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Unusual finds at neighborhood yard sale


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Last summer my son and his family came over for a Sunday visit, and my son said, "Dad, there is a yard sale right up the street from here that has antique car brass lights for sale." I thought to myself, "Yeah, right. He's been around collector cars his whole life, but never got involved with them. He probably has seen some porch lights, or some Asian-made replicas." Still, my son loves to treasure hunt at estate sales, auctions, flea markets, and yard sales as much as I do, and I enjoy sharing that passion with him. So we jumped in the car and ran up there. It was very different than what I expected, for a yard sale at a private home in a fairly modern community! 😮 Lots of these lights were indeed porch lamps, generic lanterns, etc. But there were some interesting pieces...certainly different from all the Avon bottles, clothing, shoes, kiddie toys, and holiday decorations that you normally expect to find at such sales. 

 

With this initial post, I'll just show some of the stuff that was offered on tables and in plastic tubs, when I walked up that driveway. Then I'll follow up with pix of some junk that I bought. 

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You really can't see many of the more interesting lights in the above photos, I realize now...😐

 

As you would expect, each light was priced a little higher than most of us would want to pay. 🙁

 

The seller said his family had been urging him to stop hoarding all these lights, as he was getting older. He had been a flea market seller for a long time, and had collected old lights and lanterns both as a hobby and for inventory. But he said that most folks no longer seemed to have interest in the old lights. So his daughter convinced him to bring the lights out to her garage sale. He hadn't sold hardly any that day, so far. 

 

Since individual lights were priced a bit high for me, I asked if he might make me a deal if I took several. Before he could answer, his family members said, "YES!"

 

Here is a photo of the batch I finally put together, and asked for his best package deal. You can see him counting and adding...but you can't see the mental anguish which I could feel in him that day. He really wanted to sell several lights, but hated to make that package deal discount...

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My package size kept growing and shrinking, as he would point out one or other that he didn't want to discount, and I would pull it out of the pile and lay it aside. Then he would think about that for a minute, and put it back in and offer to work harder on the package...

 

Here are better photos of the lights I ended up buying. Some are lanterns, some are definitely automotive lamps...but all are very interesting...at least to me! 

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3 minutes ago, keiser31 said:

NICE cannons!

Yeah, I know they're not automotive, so I was trying to not mention them. But I have a genuine old military black powder cannon which I fire every 4th of July, and so I have a soft spot for vintage cannon toys... I also snagged a pair of handcuffs, because they had the key and were "real," and were affordable as a part of the package. 

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These Adlake units were the only "pair" I found in his tubs. I know they're not brass, and thus not fabulously valuable or desirable. But to me they are cool. And it's always nice to have a pair. They seem to be in great shape, except someone has drilled a hole in the bottom of the font of one of them...presumably to electrify it. Unfortunate. 😞

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2 minutes ago, keiser31 said:

A couple of those nickel items may be motorcycle lamps.

Yeah, I've had a few of those old nickel-plated SOLAR lamps in the past...and should have kept them. This one is marked "IMPEX," which is a brand I'm not familiar with. It's in pretty good shape, except for a dented rim around that front glass lens. The bracket still has nice spring tension too. 

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The next one I'm not sure about. The seller claimed it is a really old carriage light, which would have originally housed a candle. (Thus, the long open tube on the bottom.) I've seen these around before. I'm sure it's not automotive, but it is in really nice condition, and it just appealed to me. So I put it in my pile anyway. 

 

Can you folks chime in with some further insight on this one, please? 

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I found this next light to be really intriguing. It's a steel Dietz unit...apparently a tail lamp (no bail, and not even a place for one). It is painted olive drab, which makes me think of military use. I WONDER if there is any possibility that this lamp could have been original equipment on a WWI military vehicle...such as an ambulance or such. 

 

Does anyone have any input on that possibility, or other thoughts? 

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Edited by lump (see edit history)
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Nice collection lump. Thanks for sharing.

This makes me wonder, a hundred years ago when many carriages had come to the end of their utility and were sent to the scrap pile, what drove the people back then to remove these lights in the first place?

Did they have an idea to repurpose them or was it simply a cool item to collect even back then.

They tend to be at a lot of auto swap meets and it's clear most have probably been removed for close to a century, so it appears many, many people felt the need to rescue these lamps over the years.

 

Edited by GregLaR (see edit history)
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Lamps are a peculiar subject, and lamp collectors even more peculiar. At one time they were definitely seen as a iconic item with a strong nostalgic linking . And quite a few people collected them. Some were brass era car collectors as well and some were just lamp collectors.  Then a couple of generations went by

Younger people have no nostalgic remembrance of anything from the lamp era. And seem to just love to pin the label of hoarder on anyone who collects something that has no appeal to themselves or their friends. I sometimes get the impression that many in the younger generation consider any material object in the same sort of light 

that most modern consumer goods are looked at today. Buy it , use it, discard it as soon as it is practical. The only thing that matters in life is right now.

 A generation gap that is a lot larger than many of us realise.

 The reality of lamps is that about 95% of them exist in far greater numbers than the numbers of vehicles that need them. A few exceptions exist, for example Solarclipse headlights, or perhaps early self generating headlights from very good makers. But generally old lights have become decorative objects. And valued by a shrinking 

group of people each year.

I think you made a great find. But I fear anyone else in my family would see things more in the light as a transaction between fellow hoarders. It's a peculiar world that has shaped up around us.

 

Greg in Canada

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By now some of you may be wondering if there were no "typical" vintage car lights in his pile. Yes, indeed. I actually passed on a common Model T Ford lamp, since the seller considered it to have been very valuable. And I saw several lamps that were badly damaged, or missing major parts, etc. I left most of those behind.

 

But I did buy this Jno (John) Brown model 110 kerosene lamp (steel and brass construction), featuring brass cap with Ford script. The cap is dented twice, which did bother me. I'm sure it can be easily straightened once it is removed, but I'm not about to try that!

 

Still, the rest of the lamp is in really good used condition, so I kept it in my pile.  Anyone have any idea on the year of Model T Ford it would be best matched to? 

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I also liked this E&J Model 32 kerosene lamp, made in steel and brass construction. It's in excellent shape, and I like that it features the bracket too. So it went into my package deal. 

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Next item is probably a hardware store-sold driver's side lamp. It is a Duplex brand, all steel. It features a clear front lens, a green side lens, and a red rear lens. There is no bail, so I would assume it was a purpose-built car or buggy lamp. Yet I note that it has a flattened bottom on the font, which would make it sit firmly on a shelf, or etc. Unfortunately, it has a hole drilled in the bottom, and has been electrified. So the kerosene components are long gone. Nevertheless, I thought it was pretty cool...

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Next light is probably a wall-mount lantern. It is stamped on the top with the name: "Luck-E-Lite," and "Embury Manufacturing Company, Warsaw, New York". It has the letters, "US" stenciled onto the globe. Is that original? I don't know. But the original paint seems to be somewhere between a faded gray or a shade of olive drab. How do I know that it is the original paint? There are the remnants of a water-based decal on the front surface of the steel cap, with that same "Luck-E-Lite" name barely discernable. 

 

I have no idea if it is special or not. But it's all there, unbroken, with font, etc, intact. And I liked it. So it came home along with the rest. 

 

 

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This next one is definitely just a lantern...complete with wire bail handle. The cap is stamped with "Adams & Westlake Co," and "Adlake No. 250 Kero" and lists cities as, "New York, Chicago, Phila." The font and kerosene burner components all seem to be in good shape. The red globe is also marked as: "D.L. & W.R.R." So, is it a railroad light? Well, it would APPEAR to be. But those items are sometimes faked, and I would have no idea. Still, it fit nicely in my pile. 

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Ok, so I saved one of my favorites for last. 

 

This all brass light is quite small...not quite 6" tall. It is all brass, with burner components and font intact. It is missing one lens (side). The front lens is clear glass. I really like that unique brass locking wing nut on the mounting bracket too. It is apparently French made, as the name plate on the side reads: "Phares" and "Ducellier" and "Paris." Of course, I realize that it doesn't actually say, "Made in France," but that was not as common a hundred years ago as it is today. I also note that the porcelain burner reads, "Patent Low Cone" in English...so maybe  the nameplate is merely intended to use the French style, in order to appeal to potential buyers? 

 

I ASSUME that this very-small light is intended for use on a vintage bicycle, or motorcycle, or perhaps even a cycle car? (Likely was just offered for use on any such application, I guess?)

 

Can anyone share some insight or experience on this fascinating little brass light? 

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You never know what you will find at a yard sale and I rarely stop at them myself. I worked in Tennessee in the 90s and had to stay the weekend and not happy about. So I took my time driving in to work on the Saturday stopping at yard sales. I scored a very nice late 1912 / 13 coil box with the coils that I brought back the next week in my carry on bag. Try and take that on an plane today. By the way I payed a staggering $20. US for it and now have it on my 12 T    

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19 minutes ago, lump said:

This next one is definitely just a lantern...complete with wire bail handle. The cap is stamped with "Adams & Westlake Co," and "Adlake No. 250 Kero" and lists cities as, "New York, Chicago, Phila." The font and kerosene burner components all seem to be in good shape. The red globe is also marked as: "D.L. & W.R.R." So, is it a railroad light? Well, it would APPEAR to be. But those items are sometimes faked, and I would have no idea. Still, it fit nicely in my pile. 

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Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad ran from Hoboken, New Jersey to Buffalo, New York.  'Phoebe Snow' was their spokeswoman character that promoted travel on their line as cleaner because they burned anthracite coal.   Its a switchman's lantern.

Edited by 58L-Y8 (see edit history)
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Just now, 58L-Y8 said:

Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad ran from Hoboken, New Jersey to Buffalo, New York.  'Phoebe Snow' was their spokeswoman character that promoted travel on their line as cleaner because they burned anthracite coal.

Thanks, 58L-Y8! Much appreciated! 

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So, the punch line is that I paid a little over $400 for the package, including the toy cannons and handcuffs (Not sure how much over $400...it was back in July or maybe even June). At the time I realized it was no amazing score...but I liked the items, and you really don't see things like that around here too often these days. Honestly, I am hopeful that I may be able to sell 2 or 3 of them, to cover most of my costs, so that I can place the rest of them on my shelves among my meager collection of other brass horns, lights, signs, etc, without feeling guilty. Still, I do really like them all....🤔🤔

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By the way, I kept that seller's phone number, and told him I might come see him to look for more goodies to buy. So far, "Bob" (1937HD45) has pointed out that I probably should have bought that Model T tail lamp. Can anyone give me any further insight into some of those other lamps that I did NOT buy? 

 

Looking forward to hearing from Terry Bond on this thread. 😁 He clearly is a student of vintage brass lights, etc. 👍

Edited by lump (see edit history)
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Nice. Very nice. I just rescued/refurbished two old lanterns that were in the barn of a farm i bought many years ago. Turns out one was mostly brass. I started trolling on ebay for more until i came t

o my senses....bob

Edited by Bhigdog (see edit history)
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7 hours ago, GregLaR said:

Nice collection lump. Thanks for sharing.

This makes me wonder, a hundred years ago when many carriages had come to the end of their utility and were sent to the scrap pile, what drove the people back then to remove these lights in the first place?

Did they have an idea to repurpose them or was it simply a cool item to collect even back then.

They tend to be at a lot of auto swap meets and it's clear most have probably been removed for close to a century, so it appears many, many people felt the need to rescue these lamps over the years.

 

Greg, I think it is just like the old jacks and tool kits that came with these cars. Back in the 1920's, 30's, and earlier times, electric lights were not common everywhere....especially out in the country. No one threw away the tools when a car was junked, nor would they give up any still functional lights, which were needed around the farm. 

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It was easy to pull the clocks out of 'teens and '20s cars before the were burned out and scrapped. And why not ? They can be carefully regulated to keep very good time between weekly windings. And they look good too. That is why there are many more clocks than cars of the period.   -   Carl 

 

 

 

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They tend to be at a lot of auto swap meets and it's clear most have probably been removed for close to a century, so it appears many, many people felt the need to rescue these lamps over the years.

 

People in the past worked hard for their money and didnt want to waste it.

 

today everything is disposable.

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Lump, nice finds. I'd be glad to go with you on yard sale adventures any time.  You've got a nice mix of lamps/lanters.  The Limex lamp is bicycle-self generating carbide.  It very closely resembles made by Rheiman, a German firm that produced many different lamps for autos and cycles over the years.  Their different styles of lamps carried different names.  The little brass Ducellier, Paris lamp is obviously of French manufacture and is probably a light car or cycle car lamp.  With spade type side mounted bracket it's not motorcycle of bicycle.  The lamp you said probably was for a candle is actually a self generating carbide lamp very similar to some of the Solar brand lamps you mentioned.  Most of it however is missing.  Someone has added on some stuff to the top that isn't part of it and most likely not from a lamp of any kind.  Looks like some kind of sink strainer to me.  No ideas, but you'll have fun scrounging around at Hershey for another one that can use the pieces you've got.  The Model T lamps are 13/14 as already mentioned.  The E&J with round bottom (oil font) is late 1914.

Thanks for sharing your discoveries.  They'll look good in your collection.

Terry

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  • 11 months later...

Hello, I just joined this group tonight and was looking for brass era headlamp. I purchased 1914 Princess cycle car this fall and it has a pair of the Deitz lamps on it. They are obviously the wrong lamps but I thought it interesting to see you had found a pair also. The car originally used carbide gas lamps that I am looking to replace

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Neat little car. I've never seen a 1914 Princess car before (or any year, for that matter). 

 

Can you  possibly get a much-closer photo of the lamps in the sketch in that ad? Or, maybe we can find other photos or images to help ID what you are looking for. 

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The 1914 Princess does not have brackets to carry headlamps and neither does the ad show any headlamps. What the car has on it now is called sidelamps and both appear to be tail lamps. The original sidelamps, from the ad, appear to have clear glass, which you would need to illuminate the road in front of the car. The lamps on the car would show a red light when lit.

 

That being said, I have never seen a pair of side lamps that ran off acetylene, not that they don't exist, but most sidelamps burn lamp oil. In your case, I would think you would need acetylene side lamps to produce enough light. Another, perhaps more prudent option, would be to use electric side lamps. Most 1914 cars had electric lights.

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Just looking at this now.  We had a huge collection of RR lanterns years ago, now gone.  Lump the colored globe, if authentic is valuable even in the more common red.  Etching vs. Embossing makes me question the authenticity though, as you mention early on.  Dad still tracks values, if you don't already have a clue I will ask.  Could be a couple hundy, maybe more not sure.  Its all about the RR line and color. I doubt the lantern is a repro, some value there as well.  Amazing how many of these seemed to have found their way off the RR into barns, basements and closets over the years..

Edited by Steve_Mack_CT (see edit history)
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