I will preface this by saying, I have had a couple of corkscrews with Ivory or Bone handles that were indeed made by Humason and Beckley–with their CASTSTEEL marking. So, finding an Ivory direct pull corkscrew made by H & B Mfg., is entirely possible.
A signed CAST STEEL corkscrew, with turned bone handle is pictured below.
That said, and keeping with the idea of what to look for when examining a corkscrew that might look too good to be true, and also sharing that information with others, recently there was a Humason and Beckley direct pull listed on eBay.
It is described as follows.
This handsome corkscrew has a he-man sized handle that will enable you to rip out that cork with little or not effort. I’ve used it a number of times and it works perfectly. There are some touch marks on one end as shown in the photos. The handle is pachyderm dentine with sterling silver end caps. The stem is marked H. & B Mfg. Co. Please don’t hesitate to ask questions….
In looking at the shaft of the corkscrew, it does carry the H & B mark. So technically it is an H & B corkscrew.
Could this be a genuine Ivory handled corkscrew? Again, technically yes. The Ivory could indeed be genuine, say…if you had a spare elephant part hanging around, and you chose to put it on a lathe to mimic the shape of the Humason & Beckley handle.
Does this handle belong on this corkscrew? Well, sure…I mean if you had a Humason and Beckley shaft lacking a handle, and you desperately needed to open a bottle of wine, a handle would “belong” on the corkscrew.
The bigger question is, is this handle original to the corkscrew?
What were the tip offs?
There are several, but simply take a look at the silver end caps. They definitely have a modern look to them, but moreover look at the silver markings on the end of the end cap. These are not from any known silver maker from that time period…or any known silver maker anywhere near that time period.
Also, take a look at the ivory itself, it looks new. The ivory handled corkscrews in my collection have an aged, yellowed, look to them. For example, take a look at the ivory handled Murphy (or the Cast Steel above), you can see the age/patina/yellowing/browning from years of age and years of usage and handling (oil from one’s hands, and such).
After looking closely at the images multiple times, I just decided to take my own advice, and I emailed the seller.
I asked where he had acquired it, as he is from California, and Lundberg Bros (also from California) are known to make handles for corkscrews out of bone and such. They have a website that explains this, so this isn’t really news.
This morning, I received the sellers response, which states:
Josef, In response to your question, I am a sculptor. 90% of what I make are copies of old tools that I make with precious metals and other natural materials. Occasionally I will pick another subject such as a padlock in silver or a fishing lure in some exotic material or a corkscrew. Yes, I did make this one. It’s the first one and it is the last one. I have no knowledge of anyone in No. California making things. The touch marks are antique symbols that I’ve collected over the years as an antique tool dealer.
So…we know why the silver marks are seemingly somewhat random, and not from the appropriate time period. But, the seller was honest enough to disclose that this is indeed a made up corkscrew, and a handsome one at that, but definitely not original.
(I have since suggested to the seller that he share this information on his listing, so that the potential buyer would be able to make a more informed decision).