By Lori Verderame
Weathervanes or wind vanes remain of specific interest to collectors, particularly those interested in weather forecasting, folk art, and early American sculpture. These objects were perched high above civic buildings in the early years of the American colonies such as churches and city centers and provided necessary information for the members of the community about the all-important weather trends.
Weathervanes were immediately recognizable and some of their forms were directly connected to the history of the town or city. For instance, America’s oldest and most beloved weathervane is that which sits upon Boston’s famous Faneuil Hall of a grasshopper. The form is a longstanding symbol of good luck and the weathervane is a significant tourist attraction as one descends that steps from the T stop at Government Center and embarks upon Faneuil Hall marketplace.
Other beautiful examples of early weathervanes in American were cast from copper with heavier iron or zinc sections. The heavyweight metals help to ensure a good spin from the wind. Later, some of these weathervanes were gold-leafed or gilded to suggest the status of the home or estate owners.
When it comes to the form of weathervanes, horses and roosters are among the most common. Constructed of cast zinc, cast iron, molded copper, or other metals, most 19th Century weathervanes were gilded with gold over a base coat of yellow sizing pigment.
Well known American weathervane makers include L.W. Cushing, J.W. Fiske, J. Howard, E. G. Washburne, Harris & Company, Cushing and White, A. Jewell, and the Rochester Iron Works. Significant and highly rare values for specific weathervanes include J.R. Mott’s Indian Chief with bow and arrow weathervane of molded copper which sold at auction for approximately $6 million dollars and a 1910 open touring car automobile weathervane that sold for $941,000.
The golden age of weather vanes took place between 1825 and 1900. At my appraisal events, I have evaluated weathervanes from roosters to eagles and horses to butterflies. The majority of sculpted weathervanes in good condition range in value from $3,000 to $15,000 on today’s market. The surface condition and the form are the most important aspects of evaluating antique weathervanes.
Celebrity Ph.D. antiques appraiser, author, and award-winning TV personality, Dr. Lori hosts antiques appraisal events worldwide. Dr. Lori is the star appraiser on Discovery channel’s hit TV show, Auction Kings. Visit DrLoriV.com, Facebook.com/DoctorLori, and 888-431-1010.