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Old And Sold Antiques Digest Article

TV Lamps

Author: Tom Santiso
Shortly after the arrival of television sets in the American home, along came the TV lamp. In the 1920s, television was only experimental, and by 1941, it was ready for the commercial market. However, World War II and its need for certain materials kept regular production and programming from being fully developed. Between 1948 and 1958, TV was finally in its full glory. Because the early sets had small, round screens and rather dark pictures, it was feared that extensive viewing in a dark room would cause eye damage. Yet too much direct light diminished the picture quality. Thus from the earlier radio lamps evolved the TV lamp. (Radio lamps were small lights kept on floor model radios for light to see dials, knobs, and so on). The TV lamps featured a decorative form of an animal or other object with the bulb in back or inside; some also had a small fiberglass shade. Some TV lamps had a bulb inside an open vase-like design that gave a unique up-light effect.

From the advent, there was a virtual flurry of designs and materials used to make the lamps. Any person, bird, animal, or thing was fair game as a model for a TV lamp. Horses, cats, and other animals were especially popular. The most common material used was ceramics, some of beautiful near-porcelain quality. Other lamps were made of plaster, chalk, glass, metal, or wood. Some doubled as planters, accompanied by plastic plants or a package of potting soil. Others doubled as clocks. The Art Deco influence is seen in some examples and many were exquisite forms and shapes. Even today people are fooled into thinking they have found a nice figure of a horse or ballerina, when in reality, they have found a TV lamp without the bulb fixture. If looked at carefully, in the back of each piece there is a scooped-out place where a light fixture used to be.

Not too much is known about the companies that made TV lamps because many of the lamps are not marked. Paper labels were often used but usually fell off over time. Some pieces were marked with the name of the designer, such as Kron, Maddux, etc. The most common TV lamp manufacturers were in California; many lamps simply note: “Made in California, U.S.A.” Some of the known TV lamp companies include Lane, Royal Haeger, McCoy, Esgo-Light Corporation, Luminart, Royal China Novelty Company, PGH Statuary, Bilt-Rite, Modern Art, and Premco.

When evaluating condition of TV lamps, keep an eye out for cracks or flaking glaze. This is a common result of incorrect bulb usage. A warning was often placed on the back of TV lamps regarding the proper bulb size to use — usually 25 watt or 40 watt. When you come across a damaged lamp, you can assume that its original owner didn’t take the warning seriously. If you are collecting for fun, this may not bother you. If you’re looking for an investment, pass on the piece and keep looking for exciting new samples of TV lamps.

One of the greatest joys associated with collecting TV lamps is that many of the examples are crossover collectibles. In other words, if someone already has a collection with an equestrian theme, the horse figural TV lamps fit right in and are especially desirable. Because there were so many different designs incorporated into the manufacture of TV lamps, the crossover possibilities are virtually limitless.

Tom Santiso is the author of TV Lamps: Identification and Value Guide, published by Collector Books © 1999. To order a copy of the book, call (800) 626-5420 or click here.
 
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