Antiques Collectibles: It's all in the basket
American-made baskets have been around since at least the early 1900s and were often used to transport or store items. Who could have guessed back in the 1900s that baskets could be worth $600 or more in today's market.
Dave Longaberger is the founder of The Longaberger Company based in Newark, Ohio, which makes handcrafted maple wood baskets and other accessories. Before that, basket making started with his father, J.W. Longaberger.
Mary Eickemeyer, a consultant with The Longaberger Company in Rochester, says Dave Longaberger started doing home shows with his company's baskets after he founded the company in 1973. The baskets made before that time his father would be extremely hard to find and expensive, Eickemeyer says.
"I am not sure how many of those would still be available today or if any would ever be found in Minnesota," she says. "The oldest baskets most commonly available in our area would most likely come from the 1980s, and I do have some of those. However, those are not always considered the most 'collectible' to a Longaberger basket-lover because, unlike some other items, the collectibility lies not in age but in details as well."
For example, Eickemeyer says, she purchased a 1982 Oak Lid picnic basket in good condition through the secondary market last year that is estimated to be worth about $400 to $600 — she paid less than $100 for it.
"I have used Longaberger baskets in my home for over 12 years," Eickemeyer says.
Ardyth Wagner of Goodview has been collecting Longaberger baskets since 1992. She says she enjoys collecting the baskets not only for the charm they bring to her house and the variety of designs that are available, but also because they seem to be well-made.
"I had about 15 out of my 75 baskets go through the flood (in 2007)," she says. "I washed the baskets with a little bleach and water, set them out in the sun to dry and then oiled them. ... Luckily, I was able to save (them)."
Eickemeyer says taking care of the baskets will help them last longer. If not properly cared for, she says they will become brittle and break easily.
"Older baskets require more maintenance to stay in good shape because of their stain properties — maple wood splints and weaving is exactly the same kind that it has been since the 1920s," she says. "Older baskets will dry out much more quickly due to the stain being less moisture-retaining than those stains even developed in the mid-late 1990s. The additions of more color and changes in the staining process to make it more environmentally friendly over the past two years have made more options available."
For those interested in collecting Longaberger baskets, a collectors club was started in 1995, made up of people who love everything there is to love about those baskets.
Sandy Erdman is a Winona freelance writer. If you have antiques or collectibles, contact Sandy at email@example.com. Next week: A look at trade stimulators.