Glass paperweights still attract attention among both serious and ‘magpie’ collectors, who might buy one just because they like it. ‘All markets fluctuate, and there has certainly been a general shift away from academic collecting towards collecting focused more on aesthetics,’ Jim says. ‘Paperweights lend themselves so well to this because they
are visually appealing and the variety attracts a range of people.’
This exceptional Baccarat paperweight c1850 sold at Bonhams in 2018 for £8,750.
If a signature can identify the maker or date, the value is increased. ‘With the exception of miniature paperweights, size matters, and bigger is better,’ says Jim. Most paperweights are between 6.3cm-8.2cm (2.5in- 3.25in), with anything larger classed as a ‘magnum’.
Minor damage won’t always put off a potential buyer. If a crack or chip doesn’t detract from the overall glass or can easily be polished out, a rare piece will still draw in serious buyers. Evidence of wear, particularly on the base, can actually reassure a buyer that the piece is a genuine antique. However, more serious issues such as an off-kilter design or large air bubbles within the glass will affect value.
Thankfully, once you’ve purchased a paperweight, it’s fairly easy to keep it safe. ‘They are difficult things to break,’ Jim says. ‘The cat will have a hard time knocking a paperweight
off a shelf and, if it does, the worst that can be expected is a nasty chip or bruise, whereas a treasured collection of porcelain will not be so forgiving.’
The sale of a highly anticipated collection can fetch record prices, showing the continuity of paperweights’ appeal. Jim recalls some of Bonhams’ successes: ‘One of the landmark sales of recent years was that of the celebrated collection belonging to the late Baroness de Bellet in 2010, which made over £602,000 against a pre-sale estimate of £272,000.
‘Two significant collections were sold by Bonhams more recently in 2018, including that of the Late Countess Poulett and that of Leo Kaplan, both of which contained many exceptional examples, which exceeded expectations.’
Where to buy