Article from the Collectables column of Business Day on the 10th May 2005 – by Jeremy Astfalck

THE sale of a collection of corkscrews at a Stephan Welz auction in Johannesburg again highlighted collector interest in these items, which offer a wide variety in size, shape and design.

Jeremy Astfalck of The Old Corkscrew in Franschhoek says interest in corkscrews has taken off in the past few years and a band of about 300 serious collectors worldwide has grown to between 3000 and 5000. An indication of the demand for corkscrews is the price fetched at the Stephan Welz auction. The collection was estimated at between R4000 and R6000, but sold for R22000. Three corkscrews which stood out in the collection were the King, Phoenix and the Bonsa.

The King, a brass corkscrew with attached brush, was made for the wealthy British classes from about 1820. The item on auction carried the royal coat of arms, signifying it was granted the royal patent. Five years ago most collectors aspired to have one in their collection and it was quite pricey at between R6000 and R10000. Today you will pay about 20% more, says Astfalck.

The reason is that it has been discovered that a great number of these items were made and that there are many in circulation. As the collecting area matured, it was found that some later brands were not as commercially successful and consequently fewer were produced. These are rare and these are the ones that collectors are on the look-out for and will pay good money for.

The Bonsa, an open frame horseshoe-shaped steel corkscrew with bakelite insert, was patented in about 1900. This corkscrew has risen sharply in value as not many were made when production first started. It’s not as impressive as the King corkscrew, but is worth about double. The Bonsa is difficult to find and very rarely comes on the market, says Astfalck.

The other piece is the Phoenix, an open steel frame corkscrew with an internal spring, which is extremely scarce. It is fully signed and carries a German guarantee mark dated between 1895 and 1910. This is the elusive type of corkscrew we look for all the time but is seldom found. It is this type from which dealers make their money, and is the type most sought after. This one has never been seen before. The first known discovery of the Phoenix was made by Astfalck recently, which is not listed in any known catalogues or books. It will be put up for sale to realise its value and establish some sort of benchmark on the basis of a willing buyer and willing seller. I believe the price should be between R15000 and R20000.

Collectors should distinguish between handsome and ordinary pieces. The latter could often be worth much more. Collectors should never let up on the hunt, since many surprises can come their way. For example, the retail value of an American silver corkscrew, which was bought at antique fair this month for less than R200, has since been assessed at R3500.

But these windfalls are not guaranteed. However, if one buys widely and selectively, the odds are in the collectors favour that he could reap a handsome return on his investment, says Astfalck.

Madden Cole