Kitchen scales, grocer's scales - In the days before most goods were pre packed, the grocer's scales in brass or cast iron, with a matching nest of weights, were an essential tool of the trade. Chatelaine's Antiques Collectibles Appraisals


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Kitchen Scales

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Kitchen Collectibles

In the days before most goods were pre packed, the grocer's scales in brass or cast iron, with a matching nest of weights, were an essential tool of the trade.

Staffordshire Scale

From the Victorian period until the 1950s or even later, imposing brass and cast-iron scales would grace the grocer's counter. He would almost certainly have several sets, each one designed for weighing out different products.

 From the late 19th century until recent years, the scales most commonly seen in a grocer's shop were cast-iron counter scales with a set of matching weights and a scoop-shaped brass pan. They worked on exactly the same principle as popular kitchen scales but were larger and more robust.

 A counter scale was defined, for the benefit of government inspectors of weights and measures, as 'any equal-armed weighing instrument of a capacity not exceeding one hundredweight, the pans of which are above the beam'. Such scales were never as accurate as the balances or beams cales with pans suspended by brass chains or silk cords, which were still used by jewellers and chemists.


 The most basic counter scale, developed during the 19th century, employed the time-honoured Roberval system, named after a 17th-century French professor who constructed such a machine. Roberval found that, unlike some designs, his counter scale was accurate regardless of where the weights and goods were positioned on the pans, although he never understood why this should be.

 Dry goods weighed out by the grocer included many things now rarely sold loose, such as biscuits, sugar and even candles. For such goods, the pan would be of brass or tinplated steel, but machines used to weigh greasy produce, such as bacon, cheese or butter, had a flat, white ceramic pan, often with one raised edge. Although a piece of greaseproof paper usually prevented the goods from making the pan dirty, the grocer or his assistant would be continually wiping and polishing the scale pan.

 Some of these machines worked on the simple Roberval principle, but, in most cases, the base of the machine housed a more complicated system of levers and stays. The steel or cast-iron base that hid the works from view was normally covered with white enamel.


 Although it was a time-consuming business handling the nest of metal weights, most grocers preferred a good set of manual scales to automatic, 'self-indicating' machines which registered the weight by means of a moving hand on a dial. Machines of this kind had been used by the Post Office for weighing packets since the introduction of the Inland Parcel Post in 1883.

 Even though a self-indicating scale had advantages, especially if the cost of goods of various values and weights could be seen at a glance, the machines were relatively expensive and required regular maintenance.


 Old commercial weighing machines are usually of little interest to antiques dealers unless they are obviously attractive. The grocers scales they are most likely to stock are those with brass pans and fittings. More attractive to both dealers and buyers are small Victorian and Edwardian letter-scales which are highly sought after and therefore valuable.

 By contrast, white enamelled grocers' scales have much less appeal as decorative objects around the house. For this reason, you will find many dealers have the bases of machines sand- or shot-blasted to reveal the cast iron underneath the enamel. Although such machines cannot be said to be in their original state, this is a reasonable solution in keeping with today's aesthetic tastes, and the machines generally look all the better for it.


 By the 1923s most commercial scales were manufactured by large Birmingham firms such as Day & Millward, Henry Pooley & Son and W & T Avery. These firms also introduced many American innovations into Britain. The Dayton Royal computing scale, for instance, was produced by Pooley's in the first decade of the 20th century. Soon after came the Avery Toledo double pendulum mechanism.

 These machines, in which the weight is indicated on a rotating drum set in a cylinder above a weighing pan, are highly decorative.

 The supports for the cylinder, and the cylinder itself, display delightful art nouveau and art deco touches. However, few such machines were made in England, as the economic climate of the Depression did not encourage shopkeepers to go in for ornate weighing machines. Simpler box cylinder scales, in which the rotating drum is set in the case below the pan, also appeared in the 1920s.

300 Years of Kitchen Collectibles 300 Years of Kitchen Collectibles
Linda Campbell Franklin

 Linda Campbell Franklin’s long-awaited new edition cooks up three centuries of the most avidly collected domestic tools of the trade.  Collectors will find more than 7,000 antique items that dice, measure, filter, or whir in the kitchen arranged by function from preparation and cooking to housekeeping and gardening.

Franklin also offers healthy servings of classic recipes, helpful hints, and fascinating tidbits from 18th, 19th, and 20th century trade catalogs and advertisements.

Features updated pricing, information on collecting, buying and selling on the Internet, and more than 1,600 photographs and illustrations, including a new 16-page color section.

• More than 7,000 listings and prices for collectible kitchen items
• More than 1,600 photographs and illustrations, including an all-new color section
• Author has established herself as THE expert in this collectibles field

This new edition cooks up three centuries of domestic tools of trade and offers healthy servings of classic recipes, helpful hints, and fascinating tidbits from 18th-, 19th-, and 20th-century trade catalogs and advertisements. More than 7,000 antique items are arranged by function, from preparation and cooking to housekeeping and gardening. 1600 photos.

Collectibles for the Kitchen, Bath & Beyond: A Pictorial Guide

Collectibles for the Kitchen, Bath & Beyond: A Pictorial Guide
Ellen Bercovici, Bobbi Zucker Bryson, Deborah Gillham

This comprehensive collector’s guide provides more than 1,300 color photographs and current prices for collectibles in the kitchen, bath and beyond.

Includes many listings which are not featured anywhere else, including napkin doll ladies, figural egg timers, laundry sprinkler bottles, whistle cups, toothbrush holders, plus much more.

Vintage ads and original patents offer valuable historical background information.  The book also includes a “wannabe” section at the end of each chapter to provide the reader with helpful hints to distinguish between the genuine article and a fabulous fake.

- More than 1,300 color photos, vintage ads and original patents
- Features many categories not listed in other collectible guides
- Up-to-date market values for more than 1,300 collectibles

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