Collectible Antique Weathervanes and Famous Makers
by: Michael O'Brien
For thousands of years, the weathervane has provided a functional and beautiful way to tell which way the wind blows. Artisans and others have created a number of unique weathervane styles and designs, with many items now worth many thousands of dollars and some cases, millions of dollars.
Collectors seek out weathervanes and wind vanes based on several criteria. The age of the weathervane is certainly an important consideration though other factors can affect the value. The subject matter of the weathervane can be of interest to a collector especially if the design incorporates an element of movement. This does not refer to the normal movement of the vane as it turns in the wind. Movement usually refers to design elements that enhance the piece. The images of a galloping horse, a soaring bird, or a crowing rooster suggest movement in the piece.
As three dimensional art, weathervanes have been a unique vehicle for artistic expression. Throughout the years, artists and just plain folks made weathervanes out of a variety of materials. Made from materials such as copper and iron, antique weathervanes will show normal wear and discoloration. Over time, copper will develop a green patina as certain elements in the copper begin to oxidize. Antique iron will show signs of oxidation. Anyone lucky enough to find one these vintage weathervanes should never attempt to clean away the patina or oxides.
As with any type of vintage collectible, there are things to look for that help to confirm the authenticity of the piece. Many owners of antique weathervanes will attempt to clean the piece. Cleaning can remove or mar valuable patinas, oxides, paints and other elements that can help to establish the age of the weathervane. Though cleaning may improve the appearance of the weathervane, that same cleaning process can drastically lower the value. Just as with any other antique, cleaning, repair or other restoration of a collectible weathervane should be done by a qualified professional.
Over the last two centuries, many weathervanes and wind vanes were produced by famous makers. However, few collectible weathervanes were marked by the maker. A makerís mark or other verifiable source marking can add a great deal of value to the weathervane. Some antique experts consider weathervanes to be one of hardest categories of collectibles to value correctly. With some antique weathervanes and wind vanes selling for as much as one hundred thousand dollars, it is easy to see the difficulty involved in determining the real value.
Many weathervanes from famous makers have become very collectible over the years. A few markers in particular are quite well known and their work can fetch quite high price at auction. Some well known weathervane makers include pieces by L.W. Cushing, J.W. Fiske, Cushing and White and the Rochester Iron Works.
Weathervanes made the Rochester Iron Works date back to the mid eighteen hundreds and are very collectible. Highly prized by collectors, Rochester weathervanes are characteristically known for depictions of farm animals such as horses and roosters.
One of the most expensive collectible weathervanes ever was created by J.R. Mott around Nineteen Hundred. Referred to by some as the Indian Chief weathervane, it depicts a Native American majestically standing atop an arrow and drawing an arrow back in his bow. This beautiful weathervane was manufactured from molded copper and is considered a classic, combining movement and a striking subject. Sold at Sothebyís auction house, the weathervane sold at auction for close to six million dollars.
Other weathervanes by creators such as J. Howard and Company, E.G. Washburne and Harris and Company have become the standard by which all other weathervanes can be measured.
About the Author
Michael O'Brien is Staff Writer for Weathervane Sale.com