The Virtual Corkscrew Museum's Daily Newspaper
Friday, February 28, 2003
Happy Birthday Smokey
Wirtz, Virginia - Smokey the Bear's birthday is somewhat of a mystery. Some say it was February 28, 1944 and others give dates of February 22, 1944, August 9, 1944, and even February 28, 1928. The latter is, no doubt, incorrect. It does seem that a bear was adopted in 1944 as a symbol for the "Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires" campaign. In 2001 the slogan was changed to "Only you Can Prevent Wildfires."
The name Smokey was adopted for the bear in 1950 when a baby black bear was found alone and burned after a wildfire raged through New Mexico.
Buyer Beware - "Carved Bone" Corkscrews
Wirtz, Virginia - In the past six months a number of "hand carved bone" figures have turned up on the ebay Internet auction site. They are offered by sellers across the United States and in England. They are variously described as "rare," "ivory," "unique", and even "19th Century" When a seller was contacted to verify his October, 2002 offering as a "Rare 19th C. Ivory Skeleton Design Corkscrew", he replied curtly saying "Yes, it definitely is. I had it tested." The Californian had a starting bid of $599.00 and it received no bids. Several days later a seller from Indiana sold a "skeleton" one for $77.00
The figures at the top of our story have a "Syroco" logo on the bottom. It is quite unlikely that they come from that Syracuse, New York firm that made composition material corkscrews in the 1940s and 1950s. The standing figures have turned up in the hands of sellers in Arizona, California, Florida, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, and the United Kingdom. Several were contacted and each came back with a response indicating they bought (it) at an estate sale. They have fetched prices ranging from $45.00 to $278.00.
Most of the sellers are careful not to mention the word "antique" or "old" in their description. Each, however, tends to state that their piece is "hand carved." A close examination certainly would lead one to believe that they are, indeed, hand carved and are bone. Even the sniff test presents a convincing argument that they are bone. However, when one compares two or more of the same figure, they are exactly the same. This leads corkscrew expert Ron MacLean to state "They are a composition material which is compression molded. They are not old."
The Daily Screw has been unable to locate a manufacturing source for these pieces. Except for a really poorly executed worm, they are well made and will have a nice presence in any corkscrew collection. As long as the buyer knows that what he is purchasing is not exactly as described, he is apt to be quite pleased at the right price.
Three additional pieces turning up on ebay in the pass two months have been a roundlet with cherubs, a roundlet with dog head (see below) and an erotic design (below). The dog head sold for GBP 226.00 and the erotic piece sold for GBP $249.00. More of these are apt to turn up in the coming months.
A wise buyer should note that all of these "hand carved bone" corkscrews are made with the same worm.
And, finally, here's one that is on the auction block closing today. It is desribed as OLD GENUINE IVORY CORK SCREW CORKSCREW, Beautiful and Unusual Carved Ivory Cork Screw Genuine Ivory! 4 1/2 inches long A Very interesting gift, or wonderful collector's piece!:
Editor's Footnote: The above corkscrew sold this afternoon for $227.63.
Buyer Beware - 1892 Corkscrew
Wirtz, Virginia - An honest online auction seller described this Champagne bottle corkscrew as "About seven inches long this is a reprocdution corkscrew but is still a nice design I am not sure if these corkscrews work. I bought this as an antique and later found out it is reproduction and hence set the item off at 50p no reserve. I paid alot more and will put this item down to experience. "
Unfortunately, the corkscrew has turned up quite frequently of late with references to it as an antique and in most cases dating it as 1892. The most outlandish tale was "This item came from a tea chest full of odd bits and pieces which I bought from a house clearance, they must have taken the tea chest down and sold it as it is because it had more cobwebs than a Boris Karloff movie. At the bottom was this piece, let me state here and now I know very little about corkscrews and so I place this piece before you with the description of what I see. The piece is 7 inches long overall and has a screw mechanism which screws up and down, a little loose perhaps,the screw itself is not a cheap wire but a metal screw which is quite substantial. The body is marked Champagne on one side and Chateau Peleon Bordeax 1892 on the other."
Another description was "Antique Brass Wine Bottle Shaped Corkscrew Front reads CHATEAU PELEON BORDEAUX 1892. Back reads CHAMPAGNE Could be an Advertising or Promotional Corkscrew." It sold for $206.03. Another offered it as "This auction is for an old Corkscrew made from Brass. The Corkscrew is designed in the shape of a Campagne bottle. A super item for any corkscrew collector. It sold for GBP 31.01.
This seller made a comparison: "Believed to be very old, in the Thomason style." GBP $25.01 was the final price. This one had a starting bid of $55.00: "We have a rare item for auction....I am not an expert on old bottle openers but this looks like a really nice cork screw that would surely add value to any collection. The seller received no bids.
Buyer Beware - New Corkscrews
Wirtz, Virginia - A number of corkscrews have turned up on online auctions of late with some very far fetched descriptions. There are five pictured in this article and a close examination will reveal that they all have similar worms and methods for affixing the worm. These are not antiques. Most of them have been offered by U. K. sellers.
The jockey listed with "This is a great Bronze Corkscrew that is shaped like a jockey's head. It is in excellent condition with no scratches or chips. This heavy cork screw is a beautiful bronze color with patinated brass colored accents on the jockeys hat. We don't know the age of this piece. We purchased it at an auction along with several other items including another bronze corkscrew that we also have listed this week."
The handshake is currently offered as "Unusual handshake corkscrew finished in dark brown and brass. It is in good condition and measures approx. 6 1/2 inches end to end. I take a great deal of care in describing items listed, however I would remind buyers that they are buying antique or vintage items which are most certainly of age and have been used unless otherwise stated. Please do not expect such purchases to be gleaming or without sign of age or wear, as this is a very unrealistic expectation."
A New Hampshire dealer who sold an "1892 Champagne Bottle" for $206.03 listed the hands as "Antique Bronze Corkscrew modelled after two hands shaking. Floral Design on top." and sold it for $31.06. And he sold a "Vintage Carved Bone Corkscrew modelled after a Smiling Man with Top Hat and holding Cane. Marked on Bottom SYROCO" for $166.03.
A U. K. seller sold a Mermaid for GBP26.00 with this "Solid Brass mermaid corkscrew believed to be very old. The same seller got GBP 25.01 for an "1892 Bottle Corkscrew."
Another U. K. seller offered a "Stunning Art Nouveau Bronze Corkscrew 20/30's. This corkscrew is beautiful. It is cast from bronze. I am not sure if the thin covering of gold metal is gold. The seller got GPB 31.00.
A horsehead got this simple description "Going up for bid is a horse head corkscrew. Measures 4 1/2" inches in height. The horse head is made of cast brass with a steel corkscrew. And interesting and different corkscrew." Several of these horse heads as well as bulldog heads have turned up in the past few months.
Editor's Note: A number of modern corkscrews are offered for sale on Internet auction sites. Some are described as old, rare, or antique. We have pointed to a few in this issue. The Daily Screw is not passing judgment on listings for these new corkscrews. It is merely the aim of The Daily Screw to educate readers. The decision to bid and purchase is solely that of the reader.
The Answer will be seen in tomorrow's Daily Screw.
©2003 Don Bull, Editor