Cleaning Up At Auction

As seen in The Antique Shoppe Newspaper, February 2006 

Rockingham wash board with pine frame. Courtesy: Garth's Auctions, Fairfield, ME

Imagine how surprised a 19th century housewife would be to learn that her old washboard is being hung in todayís utility rooms and Cracker Barrel restaurants as a work of art. They are also used for bulletin boards or just as kitchen decorations. The more unusual the higher the price.

Washboards were made of so many materials and sizes a collection could fill an entire wall. Even potters like Bennington made washboards in the 19th century, as did others using a brown or mottled Rockinham glaze. They sell at auction for between $400 and $800.

Beginning in the late 19th century washboards took on an interesting new look with the use of colorful advertising filling the space above the soap tray.

At the same time some washboards were made of yellow ware and framed in pine. A wide variety were made up to the end of World War II. Glass, copper, wood, tin, cast iron and ribbed glass in a herringbone pattern were just a few. Choice would be a hand made, early 19th century washboard with folk carving or painting.

Start a collection for your little girl of the many types of children's washboards. Prices begin at $35 and up.

Even the humble washtub can be decorative and expensive. Consider that they were made of wood for soldiers. They would have the name of the Company and sometimes the officer's name. Since not many survived battle they can fetch several hundred dollars at auction. Less interesting, but popular as a party beverage cooler are the old copper water boiler tubs. More interesting art those of heavy tin, made in the 1920s, 20s, with colorful paper labels.

When you can find them, salesmenís sample mangles can make unique kitchen decorative accessories. They are small , made of wood and iron in the early 20th century.

Who would think wringers from the early 20th century are serious collectibles?

Collectors look for those with makersí names still intact and in various forms.

You can't have laundry collectibles with out old boxes that once contained Staleys' starch and early soap flakes. Dusted off and put on a shelf they can be as interesting as a Currier and Ives print. Well, sort of! Collectors also look for magazine pates advertising these laundry collectibles and frame them as art.

What about collecting clothes pins? You'd be amazed at the wide variety made from the mid 19th century, on. Among the rarest and most expensive are Shaker clothespins.

These usually show up at antique shows specializing in Americana.

Examples of clothespins even rate a display at the Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York city. They were considered so important in the 19th century that inventors constantly search for new types and took out patents.

CLUES: There are reproductions of 20th century washboards with printed advertising labels. Before paying too much look for the tiny "copyright" number.

Unless the item is a rarity, buy only pieces in good condition.

Before you go hunting check out prices at the antiques shows. Country auctions still offer the best prices for these oldies. If you are lucky you may see some old laundry equipment sitting on a front porch in one of those country towns.

However, don't be surprised if the owner is sitting beside it with a Price Guide.

If you have any questions, you can Email us at

The Antique Shoppe Newspaper
"Florida's Best Newspaper for Antiques and Collectibles

PO Box 2175, Keystone Heights, FL 32656-2175
Phone: (352)475-1679 Fax: (352)475-5326

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