Thimble collection from club
How to Collect Thimbles
Silver thimbles make for a delightful collection when arranged neatly together. They are easy to put on display and they can be found in all sorts of places from auctions to thrift stores, all depending on the collector's enthusiasm for searching. This article provides some basics to help you get started with collecting silver thimbles.
Learn a little about the history of silver thimbles.A good collector will always know the stories and history behind the items that they collect. Silver thimble availability was not as widely spread prior to the Victorian era, at which time there was a flourish in their production.. In fact, it was during the Victorian era that thimble collecting became a popular pastime.This means that thimbles earlier than the Victorian era will be likely more expensive and harder to find. Many of the earlier examples survive in mint condition, suggesting that they were not used but were used as display items.. Until the "Dorcas method" was patented by Charles Horner (Halifax) in 1884, silver thimbles only had a working life of 20 years;the Dorcas thimble, however, consisted of a steel core dipped in silver, creating better durability.
Learn about the marks and designs on silver thimbles.When starting out as a collector, it is important to spend some time reading up on the background to silver thimble production and the marks and designs used in particular eras. Thimbles that are highly decorated are interesting objects to display but even a plain thimble with simple markings can be a bonus for a collector. Your own interest will no doubt be sparked by what you learn about thimbles, as well as your finds when you start looking for thimbles to collect. For basic understanding, however, here are some simple pointers:
- Decorative (or souvenir/collector's) thimbles - there are many decorative styles including filigree work, scenes, plant and animal depictions, cherubs, borders, fleur-de-lys, sewing-related themes, etc. Some thimbles even have tiny Bibles attached to them, or doors that open to reveal a little scene.
- Working thimbles - these are the plain Jane thimbles that were made specifically to be used. Although these might not be as fancy, they carry a lot of value of their own nowadays and are highly collectable. Indeed, Dorcas thimbles are perfectly acceptable inclusions in a silver thimble collection, provided they are noted for what they are - steel-based silver coated thimbles. All Dorcas thimbles were made to be work pieces rather than decorative or souvenir pieces but they all have a charm of their own, whether or not they are plain. They come in a variety including dimples and engraved flowers.
- Hallmarked thimbles - patent, factory, manufacturer, etc., numbers and marks.
- Commemorative thimbles - thimbles that serve as reminders of such events as crowning a king/queen, celebrating a country's anniversary, etc.
- Brand promotion thimbles - thimbles made by a sewing or other brand to promote itself and its products. Even politicians advertised themselves by way of thimbles!
- Different country thimbles - thimbles were produced in many countries, including the USA, Britain, continental Europe, India, Australasia, etc.
Look for thimbles.Suitable places for finding silver thimbles include:
- Antique dealers - ask for their sewing/needlework accessories section.
- Antique, colonial and general auctions - look through the sewing gear lots.
- Online - look at auction sites such as eBay and Trademe, specialist vintage sewing shops online, trades, etc.
- Collector's conventions - there are antique conventions and then there are specialized conventions tailored just for thimble collectors, such as the ones held by Thimble Collectors International.
- Grandma's sewing basket - seriously, it is worth asking family members what exciting things they might have stashed away in their sewing baskets, especially if they inherited sewing accessories from other family members. Ask nicely and you might be lucky.
- Brand new silver thimbles. Why not support artists who still make silver thimbles as a work of art? These can make an amazing collection that is of great value in itself. Nothing says that a collection has to be "old".
Examine thimbles carefully when purchasing.Here are some things to consider:
- Is it silver or not? This can be tested easily using a magnet. A thimble that contains metal other than silver will be drawn to the magnet; a pure silver thimble will not be.
- Is it in good shape or really worn? A really worn one might be important for historical or sentimental reasons but, on the whole, it has far less value than thimbles that still retain their decorative features and hallmarks.
- Is the design of good quality or is it second rate? Elizabeth de Castres warns that "there is a variance in the quality as well as the design" of silver thimbles.
Keep a record.It is a really good idea to start with a good habit from the beginning. A good record of your collection not only helps you to remember the finer details, such as how much you paid and where you purchased a thimble from, but it also increases the value should you decide to sell the collection or will it to someone else. To keep good records of your collection, find a notebook, label it "Thimble Collection" or something similar and record the following for every thimble in your collection:
- The date of purchase
- The cost of purchase
- The place of purchase
- The condition at the time of purchase
- Any interesting information you have, such as the make, history, design details etc.
- Include a photo if possible; digital photos are very easy to take and print off (indeed, if preferred, you could make this into a fully electronic record notebook).
Provide a suitable display area for your thimble collection.Appreciate your collection by putting it out on display. A good place is to arrange the thimbles on a step stand inside a glass fronted cabinet. This helps keep away dust and makes it easy to see each thimble.
How to/should you polish a thimble with "gold" and silver sections?
- The earliest known thimble (bronze) was Roman, from Pompeii.
- Henry Griffith and Company, Birmingham, produced a large quantity of silver thimbles from 1856 to 1956.
- The American silver cupid thimble was patented by Simon Brothers in 1906.Other US companies later produced this design as well.
- The term "digitabulist" is applied to a person who collects thimbles (all types of thimbles).
Video: Omas Vingerhoedjes (Nan's Thimbles)
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