Part of the fun of being a collector is trying to identify recently discovered old tools and, if possible, trace the past owners of the finds.
A strange brass object was auctioned in Chicago in 2011. It was identified as a "mechanical wine pourer." It looks like a construction toy with a rectangular "arm" made of brass rods. It's shaped to hold a bottle. The arm is at the top of a 14-inch-high H-frame made of brass rods. Turn a crank at the bottom of the frame, and the arm and bottle dip down. It was indeed a wine pourer. It was marked "Yeo, Ratcliffe & Dawe," so it was possible to learn more about it.
The company opened in 1946 in London, and was sold in 1961. Online records of local archaeology studies proved the company was housed in a building constructed in 1415 (yes, it's almost 600 years old!) and housed a wine merchant even then. The building was restored many times, and the 1946 restoration revealed an amazing history. It had been a three-story building serving as a wine merchant's shop and home. Parts of the original 15th century roof, 15th and 16th century beams, an original fireplace, an old white oak floor and 18th and 19th century additions were found.
Some of the original plaster mixed with straw was still in place. An early woman's shoe and some clay pipes that were hundreds of years old also were discovered. The mechanical wine pourer dates from the recent owner - sometime around 1950. But the brass pourer had extra value for collectors because of its time in the historic building. It sold for more than $1,950.
Q: What can you tell me about my electric percolator? It not only makes coffee, but can toast a slice of bread at the same time. The attached metal plate says, “Armstrong Perc-o-Toaster Model PT.” What is the age and value?
A: The Armstrong Perc-o-Toaster Model PT was made by Armstrong Electric and Manufacturing Corp. of Huntington, W.Va. The company was founded in 1899 and made table stoves, electric ranges and other electrical appliances. Your combination percolator-toaster was first made in 1918, and was still being made in the 1930s.
A waffle iron mold, which could be inserted after removing the toast drawer, was available as an accessory. A 1931 ad in the Saturday Evening Post claimed that the Perc-o-Toaster also could cook bacon and eggs. The base of the appliance was made in different finishes, including nickel plate, black enamel and white enamel. The price in 1931 was $11.85. Perc-o-Toasters today sell for about $200. However, the appliance can be used only with its original cord, which has a non-standard double-plug arrangement.