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value of bakelite

wkate640
November 12, 2012

I have a yellowish with white marks (kind of like marbeling) 4"x8" tray with scalloped edge and matching 4"x5" box with hinged lid, velvet lined on bottom only. Also a letter opener (same color and marbled look) with heavily carved handle. They all look new--no dings, dents, scratches. The tray and box look as though they belong on a bedroom dresser. Do these items have value? Can anyone give a ballpark estimate? I wish I could take some pix but have to learn how again and have no time these days.

Comments (16)

  • lindac

    Bakelite, per se has no value as silver or ivory does. It's value is in it's nostalgia or "kitch" value if you will.

    Impossible to give even a ball park guess on value without seeing the item. Also be aware that there is Bakelite Lucite and celluloid.
    A google search will give you a rough idea of what items that look like yours are selling for.

    Here is a link that might be useful: bakelite letter openers.

  • wkate640

    Ah, now I see that what I have is called "butterscotch" and the letter opener is probably worth about $12.00; the tray and box about the same. Not enough to fund my retirement! Thanks for the link.

  • calliope

    Bakelite jewelry, OTOH, is very collectable and there is a good resale market in it.

  • lindac

    Bakelite almost anything is "collectable"...but not because of the value of the material, but because it represents the design of a certain era. Some bakelite jewelry is worth more because of the design....than other pieces which are not as much "of the era".

    I remember during WW II and the young man across the street....amazingly I can come up with his name! Charlie Avery!...anyhow he worked for whatever the company that produced Bakelite....and I remember having a record player with a piece of red Bakelite that held the needle....about the size of a Kraft caramel.....and that was something special....because that was "genuine Bakelite".
    It definitely speaks of an era!!

  • calliope

    "Bakelite almost anything is "collectable"...but not because of the value of the material, but because it represents the design of a certain era" Of course, Linda. It's just a form of plastic. You distinctly stated that in your first post, and I thought it was pretty succinct. However, I wanted to make sure that for anyone who may not be familiar with values of collectibles, to also understand that specifically and not to be too quick to discount the value of something just because it is manmade. You can still happen on old bakelite jewelry in yard sales and auctions and a pretty bakelite ring can pull upwards of $300. Real value appreciation in antiques is all about the nostalgia and rarity anyway, the value of the material fluctuates less.

  • wkate640

    Thanks, all. Good to know. I think there may be a few bakelite bracelets in the jewelry I have come across, too.

  • lindac

    Also....be aware that not all that looks like bakelite is bakelite....and real collectors who pay the big bucks know the difference.
    I have never seen a dresser box and tray of bakelite, what you describe ( but have not posted a picture of) sounds like whta is often called by sellers as "French ivory"....meaning celluloid. Not that a celluloid early dresser set isn't desirable, but it's not bakelite.
    Bakelite jewelry and belt buckles and purse handles is not molded, it is worked, so if you see mold lines it's not bakelite.

    Here is a link that might be useful: French ivory dresser set.

  • lazypup

    Bakelite most certainly is moldable..

    Bakelight (polyoxybenzylmethylenglycolanhydride) is regarded as the worlds first thermosetting synthetic plastic, having been invented in New York in 1907.

    Bakelite was principally used as an electrical insulator for radio circuit boards and industrial electrical controls, and it is still in use today as an internal component of heavy electrical relays and controls.

    Prior to WWII it was often molded or shaped to make consumer products but with the advent of newer plastics during the war the use of Bakelite for consumer goods was suspended.

  • lindac

    OK....but the caveats for Bakelite say if you can see mold lines it's not Bakelite....
    Splain more, Please.

  • lazypup

    I would say the caveates are wrong because if you look at a bakelite commercial lampholder you can definitely see mold marks.

  • lazy_gardens

    The patent for Bakelite says "moldable, thermosetting" so it definitely is moldable.

  • calliope

    Yes, it is or it wouldn't have been in such industrial and household use in the past. However, Linda is correct, vintage bakelite jewelry was carved.

  • wkate640

    It doesn't look like the French Ivory in the picture because of that pearlized or marbly look I originally described (and I may not have described it clearly). I will try my best to post a picture next week. I know I'll have questions on other items, too, so need to practice. I appreciate all the help.

  • toxcrusadr

    If it's translucent, it's probably not Bakelite as I know it. A lot of radio cabinets were Bakelite which had wood flour (sawdust) in it as a filler. It's opaque and usually dark brown.

    Translucent items may be celluloid or a form of plastic from the Bakelite era that did not have fillers, known as 'catalin'. Catalin of different colors could be swirled together before molding. I know catalin radios are very valuable, but the plastic also shrinks and cracks, so they are somewhat fragile.

  • jemdandy

    Bakelite is another name for phenolic. It is a thermoset molding compound. After pressed to high pressure in a molding die and heated, the material sets up to become a solid. This is a chemical reaction and the material will not melt again. It can be scorched or burned, but does not melt.

    It was discovered (by accident) by a Belgian born chemist, Leo Baekeland. He was working in New York looking for a replacement for shellac when this new material was discovered in 1907. He named it Bakelite. Therefore, I expect all Bakelite pieces to have been made after 1907.

    Phenolics are widely used to make electrical products and its use continues to date. At present, phenolics along with many other thermosets and thermopalstics are widely used to mold many different products.

  • artylady

    lindac If by chance you see this post, you mentioned Charlie Avery worked for a company that produced Bakelite. Do you happen to have any other info? I am searching for info about a company which was my grandfather's. Please write me at artyladycp@yahoo.com

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