Look What You Find in the Old Books in the NIA Archives

by Rick Soller

[A version of this was originally printed in the Fall 2000 Drip Points ]

There are a number of reasons why early books in the hobby make great reading. They contain mysteries, forgotten finds, prices to drool over, and information to laugh at. Since most collectors don't have these books in their library, let me share some of my favorites.
First, there is the fun of trying to figure out what the author had drawn. For example, I have yet to figure out for sure what this white pottery insulator "OAKI" is. The book 800 Insulators lists it as being 4" tall and 4-7/8 wide. Shown to the right is a picture of the insulator valued at $35-40 way back in 1971. I suspect it may be a "LOCKE" porcelain insulator with a difficult to read incuse marking.

It would be nice to know what the hatched band around the skirt represented.  A look underneath the insulator would also help classify it.  Was it a single, double, or triple skirted insulator?

From the same book (800 Insulators) are these two pictures. The one on the right is apparently a CD 159 but what is the one on the left? It looks like a CD 145 but there is no listing for such an embossing in the latest price guide. Also note that the month is spelled out in the listing on the right but no such embossing is listed for the CD 159.


 A close attention to detail often uncovers other interesting but forgotten finds. The picture on the top left looks like a multipart and the book 800 Insulators indicated it was made by Thomas.  Once you study the dimensions, however, a different story emerges. That's when you realize that the dimensions must be a mistake or this piece must be a salesman's sample. 

Since I have this piece in my collection, I know it is the latter as shown in the bottom left picture but I didn't pay close attention to this detail until after I acquired the piece. Perhaps if I would have noticed these dimensions sooner, I could have been on the lookout for this piece sooner and maybe picked it up for the bargain price of $3-5.

Note that in the actual insulator, "THOMAS" is embossed on the top.

I'm sure collectors who bought these early books were mystified by other pictures too.
Below are four drawings of the CD 196.
It makes you wonder if they were looking at the same insulator.

From 800 Insulators (1971).

From Marcy's The Antique Insulator Finder's Collector's Price Guide (1969)

From Ed Lane's Insulators that are Worth Collecting (1968).

From the McDougald's price guide (1999)

Current day collectors would probably be stunned by the prices. Marcy lists green E.C.& M.'s at $15 while Lane lists aqua ones in the $5-10 range. 800 Insulators, listed green Mickey Mouse CD 257s for 50 cents to a dollar. On the other hand, a chocolate porcelain Findlay 182 was listed as rare by Lane, an aqua California CD 102 was priced at $25-30 by 800 Insulators, and the Maydwell #20 CD 164 in milk glass was listed at $25 by Marcy.

Of course, some information is incorrect and collectors are still trying to correct it in the minds of many noncollectors and new collectors. For example, Lane writes about getting offers of $35 for red insulators while the book 800 Insulators describes what seem to San Francisco wood insulators as being made of White Oak and White Cedar. San Francisco wood insulators were made of Lignum Vitae and red insulators generally aren't what people think they are but are clear insulators dyed red, commemoratives, reddish amber but not a true red, or plastic.

The hobby has come a long way since the late 1960s. Jimmy Burns' donation in the summer of 2000 of Ed Lane's publication to the National Insulator Association's Archives provided the inspiration for this report.

Works Cited

800 Insulators: Priced and Illustrated.  (1971).  Paducah, KY: Collector Books. Illustrated by Russell Herring.

McDougald, John, and McDougald, Carol.  (1999).  Price Guide for Insulators: A History and Guide to North American
Glass Pintype Insulators.  St. Charles, IL: John and Carol McDougald.