How to identify an antique electric fan

justCollecting

justCollecting

2016-08-22 15:32:35

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The electric fan was invented in the 1880s in the sweltering heat of the New Orleans summer.

Over the years the design was adapted and tweaked, with the first recognisably modern electric fans being produced in the 1920s.

They’re popular retro collectors items.

Here’s how to identify one.

Brand and model

Most electric fans will have a brand name displayed prominently in the centre of the cage.

The manufacturer

The manufacturer's logo is usually easy to spot - Image: eBay

This will immediately offer a clue as to its value, as certain “prestige” names are highly sought after.

Examples include Veritys, which regularly sell for several thousand dollars.

The model's issue number will tell you exactly when it was made and give you an idea of its value. 

You can check it on eBay or try the Antique Fan Collectors Association (AFCA) forums.

Size and shape

Up until the 1910s, most fans were large and unwieldy things designed for use in office spaces.

The unusual blades on this model suggest it dates to before the 1920s - Image: eBay

The unusual blades on this model suggest it dates to before the 1920s - Image: eBay

After 1910 the technology had advanced to the stage where fans were small and cheap enough to go in the home.  

Materials

Prior to the first world war brass was the dominant material used in making cages.

A 1901 General Electric fan (note the brass cage) - Image: eBay

A 1901 General Electric fan (note the brass cage) - Image: eBay

However, manufacturers were forced to switch to steel as global reserves were co-opted for the war effort.  

After the war most never switched back.

Colour

Initially fans were mainly produced in a stark black, with the notable exception of General Electric – which used green.

As fans became more widely available, designers began experimenting with different colours. So colour is a good indicator that your fan was produced from the 1930s onwards.  

Keep an eye out for…

The Emerson Silver Swan: This 1930s design classic sells around the $300 mark in good condition.

The Veritys Junior Orbit is highly sought after - Image: eBay

The Veritys Junior Orbit is highly sought after - Image: eBay

Veritys Junior Orbit: If you have one of these in good condition, you’re looking at around $2,500.

General Electric: General Electric fans sell for anything from $60 to $1,000. 

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