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The hunt is on... because treasures still abound in New England. It's all about the hunt. We wonder how many times we've heard hobbyists, dealers, and collectors make that remark. But is it really? Sometimes it is more about making the big score ...that rare. I have always wondered what it would take to make the big score? My wife Emily and I are just such collectors and dealers who scored it big. Emily is the antique dealer in the family. She has been an avid dealer for 11-12 years. I am the bag man carrying the boxes and boxes of items to and from the antique shops and of course, are actively involved in the never-ending quest for the elusive antique, often searching, hunting, and looking for the simple things that many people pursue. From antique shop to antique shop we would go. At times I would notice a glass insulator here and there for fifty cents, a dollar or two. Then I saw quite a few at an antique shop in Illinois, Indiana, or maybe it was Ohio. Man they looked great, the blues, the greens, the ambers, the carnivals, and oh man those lovely royal purples. It would be safe to say that at this point, the insulator bug bit me big time. The hunt was indeed on, searching for "the never worth anything, or amount to much" glass insulators. Here is our story.
On October 16, 2003 I purchased the local newspaper to look for any upcoming auction ads. I did not see any ads listing insulators for auction. A coworker later in the day asked me if I was going to the auction up north on Saturday, October 18. I said no, and asked him why. He told me there was an insulator collection listed. I reread the auction advertisement for the scheduled auction on Saturday, October 18 at Ossipee, New Hampshire. Sure enough, how could I have missed that advertisement? My wife Emily did not feel well and decided not to go to the auction. Not knowing to what extent the "insulator collection" was, or the condition ... it could be the common 25 cents to a dollar variety (as some auctions go). Emily and I agreed that if it was in fact an "insulator collection," I would pay as much as $350-$400.
I left early, in plenty of time to preview the "insulator collection." Unfortunately I got lost and could not find the auction house. Finally I did find the auction house but only had six minutes to preview. As I walked into the auction house, saw the display case, my heart jumped. I saw six very high-end glass insulators looking at me. There were two what collectors call "Boston Bottles", there were two "confederate eggs" and there were two "corkscrew" insulators. A total of six insulators that many collectors only dream about. In addition to the six high end insulators, there were approximately 10-12 large box lots of insulators. A quick check of all the boxes, I did notice many glass insulators of interest. The first three lots of two insulators, I dropped out of the bidding at $900. for each lot. There was another collector who had a very high proxy/telephone bid on the three lots of two. The auctioneer made a remark about him being in the wrong business if these insulators were going that high in price.
Having driven a good distance, I resigned myself to the fact I was going home with some glass insulators. I did bid and won four boxes of mixed insulators, glass and porcelain. I was concentrating so much, and was focused on the various insulators, that I overlooked in particular one glass insulator in one box (which is the basis for this story). However, I did win these boxes for a total of $775 (not including the auctioneers' premium). I got what I wanted, paid my bill, and departed for the long drive home, wondering what I would tell my wife about spending $775 after agreeing to spend no more than $350-$400. All I could envision was putting all these glass and porcelain insulators in my soon to be doghouse (the utility shed).
But alas, I wasn't destined for the doghouse! Turned out, after I got home, that the one insulator in particular I could not find in my new 2003 Price Guide by the McDougalds. I was totally dumbfounded and perplexed over it. I emailed the authors of the insulator 2003 Price Guide and I explained the situation, gave a description and sent some photos of what I had in "that one particular box." The email reply I received indicated, be careful with the insulator, put it in a safe place, do not handle it to much, put it in a closet, on the floor! John and Carol both felt I had a very unusual and perhaps a rare glass insulator on my hands. Carol suggested that I take the power piece to the glass insulator show that was being held on October 28, 2003 in Albany, New York. My wife Emily and I hand carried the glass insulator that I was now referring to as my new "mysterious power piece."
When we walked into the show, everyone was very excited about what I had to show them. Many of the prominent regional and New England collectors all seemed to think I had a "rare" find. After another quick email on site at the show to Carol McDougald, she suggested I have the "mystery power piece" taken to Springfield, Ohio. I talked around and found that the NIA Historian, Mr. Kevin Lawless would be going to Springfield, Ohio the following weekend and he agreed to hand carry the mystery power piece to Springfield, OH. Upon his arrival, sure enough, again, everyone was excited about this "rare" find. Most agreed that the insulator had to be sent to a particular individual in the glass insulator hobby known as the insulator "guru," Mr. N. R. "Woody" Woodward and have him take a look at it. This was the consensus of opinions of those at the Springfield, OH show.
Another couple, husband and wife, Marilyn and Bill Albers, who are very reliable and reputable collectors, told Kevin Lawless they would be happy to hand carry the mysterious power piece to their home in Houston, Texas. Woody, the insulator guru, also lives in Houston, and they were able to bring it to him. Woody has the sole responsibility in the glass insulator hobby of researching new insulators and assigning them new CD numbers. The mysterious power piece underwent a rigorous inspection. Woody examined, measured, completed a shadow profile and photographed this suspected "rare" find.
Documentation now exists that this particular glass insulator has been determined to be one-of-a-kind, and Woody assigned it a new CD number, CD 245.2. The piece has no embossing with a smooth base and just a plain aqua color. Woody shipped the glass insulator to the McDougalds for final photos, so this rare one-of-a-kind insulation could be included in the next updated, revised edition of "Insulators, A History and Guide To North American Glass Pintype Insulators" price guide. The glass insulator was shipped back to me about a month later. I found that through all of this hand carry business, that insulator collectors are very, very reliable and reputable to the hobby of insulator collecting. How many dealers, buyers, collectors of anything would trust someone with an item with such a possible high-end value?
Upon receiving the insulator, we put it away, forgot about it until some time later. Must have been late March or early April 2004. I inquired around via the ICON Digest about this new find. The interest generated was unbelievable. Within a few days, I had over 30 replies and inquiries, some to buy, some to congratulate, some were curious, some suggested how to handle the sale of this piece if I decided to sell, some even suggested I keep it, as an investment. Or to put it bluntly, "sit on it." Some even suggested the piece is suspect, being altered etc.
I sold the CD 245.2 a.k.a. "The Mystery Power Piece" for in excess of $20,000 and now it has a new owner. Yes, it is definitely safe to say, that old Marv is destined to get a new, big doghouse now!
With knowledge of Boston Bottle Works, the Pettengill Andrews Company, the Pairpoint Glass Company, the Sandwich Glass Company and the Keene, NH Glass Company all located in New England, there is still prominent glass to be found. On any given day, you might find me in any of the local antique shops, stopping at garage sales, flea markets, etc., and oh yes, an occasional auction. My suggestion to all glass and porcelain insulator collectors, keep at it, stay with it, go on a search and find that ever so elusive rare find.
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Last updated Tuesday, July 5, 2005