String Holders - Antique & Vintage
Before scotch tape, before paperclips and before desk staplers came about, the only way to fasten wrapped packages, letters, documents and files was with string or twine. Early patents for cast iron string holders date back to the 1860s and by the turn-of-the-century string holders were common place. Every general store and most retail stores had string holders (often called twine boxes) either sitting on or hanging near the check out counters. Sometimes they were affixed directly to the wrapping paper holder but most often they were free standing or hanging above the counter. They kept the string handy and helped to prevent it from tangling. Often a string cutting device (such as a pair of scissors or a knife) would also be at hand while some string holders had a cutting device built in or attached to the holder. Many string holders had a pocket or place to keep a pair of scissors.
From the mid19th century until around World War I, government offices generally used a special string or twine to wrap documents and to keep them together in their assigned files. The twine government used was a flat string and similar to a thin ribbon and had a reddish color to it. Hence the term: "red tape" which generally meant the more government string that was used the heftier the file and the greater the number of documents entwined therein.
Sometime during the Great Depression, chalkware string holders started showing up at Kresgis's stores and at Woolworth Dime Stores. They were an immediate success. During the 1940s most homes in America had a string holder of some sort. They remained a common household item until the early 1950s. Popular subjects included celebrities of the times, cartoon characters, cats and other animals and especially popular were black maids and black children. The later are the most popular with collectors today and generally command the higher values.
Prices can range from $50 to $250 for the cast iron models depending on size, age condition and degree of uniqueness, etc. Chalkware pieces usually range from $25 to $150 depending on condition but are getting hard to find and are therefore likely to increase in value. The black themed ceramic holders can command high prices and range from $100 to $1,000. String holders as part of advertising displays command the highest prices and can range to $2,000 and more depending on subject matter and condition.
This is an amber colored glass yarn bell from the turn-of-the-19th century. It was also often used for twine and might sit on the counter of a country store. When used for yarn it would likely sit on the floor. It has a bottom diameter of approximately 5.75 inches and is about five (5) inches tall. It is heavy and in excellent condition without any nicks, chips or cracks.
This is a highly collectible and unusual string holder. It is a cast iron sphere with a top loop so as to be hung over the counter but it also has legs (very unusual) so it could also stand on the counter. It still has its original mustard colored paint making it quite desirable.
This "bee hive" style string holder dates to around 1890 or so. It is all cast iron and looks like a bee hive. In fact, The base is approximately 6.5 inches in diameter. it was in popular use from 1870 through the 1930s. In 1900 every general store in America had this or another type of string holder either sitting on the counter or hanging above the counter. This bee hive is in very good condition and works as good today when it was new well over 100 years ago.
This cast iron string holder sphere dates to around 1880 and was used to house the string (twine) used to wrap packages in the general store. It was meant to hang about the counter and dispense the twine as required. It is in very good and working condition. I has an approximate 4 inch diameter.