Vintage office collectibles can be surprisingly affordable. Tiffany Studios “bookmark pattern” blotter corners, estimated at $200-$400, of a gilt metal, would be a start. Never mind if blotters are obsolete. Use the corners to frame something. How about a Tiffany paper clip tray? We still use paper clips don’t we?
Tiffany items vary widely in price depending on the pattern and materials used. For instance Pine Needle pattern pieces with green slag backgrounds can sell in the thousands. While Tiffany items are always a status symbols there are other possibilities.
If you collect items from the Arts and Crafts period there are office items made by Roycroft and other artisans of the period. Generally they sell at auction for under $300.
Consider a single category – inkwells, for example – for your office collection. They were made in a variety of materials and in every country in the world. Some are quite beautiful, such as the cobalt blue glass and bronzed metal Austrian inkwell offered at the Toomey-Treadway auction with an estimate of $100-$300.
CLUES: There are little treasures to be found at house and garage sales. Not everybody appreciates 19th century paper clips and message hooks. However, in the late 19th century humble office items such as paper clips were decorative. Some were embossed and trimmed with everything from horseshoes to animal heads. Many were four inches long and of bronzed metal. Among the more interesting types are fraternal clips made with their insignia and emblems, of brass. Also made of embossed metal were desk message hooks.
Tiffany paper clip holder.
Among the most decorative office accessories were letter openers. Many were part of writing sets. Included were the letter opener, a metal eraser and penholder. Look for those with decorative handles made of pearl or silver, as well as embossed metal.
What early 20th century desk was complete without a paperweight or two? Those most often thought of by collectors are the blown glass weights made by Baccarat and Millville, but there are other collectible paperweights at a fraction of the cost. Worth looking for are the embossed metal and novelty weights. Glass weights with round tops and inserts of varied pictorial subjects are still around and often have a historical connection. I recall finding one with colorful cigar band inserts. Family photos on an office desk are nothing new. In the early 20th century oblong glass weights were made to have inserts of the wife and children.
In this collecting field a little creative imagination goes a long way.