Art Deco Chrome Collectibles Often Made By Top Designers | Antiques & History
During the 1920s and 1930s, chrome items were called “poor man’s money”. Never mind that some of them were made in the art deco decades by some of the most important designers of the time.
From decorative accessories to everyday kitchen items, it brightened up the homes of young couples who couldn’t afford sterling silver and was a favorite wedding gift. Back then, most items cost only a few dollars. However, many decorative pieces of furniture, such as tables and lamps made by important designers, were expensive.
Historically, chrome was first manufactured by Chase Brass and Copper Co. in Waterbury, Connecticut. Authentic coins are marked with a stamped figure of a centaur.
These chrome parts entered the consumer market in the 1930s. They were first offered in the Chase Specialty Catalog in 1937. Not only did most of the parts sell for between $ 1 and $ 3, they also sold for $ 1 to $ 3. also designed by Russel Wright, Norman Bel Geddes and Rockwell Kent.
The famous “Manhattan Service Complex”, shaped like a skyscraper, was designed by Bel Geddes. His shaker with eight cups and a tray was originally priced at $ 16.50. Nowadays, it could sell at auction for over $ 3,000. The Russel Wright Double Tube Vase is currently priced at $ 4,500.
Industrial designer Walter Von Nesen worked for Chase designing many figurative objects, such as elephant-shaped bookends. A humble ashtray designed by him can sell for nowadays, at a dealer price, for $ 575.
Many decorative pieces of furniture combined chrome and glass. Gilbert Rohde has designed many small parts, such as side tables and consoles. Currently, a 1930s console is priced at $ 3,999. Donald Deskey, another prominent designer, used chrome for a variety of objects, such as lighting fixtures. He is also famous as the designer of the interior of Radio City Music Hall.
Ruth Gerth (1897-1952), a rare woman working for Chase with chrome, is known for her “incandescent lamp”. It is archived at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum.
Some industrial items designed for home use were portable heaters in art deco design or portable heaters from Sunbeam. They were made of cast iron and chrome.
Pins, necklaces, and bracelets that combine chrome and bakelite are popular these days, if you can find them.
By 1935 there were many manufacturers of chrome items ranging from ice buckets to cocktail shakers. Most popular with collectors these days are the often whimsical shapes of cocktail shakers. Among them are a dumbbell, a rooster and an airplane. The plane, from an unnamed builder, sold for over $ 4,000.
Other companies making chrome items in the late 1930s included Revere, Kensington, and Manning-Bowman. A popular item with collectors is the “Super Electric Toaster” made in the 1930s by Superior Electric Products in St. Louis. It combined chrome with red bakelite handles and was a boom in the streamlined locomotives of the 1930s.
What to look for
The art deco look can be recognized by stylized elements using geometric shapes, zigzags and chevrons. For its futuristic look, the artists used vertical lines and geometric shapes, circles, squares and repeating patterns. The Chrysler Building in Manhattan is a good example of using these elements. Bright colors have been mixed with silver, black and chrome.
Beginner collectors should be aware that there are many reproductions out there. They should also know the names of the many great designers, the types of pieces they have designed and the companies they have worked for.
Judge a chrome piece by the quality of the design. Does it have the stylized look of the 1920s and 1930s? Is it rare? A good example of rarity would be any chrome item designed by Rockwell Kent for Chase. He only designed three objects. The condition is important because there are still a lot of parts. If the object has plastic trims and handles, make sure it has no chips or cracks. If there are glass liners, they must be in perfect condition.
A coin doesn’t have to be made by Chase to be worth collecting. Other companies have also hired name creators. Collector’s chrome was also made in Sweden, England, France and other countries.
With the advent of World War II, when metals were needed, chromium was replaced by aluminum. It has made a comeback with some exciting new items, as future collectibles.