Antique Corkscrews

Let's take a ride to Montreal this evening, and look in on the gala New Year's Eve affair, hosted by the CCCC, the Canadian Corkscrew Collector's Club.  A gentleman accepts an invitation from a beautiful woman, to join her at her table.

Woman: "I've taken the liberty of ordering wine."

Gentleman: Thank you.

Head Waiter: (showing the wine, and an old-time cork remover-once referred to as a bottlescrew-to the gentleman) "Would this be satisfactory, sir?"

Gentleman: "An 1802 Double Action Thomason?  Quite!"

Head Waiter: "I believe it's a champagne, Monsieur!"

Woman: (laughing) "I believe the gentleman was referring to your corkscrew.  It was patented in 1802 by a Birmingham manufacturing engineer, Edward Thomason.  A clockwise turn of the handle inserts the pre-centered worm(screw).  A counter clockwise twist extracts the cork.  Thomason's barrel-shaped patent so well-developed it was not effectively improved until the 1890's.  Leave it and the Dom Perignon with us, if you'll be so kind, headwaiter.  I would like the gentleman to have the pleasure. (She turns to the gentleman)  Do you believe the older, finer, vintages are the most difficult to uncork,   Mr. ...?"

Gentleman: (smiling as he effortlessly uncorks the bottle) "Bond, James Bond."

What we like best about Ian Fleming's 007, is his ability to make difficult situations, like properly opening a notable wine when people are watching, seem easy.  If this bothers you, remember that since the late 17th century, when mankind reinvented the Roman art of preserving wine by tightly corking the top of the bottle, thousands of different kinds of corkscrews have been concocted.  That's because, in a straight pull, as much as 300 lb. force of must be exerted.  Notwithstanding, keeping foul cork bits from falling into the wine.  All this invention, and all the interest in wine itself, has created a huge collector's market for antique corkscrews.   

The first English patent for a corkscrew was won in 1795, by Rev. Sam Henshall, for a wire-type twisted screw affixed with a T shaped pulling handle.  The handle was equipped with a pig's bristle brush on one end for brushing mold from the cork.  Between, 1795 and 1908, at least 350 additional patents were awarded in Great Britain alone.

Corkscrews are often collected by category, including ...

1. Straight Pull-often fitted with a fancy T-shaped gripping handle made of tusk, turned rosewood, precious metals, etc..

2. Promotionals-sought after for age, interest in the promoter, and imaginative design.

3. Novelty-Some of these include risqué' figurals.

4. Pocket and Cane-such that a gentleman could carry with him without injury.

5. Miniatures-Often made for removing tiny corks from medicines and perfumes.

6. Mechanicals-generally, the most desirable class of corkscrew.  These included ingenious, and sometimes not so ingenious, designs using leverage, torque, concertina action, and anything else the inventor could think of for "getting the cork out of the bottle."

Many fine corkscrews are still affordable today.  I think they will prove a good short-term investment, up until the time of the new millennium, when we really focus on "popping the cork."

Wayne Mattox Antiques | 82 Main Street North | Woodbury, CT 06798 | 203-263-2899 |
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