging in a few of the thimbles for myself.

Will thimbles ever reach their highest prices again? I have no way of knowing and I don't think it matters. I am not buying these thimbles as an investment, just for the pleasure they bring. Thimbles have a rich and interesting history and the workmanship and quality of the designs are often wonderful. I marvel at how much the thimble-makers managed to fit on the band of a thimble. I have always loved needlework tools in general because they are working tools, often with beautiful designs.

And right now another attractive feature about a thimble collection: it doesn't take much room.

Gay Ann

P.S. On my website I have kept photos of past thimble auctions and the prices they fetched as a record of comparison. I will continue to add to the photos as the auctions finish.

1 comment:

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