Although candleholders have been fashioned from umpteen different materials, those of tin are most interesting to collect because of the exciting types in this material.
Most tin candleholders are early, middle or late 19th century, although many date from the 20th century. They were made in various shapes and sizes -- small, tall, skinny, mini, tiny, tremendous. Many have fascinating features that add greatly to the value.
Depending on age, rarity, condition, features and type, tin candleholders can sell for less than $25 or several hundred dollars. Some people collect all types, from cheapies to the cream of the crop, while other collectors are strictly interested in those with particular or peculiar features.
Most candleholders -- sometimes called chamber sticks, saucer sticks or candle dishes -- were mounted on round bases with a saucerlike, turned-up edge to catch candle drippings or "tallow tears," if the candle burning in such holders were tallow rather than wax. A few rare types were made with square bases or pans.
Whether the bases or drip pans were round or square, the holders had a ring handle at the side so they could be carried. Some had drip collars, or "candle collars," around the top of the candle socket and finger-grip tabs projecting from a slot in the shaft, to lower and raise the candle.
When there were no finger-grip tabs, a butt too small to burn had to be dug from the socket with a penknife, nail, wire or whatever was at hand.
Extremely rare is a device, known as a "saveall," resembling a little drip pan with stickup prongs. It was attached to a peg and inserted into a candle socket, so a candle stub could be impaled on it and burned; in the old days, stubs were saved and burned to the very end.
Savealls were made in tin as well as copper, and either is a most valuable discovery.
Also very desiragle are candleholders with permenantly attached savealls in the form of prickets, prongs or clamplike pincer arrangements. One, with a saucer base stamped with a flaring sunray motif, had a short candle socket with a drip collar on which three little projections were attached around the edges.
Such saveall candleholders either had prongs around the edges of the socket or had nail-like prickets sticking up from a solid standard, so stubs could be impaled on them.
Rare and vaulabel is a tin candleholder with a pair of tall, pincerlike prongs attached to the top that work with a spring action, making it possible to hold and burn different-size candles and candle ends.
A device beneath the holder pushed a rod through a hollow standard and ended in a round-bottomed socket in which a candle was held, the prongs keeping it in place.
Such holders were painted black, as were many with circular or square drip pans.
One never should retouch or repaint such pieces, regardless of how little original paint they retain, or the value will be reduced considerably. No tin candleholder, for that matter, ever chould be repainted or "prettied up."
An interesting and very desirable saveall-style tin candleholder of the chamber-stick variety was designed with a saucer-shaped base, an attached ring handle and a cleverly designed socket made from two interlocking projections. The projections, resembling an X, acted as a "saveall" on which a candle could be burned to the end.
Such candleholders were japanned or lacquered in dark brown, black or burnt amber, as were other saucer-shaped, chamber-type holders fashioned with plain sockets.
Still another candleholder with a saucer-shaped base had no socket attached, but rather a flat drip pan on a short standard, on which a clamp, resembling a crab's pincers, was attached. When pressed, it worked on a spring-action principle to hold and burn candles and candle ends of various sizes.
Such candleholders, produced in tin and in copper, were marked "Randall's Patent" on the clamp part and "Randall" beneath the base.
Some very rare tin candleholders had a one-inch-high socket attached to a simple, flat, rectangular bottom 2 7/8 by 4 3/8 inches.
A similar but less rare type was attached to a flat half-moon base, for use on window sills to keep a candle burning in the window.
Another desirable tin candleholder was a simple socket attached to a flat piece of tin with a sharp, pointed end so it could be stuck into a wooden beam or mantel. Some had double sockets, for two candles.
Among the most sought-after are the very small, or toy tin candleholders. One type was made with a three-inch round base, with crimped or fluted edges, a tiny ring handle and a 3/4-inch socket.
Another, with an embossed, saucer-shaped base 2 3/4 inches in diameter, has a tab handle attached to the rim and a 1 1/2-inch, slim socket in the center with a flower-petal motif around the top. Such holders were painted orange; many still retain traces of the color.
Other tin candleholders had clips attached so they could be fastened to a book edge for reading. Some had deep, cake-panlike bases. Some also had a little bar attached to the socket to hold a candle cone, an extinguisher shaped like a little tin dunce hat.
Very rare are tin candleholders with hand-painted tole designs. Such types, if authentic and with the original decorations, sell for hundreds of dollars; but novices should be warned that there are reproductions with tole designs that can fool the unwary.
There were also tin candleholders with conical, sand-weighted bottoms, as well as holders for Christmas tree candles, which were attached to the branches by clips or weighted hooks.
Collectors also should be on the lookout for whale-lamps disguised as candleholders. One tin, japanned type, a "Quaker stick," was fitted with a whale-oil burner at the top of the socket, attached to a saucer-shaped base with a ring handle. Such types are rare and desirable.