Christie's May 3 sale of collectible corkscrews provided an opportunity to pick up a wide variety of period pieces, ranging in price from $130 to nearly $15,000. The 199-lot auction, held in London, brought in just under $150,000 (including the 17.5 percent buyer's premium) and was 92 percent sold.
Part of the allure of collecting corkscrews is that no one really knows how many different models have been made since corks were first commonly used to stopper wine bottles (and for that matter, perfume flasks and apothecary casks), about 300 years ago.
Collectors generally agree that unusual prototypes made out of precious materials or corkscrews that employ an ingenious mechanism are the most desirable -- and the most expensive. But like wines for everyday drinking, simple corkscrews from the late 19th or early 20th century can have their own distinct appeal, even if they do not qualify as true treasures.
One of the rarest corkscrews in the Christie's auction was a brass sliding model made in 1842 by Robert Jones & Son of Birmingham. It sold for $14,850, above its high estimate, but well below the record high of $30,000 fetched by an 18th-century corkscrew at Christie's in May 1997. A rare Belgian single-lever corkscrew made by Levaux Lemaitre in 1852 commanded $8,900, and a Charles Hull "Patent Royal Club" roller-type, single-lever model made in England circa 1864 sold for $5,200.
Among the less-expensive items, a lot containing both a Champagne tap and a straight pull corkscrew made in England in the 19th century went for just $130. A nickel-plated Boyer Hammer "advertising" pocket corkscrew sold for $150. A pair of 19th century German "ladies' legs" corkscrews -- once considered very risqui, with their striped green stockings and flesh-colored thighs -- fetched $520.
Read more about collecting corkscrews: