Collectible Chrome Decorative and Functional

By Anne Gilbert
   Chrome was a trendy category from the 1930s to 1940s. It was first made by the Chase Brass and Copper Company in Waterbury, Connecticut.
   The name “Chase” became practically synonymous with chrome. As a new and different material it attracted top name designers. It also appealed to young marrieds who couldn’t afford sterling silver, but most pieces sold for $1.00 to $3.00, and were created by such designers as Russel Wright and Norman Bel Geddes. Fast forward to the prices today that can range in the thousands of dollars. Bel Geddes designed the famous “Manhattan Serving set” in the shape of a skyscraper. One of his cocktail shakers with eight cups and a tray has sold at auction for several thousand dollars. The original price was $ 16.50.
   By 1935 there were many makers of chrome items from bar carts to book ends. Today’s collectors pay top dollar for whimsical shapes of cocktail shakers. Among them a “dumb-bell,” rooster and airplane. The airplane, by an anonymous maker has sold for over $ 4,000. However, not every chrome piece is costly. Since there is still much around beginning collectors can build a modest collection or just simply buy as decorative or useful objects.
   CLUES –Research and get acquainted with the names of the top designers, the type of pieces they designed and the firms they worked for. Scroll the internet items for sale to get an idea of prices.
   Other ways to judge a piece would be the quality of the design. Does it have the stylized look of the 1920s, 30s? Is it considered a rarity? A good example would be anything designed by Rockwell Kent for Chase. He only designed three items, each with a young Bacchus motif. Others are a wine cooler and wine bottle stand. All Chase products are stamped “Chase” with their centaur trademark.
   Condition is all important since there are so many pieces still around. If the piece has plastic trim and handles be sure there are no chips and cracks. If there are glass liners they should be in mint condition.    Reproductions of several pieces are buyer beware. A piece doesn’t have to be made by Chase to be collectible. Other firms hired name designers. Examples are pieces marked Foreman Brothers, Farber Brothers, Manning Bowman and Revere Copper and Brass Company.
   Some collectible and expensive chrome pieces were also made in France, England, etc.
   With the advent of WW11, when most metals were needed, chrome was replaced by aluminum.
   PHOTO CAPTION (1) Pair of chrome, art deco book ends, c. 1935. PHOTO CREDIT: 1stDibs PHOTO CAPTION (2) Chaise “Gaiety” chrome cocktail shaker. PHOTO CREDIT : 1st Dibs

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