Who thought the humble corkscrew could be so collectable

Our antiques expert Allan Blackburn takes a look at kitchen gadget that we've used for centuries.

Thursday, 13th December 2018, 8:53 am
Updated Thursday, 13th December 2018, 9:55 am
These corkscrews are on sale for 5.50 and 9.50 pounds

With Christmas now fast approaching, I wanted to look at possibly the most underrated and overused “gadget” during the festive season, the humble corkscrew.

Who doesn’t have a corkscrew in their house? These small bottle openers, with their timeless and practical design, have been sharing our kitchens for centuries.

The corkscrew, like so many other inventions, was borne out of necessity, when the English became the first to seal wine bottles in the early 18th century. Before this, wine simply had to be drunk as soon as possible.

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The earliest reference to a corkscrew type tool was in 1681, and the first official corkscrew patent was filed in 1795 by the Reverend Samuel Henshall.

Collecting corkscrews can be a rewarding, and relatively economical hobby: they are small enough to store easily, and an interesting talking point when your corkscrew’s older than the vintage wine!

Whilst unlikely to make your fortune, there are many rare and fascinating examples to collect, from the “waiter’s friend” to the double-handled “wing” corkscrew, often favoured today.

Look for valuable woods or metals and extra decoration. Most European countries have been prolific in corkscrew design and manufacture. The Dutch are renowned for quality silver pocket corkscrews. Scandinavian countries are well known for nice figural type corkscrews, primarily in pewter.

Some Victorian corkscrews have a little brush, used to dust the necks and labels of bottles stored in dirty cellars.

It is very unusual to see a corkscrew with the original brush, so if you see one, grab it for your collection.

The world’s leading "Helixophile” (corkscrew collector: try saying that after a few glasses!) has more than 10,000 corkscrews in his collection!

The manufacture of new corkscrews has diminished considerably since wine was bottled with a screw top, and these days the only way to purchase a good corkscrew is to buy an old one.

So as you raise a glass to health and happiness this Christmas, think about all the festive collectables that make your table special, and toast the most underrated (and necessary) gadget of all!