Thursday, September 23, 2010

What's in your Father's Desk?

As I mentioned in my last post, people throw away a lot of valuable items in estate clean out. People often take everyday items and assume because the object is common, it must not be worth anything.

Case in point: one of my favorite things to do at estates is ask what professions their parents had. Depending on the answer, I generally ask to see the Dads desk. (nothing sexist in this-with the generations I'm dealing with, Moms generally weren't working outside the home. ) I open the top drawer and see a jumble of pens, letter openers, paper clips, etc. My clients always mutter "oh, that's nothing, just a bunch of old pens.." Here's what I've found this week:

A jumble to be sure. But old enough to be interesting. That case up at the top is for a dip pen. Those have been soaring in value recently. All of the pens I found are fountain pens. Some worth nothing, some worth $50 and a couple worth around $110. I just have to have the fortitude to dig through the rest of the desk! I found this little gadget and it took me a bit to figure out what it was.
Victorian Gold Filled Mechanical Pencil

Then I fiddled with it a while and out slid a mechanical pencil. Gold filled with an inset striped agate, from the Victorian Era. Very small and discreet.

19th Century Mechanical Gold Filled Pencil
In the bottom drawer stuffed in the back I found these: 

Cases for Parker 51 fountain pens, an ink well with a heavy patina, and a Sheaffer's pen case. All great to find, especially if I can find the pens that go in them. The antique ink well will clean up nicely-but I will NOT polish it. Values for pens vary widely and condition is everything. If that lever on the side of the pen (which is lifted to fill the bladder with ink) is broken, your pen needs repair and is generally not worth the cost. 
I found this under the desk back near the air vent: 

I know it's a scale. But why is one side a flat scoop? What was it made for? Who made it? After I clean it up, (again, no polishing) I will start the research phase of my job. I spent a LOT of time digging through websites. My biggest time saver and my biggest curse is Google Images. As you can see if you click, typing in Antique Gold Scale brings up helpful and very unhelpful information. I don't spend much time with it-if the info isn't on the top half of the first page it generally won't help. 

Other things that matter in a desk are blotters, anything associated with fountain pens, mechanical pencils, stamps, letter openers (found one once with a Pinecone pattern by 19th century Tiffany-the owner was using it to pry open cans), and old staplers

I consider a dirty not cleaned out desk to have the greatest potential in any estate. I just hope mine will rise in value in the same way someday...based on the piles I have around here, anything is possible!


  1. the last two desks i bought from antique stores each had something fun inside ... the first had a packet of divorce papers from 1948. the second had an awesome family easter photo from the 1960's (??). nothing of value, but that's half the fun ... all those goodies we don't expect to find!

  2. Wow, lots of treasures in a place I wouldn't have thought of looking!

  3. Sometimes it is the smaller things that surprise us all.. Nice finds. :-)

  4. I love the mechanical pencil! Great finds and so fun!

  5. Coool~ the Pens and pencils are fab! I mean this just supports my stance that I 'have' to keep Everything!

  6. flat side for weights they r various sizes and the scoop is for the powder items...