A popular collectible today, the spoonholder, or spooner, provided as
much symbolic value as function for Victorian society. The
prominently displayed spoons were a clear sign of ready hospitality,
as well as a status symbol for the increased affluence among the
expanding middle class who could now afford silver spoons, or at
least a good facsimile.
Along with the majority of other Victorian conventions, interest in spoonholders had almost vanished by the 1930's. Today's collectible interest has generated a ready supply of old spooners for the secondary market. Made in a wide variety of metal, ceramics, and glass, you can tailor a collection to many individual criteria. From German silver to sterling silver, from stoneware to porcelain, from common depression glass to scarce art glass, spooners are once again in demand.
A good number of spooners are absorbed into broader-based collections such as majolica, flow blue, R. S. Prussia, Limoges, pewter, silver, carnival glass, opalescent glass, art glass, etc. Collections can also be very specialized, but the majority of collections are pattern glass because of its diversity and availability.
Depending upon their condition and desirability, pattern glass spooners usually range in value from $10 to $200% 2B, with the majority of clear, undecorated ones averaging in the $20-$30 range. Because some dealers at flea markets and antique malls do not recognize spoonholders, they are often mislabeled and drastically underpriced. The summer before last, at the end of a day antiquing, I found two in a mall at a neighboring town. One was labeled as a candy dish and the other as a bowl. They were both scarce mid-nineteenth century flint glass patterns with a bell-tone ring and in exceptional condition. I bought them both for $15. They wouldn't have been there long.
Such bargains are not isolated occurrences, but the beginning collector or dealer does need to observe closely and study to differentiate spooners from open sugars, sugar bottoms, celery vases, goblets, and tumblers.
Spoonholders usually range in height from 4" for those with a flat base to 6" for those with stems. The height range for celery vases is usually from 6" to 9" for the taller stemmed pieces. Also, spoonholders are narrower and more cylindrical than sugar bottoms or open sugars. Unlike goblets, which always have a smooth-rimmed lip, stemmed spooners are usually scalloped, serrated or beaded at the top, and the stems are shorter. Though many flat-based spooners have smooth rims, old tumblers tend to be slightly shorter and narrower than spooners and are slightly flared toward the top.
Though the mold shapes of spooners may vary greatly with the pattern, the distinctions above should be helpful for the beginner as he or she continues to acquire experience. Some dealers at antique malls and flea markets, either through ignorance or intentional deception will often put spoons in sugar bottoms, goblets, or tumblers and designate them as spooners. Just keep in mind as you search that everything that is capable of holding a spoon isn't necessarily a spoonholder.
About the Author: Dan Simmons has bought and sold antiques, and also handled estate sales and appraisals for the last 15 years. He is currently selling general antiques and collectibles, mainly pottery and glass, online. You may find him on ebay by using his email address email@example.com.