Hi , I'm Lisann, also known as lisanagain on eBay! Here it is 2013!!
The economy sure hasn't affected motion lamp sales on eBay in any consistent way! There has been ups and downs but recently prices have jumped it seems again! Seems EVERYONE is Determined to win the motion lamp of their dreams! I am so glad to see more & more people getting into these fantastic antiques and rare collectibles... (even if I keep getting outbid too!)
**** AFTER READING, PLEASE , take a moment CLICK "YES" or "NO" to let me know if this helped you...**
Hello to everyone who wants to collect Vintage Motion Lamps! My father collected these novelty lamps throughout my childhood, and I love them as much as he did. Most vintage motion lamps on the market are from the 1930's through the early 1960's . ( There are also lamps from the 70's through the 90's, but I like the older ones best!) NOTE: I do NOT claim to be an expert, only an enthusiast! I am eager to learn more, and welcome your questions & comments!
BASIC CONSTRUCTION and DESIGN
Most Motion Lamps have a circular lamp base, a vertical double layered outer lamp shade which has one with outside picture on it and another inner shade which has opaque and clear motion details on it (these two shades are attached and appear as one shade.).
Inside the lamp is a separate "spinner" shade which usually balances on a metal pin above the light bulb. The pin is a metal wire like "post" attached inside the lamp, shaped to go around and above the light bulb, then pointed on the top. be careful, they are sharp! Once the spinner is set properly on the pin, the heat of the light bulb rising causes the spinner shade to rotate. The top of the spinner shade has "fins" which work like fan blades. The top of the inner "Spinner" shade has a center BEARING! This is what the needle rising above the light bulb "sits into" it keeps the spinner centered and allows it to spin freely. Without the bearing, many lamps will not spin. As the inner SPINNER shade rotates, the picture on the outer shade comes alive! Most use a 40 watt clear bulb or lower wattage for safety. Clear bulbs show details better!
TYPES and BRANDS
Earliest Motion Lamps: Scene-in-Action..and Rev-o-lite
Scene-in-Action Corporation was one of the earliest producers of Motion lamps. They started in 1925 and were in operation until 1936.. This was a very difficult time to have a business, as we know the Great Depression started in 1929 and ran for many years.. It is believed that the people who took over bought out the remaining stock, and became Rev-o-lite Corp Although they only lasted a decade, their lamps set the standard, and are very fine additions to any collection. Then there are the Framed flat panel shade lamps which are absolutely phenomenal, like #42 Japanese Twilight, Serenader #44, and Colonial Fountain #46.. These have metal 3 dimensional front frames, glass paneled scenes, glass motion panel, with spinner housing in back.. AWESOME!! These lamps are largely constructed with metal bases and tops, and have glass shades with inner celuloid sleeves, or two glass layers on the picture frame models such as Japanese Twilight, and The Serenader. Japanese Twilight is fabulous Art Deco Style metal shade, and the scene is Mt Fuji under a full moon. It is shades of blue. with black and white, and is so romantic, classic and suitable for the finest home or museum display.
Their Forest Fire with Log Cabin #41 is absolutely fabulous, with what is considered the very best animation effects of any motion lamp fire scene ever. The colors are very intense, and the lovely details on top and base are incredible. This lamp and it's sister lamps Niagara Falls #43 , and Buddha 1931 (the latter being so rare I have never seen one anywhere except in a book..) have another feature that is unique to them alone. That is a round vented metal dish with place on the center for scented oil or incense. When you burn a small cone of incense in the top while lamp is going, you WILL be amazed at how rising smoke from the lamp's top vents makes the scene so realistic as to be breathtaking! Of course, that is my opinion, you'll have to get one and see for yourself..
When Rev-o-lite took over they created a pagoda like metal lamp with window panels containing the scenes.. These lamps are truly special, and very hard to come by. They have wonderful 1920's style artwork and feature fairy tale scene, or fairies, and one has a Gondola in Venice. The metal is brass, and they are delicate and beautiful lamps. The motion is the scene simply revolving, but it is very cool! These lamps can sell anywhere from $100-$600 range, and like I said, are becoming very rare.
The two major makers were Econolite, and L.A. GoodmanEconolite made a Lovely Large Lamp of New York Harbor featuring The Statue of Liberty, Called Miss Liberty It is a Large 12 inch by 7 inch lamp. These can sell for over $3000 (for a mint one) depending on the timing, and condition of the lamp! If you find one, GET IT! I consider this lamp one of the best bets for investment.. !! The sister lamp to this one, in my opinion, is the Eiffel Tower Paris with Place De La Concorde Fountain. This incredible lamp is also one of the most difficult to find lamps, and has such realistic effects and beautiful colored artistry!
HERE ARE SOME MORE OF THE MOST RARE AND VALUABLE LAMPS: There is one with 1950's Water Skiing (very rare and goes for lot's of $$ recent one went for unbelievable $3550 in 2007 .. wowsa!!), Japanese Festival Gardens (L.A. Goodman) with it's erupting Mount Fuji volcano, is breathtakingly beautiful! (also very difficult to find) and I have seen it sell from $300-$800. It has the BEST colors of any lamp when it comes to Vivid!
There is one I call: Couple by a Fireplace which has a dog curled up too, and the fireplace burns very realistically, a Grist Mill Scene, an incredible Fire Fighter scene, which features the historic Chicago Fires and horse draws fire wagons! It can easily sell for $600-$800 or more (I have owned this one and it was a big favorite with my family)
***Please NOTE: I have seen Prices rise significantly over the last few years as demand for these lamps increases.. I am NOT an expert, and prices on vintage and antique lamps are changing constantly..I am just trying to let you know what I have seen them go for. Some times I will see something go sky high one time, and then see one go for far less a few months later.. Then another go really high.. Prices and values are always going up and down, but one thing I love is knowing that every year they are older and harder to find!***
The ever famous and fun "Fountain of Youth" which in some versions has the boy on both sides, while others have a little boy peeing on one side, then Spanish Explorer Ponce Deleon on the other. You can swivel a seperate outer sleave around to expose whichever scene you prefer.. The fountain is sparkling and I like the pink flamingos, but the suprised look on the dog and other critters as they watch the little boy are charming.. A GREAT lamp to use as a bathroom night light!!! There is also one with 1950's Sexy Ladies (Pin-Up Girls) in nearly bare outfits and bathing suits (I have seen this lamp on eBay recently, and I think it sold for over $350)!
The Winter Scenes, which have a church on some, but snow in all, features the motion of snow falling always get's top dollar as well. It is made in the mid 1950's . The snow appears to be really falling on the little log cabin, church, etc. These are easier to find around the Holidays and make a GREAT gift for the person who is hard to please.. They will grace a mantle in any fine home... The Train Race scene lamp is a favorite for vintage train collectors as it features the John Bull and another train racing along the tracks with smoke billowing and wheels spinning as scenery flies by behind them. It is very dramatic and a wonderful lamp. It is made by L.A. Goodman, and is a favorite of train lovers.
In 2007 a motion lamp of a famous European Fountain went for well over $1500!! Another seller told me he got an Econolite at a junk shop for items he traded worth about $20 and sold for over $500 ! the Our Lady of Guadelupe Lamp which sold (June 06).. fetched upwards of $500 WAIT CHECK THAT! One just sold for over $2500.00 which does not suprise me as this is an extremely rare lamp!! . NOTE: These eBay prices fluctuate, now in 2009 all these lamps may be worth more! NOTE: I thought the current US economy slump would bring down prices, but they have remained very strong, only showing a little dip here and there.. You may get a good deal!
OK, back to the lamps.. I adore the Carousel Lamps from 1948. These are very fun, and fragile with their cardboard tops, but are very valuable with the story book characters painted on the celluloid shade.
There is one with Disney scenes from 1955 which is probably the ONLY 1955 OPENING YEAR of DISNEYLAND souvenirs of any substance. It is highly sought after by Disney Collectors and is a Crown Jewel to them. The art is a TRUE Disney lithograph featuring MANY Disney characters. The base is metal and has many more characters.. On The King Aurthur's Carousel Lamp: there are about 20 of your favorites there in lovely color! Mickey is riding the only white horse, just as it was at the park... Note: in the 1970's Disney employess painted ALL the horses white because the children were always fighting to be on "Mickey's Horse" ... The other lamp is the Train, which is from the train ride at the park too. There are only two models from this year, and both are very hard to find. The top was plastic, and came with lttle flags that went on metal posts. I consider this one of the BEST lamps, because the lithograph is rare alone, and paper, and the entire lamp is a rare crossover collectible.
The Econolite Jr, Circus lamp is one of the hardest to find motion lamps too. It usually had the picture flaked off after all these years, so one in good condition is very hard to find. It pictures all the trappings of a great old fashioned circus tent entertainment. It is a smaller lamp, and has a red base.
Another neat lamp by Econolite is the Mother Goose Nursery Rhyme Lamp, featuring Hey Diddle Diddle! Complete with dish, spoon, cow,moon, and dog! Really great for nursery. Made is 1948, and very hard to find, this lamp is a real keeper! . This lamp came in pink and blue. I had one and sold it, and my son still bugs me for doing that! Your kids and grand-kids will all remember these fondly and beg you to leave them to them in your will!
L.A. Goodman is great Motion Lamp maker! Many of the above lamps are by this company which made it's lamps in LosAngeles California.. These lamps are often the largest.. 11" x 6". My favorite is the Niagara falls lamp, and The Sailing Ship with Lighthouse Lamp. I also love the Cowboy Camp Fire Lamp, It features a group of cowboys around a campfire drinking coffee, and a very mysterious waterfall on the other side that almost looks volcanic as it flows. any of these in fine condition can cost you anywhere from $100-$500+ depending on your luck and timing. In fair condition, perhaps some mild warping, or scratching, you may get one under $100, but these are even climbing in value pretty quickly. (I am often surprised when I make what I think is a high bid, and lose! ) Goodman also has some exotic lamps featuring aquarium designs complete with fish, and two with ducks flying! There is also one with butterflies.. a wonderful lamp for a child's room! The shades are rippled as well, with ripply paper in between the two outer shade layers..and thus are hard to find in fine condition. The effect are very soothing, and the rippled shade adds to the effect of the fish really swimming (or birds flying). I have seen these go recently for $300-$450 as they are growing in popularity.
The fish lamp has a 1990's replica, by Visual Effects Co.which now goes for over $100, and is very nice. I even features the rippled shade. Just be sure that you don't accidentally by this lamp thinking it is the 1956 Goodman! (yes I did that once, looked to fast, and bid on impulse!).) Still a nice lamp!!
There is a gorgeous lamp featuring the famous race of steam boats down the Mississippi in 1880. This lamp featured the Robert E Lee and Natchez racing along as moonlight glistens on the river and folks look on from the shore. It has incredible detail! The Spanish moss hangs softly from the trees, and the movements of the ships on the water are so real!
For the holidays there are the Spinning Christmas Trees and the Spinning Light Toppers which are made of fine cardboard and rest over a pin above a bulb and spin from the heat. These are very popular with collectors, and are usually snatched up quickly. The prices can range greatly simply by the time of year (they go higher just before the holidays and less in summer). These are very special additions to any collection, and are so fun to watch! Expect to pay a high price for a fair somewhat worn example to the $250 plus for smaller ones in great like new condition. There is also a Large size one that can sell from $200 -$400 or maybe more in the future? What will 2011 holiday season bring as to prices? time will tell!
***JUST A NOTE**** I recommend a large Niagara Falls by L.A. Goodman Lamp for a first time buyer, as the colors are absolutely wonderful, pinks and pale oranges and pastels. These often are an excellent value on eBay, and I think this lamp is one of the most lovely of all when going.
Also, there are lamps designed by Aubrey Leech, known as Econolite Jr or Roto View lamps..and these are really great! They are smaller lamps, maybe 8" or so tall and 5" wide. They tend to be a little less expensive, and are perfect for a first time buyer, but are becoming more and more popular! They usually feature either Niagara Falls, or a Forest Fire scene., but also can be found with the Fountain of Youth, and other scenes. Don't let the small size, or lower selling price fool you, as these are fabulous lamps with vivid pictures and incredible life like action! I have found them to sell for as little as $70 and as high as over $300 . , These are a great choice, and they fit on even a narrow shelf, taking up a very small space with a footprint of about 5 inches circular. (These three are the first I owned, gifts from my father, and I treasure them!)
I also have yet to own an Eiffel Tower lamp (did I spell that wrong?) And the Fountain of Versi lamp.. I am hoping to see all the lamps in person some day, and I alwayd have my eye peeled for them! 8/2008 update! I got one! It is phenomenal !!! Wow!
Also, I have seen THREE movies this past year that had vintage motion lamps featured in scenes! So keep a look out when at the movies, you may see a Gristmill , or a Japanese pagoda lamp! I wont tell you which movies though..
PROTOTYPES and ODDBALLS
There are UNIQUE and RARE even among the more common lamps. Econolite made Hand Printed Lamps which appear to have a somewhat different material. They are More bright and the colors have excellent saturation, and are not subject to fading like others. They are Mostly Oval lamps, and they are marked Hand Printed on the shade. Apparently there are only a few hundred Hand Printed of each model, and they are prized by collectors. I just learned this recently from a gentlemen who outbid me on a winter scene lamp.. which turned out to be Hand Printed. It is easy to overlook these gems, as I have. They will out last all others, and are worth much more, so if you see one at auction, don't be afraid to spend a bit more for it.
There are also many lamps that are unmarked, and even the experts can't figure out who made them. Some are Canadian and some are European models of Goodman and Econolite, worth just as much! Some are Japanese made, and there are many with milk glass tops and great fish bowl effects. These are often from the 1940's and are a real treat when found. I had one with a music box in it, and have found several with unique pagoda designs and other special features. These are very valuable, and should not be overlooked.
-REMEMBER: Always try to get a lamp with all the spinners, as they aren't as easy to come by as people say (in my experience), and you may pay more for a replacement spinner than you did for the whole lamp! Although, even with no spinners, these Lamps are usually stunning just as they are, though there will be no movement.
Warping, cracking and splitting are the downsides of these lamps. These usually occur due to people using a TOO HOT BULB, that is, TOO HIGH WATT bulb. This not only can warp and damage your lamp, but is also dangerous! I always recommend using as low a wattage as possible to get the lamp to spin. Start out with a 15 watt clear bulb, and I use the small type bulb, called an appliance bulb (for refrigerators and range hoods) which keeps bulb as far from inner spinner as possible. . If this wont get it to spin, go up to a higher wattage... Some lamps require up to 40 watt bulbs, but I NEVER use higher than that!!!!! (It is common to use 60 watts, but I really think that is too high. If your lamp wont spin with anything less than 60 watts, keep a close eye on it for warping, and never leave it on when you are out of sight) Also, use CLEAR BULBS not frosted ones, as they will allow the pictures to show through the best! frosted bulbs will often cause the design effects to look fuzzy and unclear, especially in fish lamps!
I have had some luck repairing warped and damaged lamps, and many can be adjusted to function well even with considerable damage. Some people maybe can actually undo the warping completely, but I haven't found a way to do it, and am more likely to further damage the lamp. Try to get lamps in WORKING order, that is, the spinner spins, even if there is a little warping. Some damage is common, and even a crack or denting isn't bad if you can turn that side to the wall and enjoy nice action on the undamaged side. NOTE: Some lamps, when on, will look wonderful even with a lot of outside warping damage, so ask questions, dont assume it wont look nice..
Scratches on outer shade can be touched up with good enamel paints, although you will likely be able to tell. Still, it is nice to cover places where white light shows through ruining the effect of realism. Permanent markers, although tempting, do not work! The repair must create a thicker opaque covering through which light cannot pass.
Vintage lamps usually have METAL Bases on the Goodman, and plastic (possibly Bakelite) on the Econolite, but Goodman has some slightly later models(late 1950's to early 1960's) with plastic. Bases are often tarnished, and I don't worry too much about this if they are complete and solid, but the shinier the better!
Look for lamps imprinted, and usually dated as well, by Scene in Action (very old!) , Leech, L.A.Goodman, Econolite, Ignition Co., and any really old metal and glass lamp that may not have visible names. Lamps are marked on the shades, and sometimes molded into metal parts. Look on the very edge of shades, and remember that printing may be very small.
The PICTURE FRAMED LAMPS
You can also buy motion lamps that have a flat picture and a nice wood or metal frame on the front, and the spinner and lamp are in the back.. There are many types and picture choices here as well, and they can go for anywhere from $50-$500 depending on age, quality, and timing of sale... These early 1950's lamps are usually made by Econolite, and were made in early to mid 1950's. They stopped making them I am told to focus on round types. I have owned several picture framed lamps, and they will definitely attract attention! The sailing ship looks like it is really moving across the sea with waves punding the bow, and the automobile appears to move with wheels spinning and background moving past behind it. Also, the Train Engine lamp is fabulous, and they all have incredible 3-d effects, like the picture is coming right out at you!
Even older,approximately 1931.. and more valuable are the Iron Scene-in-Action framed lamps! These are absolutely gorgeous! My favorite features a Gondola scene with amagical looking castle, moonlit lake, and mountains behind the lovers and their gondolier who are cast in metal along with the lovely frame surrounding the glass front scene. These lamps have several layers of glass with different details on each layer. The front layer containing the actual art work, and two rear panels painted to create motion in the proper places. Behind this is a metal (copper) housing which has the light bulb and spinner apparatus, like other motion lamps. There are several other models that are stunning as well. An extremely popular and hard to find model pictures Mount Fuji and a lake glistening in moonlight. This lamp has True Art Deco styling, and is an absolutely fabulous find. For Old Europe Lovers, there are Victorian lovers beside a classic fountain. The man and woman are cast in metal as is the frame and detailing, the scene is class, an made as the other lamps above. This is most common of the three lamps, but still very rare, and valuable. Look for clear crisp colors.. These are reproductions of actual oil painting, as I have been told! I have found that the seller named Crow50 often has excellent examples of these fine lamps, and I have always been very happy with my purchases from him.
There are a few companies that made motion lamps in the 70's 80's and even into the 1990's. They did a very nice job I think. One company is Visual Effects. They made an OLD MILL POND, VINTAGE CAR, FISH in BOWL, and maybe one more.. These lamps are no longer made, and are in fairly short supply now.. While not as old, they still have nice effects, and will also be well loved.. I have several and like them very much.. They can be found often for less than $100 so are a great choice for a beginner or as a gift..
A FEW MORE HINTS and FACTS
** Many Motion lamps by different makers can be found in an Oval shape. These are more valuable than the round cousins, as they are slightly more rare.
**Hand Printed Prototypes are also more valuable!
**Some lamps spin better with their lid off.. so, what the heck.. Let them go topless!
**Watch out for old wires on these lamps, however many are just fine, and often they are rewired! If in doubt, it's easy to get them updated for safety.
**Of course, original tags, and packaging add to value as well, but if you plan to display rather than hold for resell, you can get a better priced one without the extras.
**If the seller says the lamp is warped, and spinner rubs or gets "stuck" believe them! Sometimes they will mention the possibility of "fixing" this problem , but it is very difficult, and results can be completely disappointing.. In my experience, if the lamp is warped beyond function.. It WON'T function with motion. (You can remove the warped inner shade, if that is what is damaged, and spinner still works, but effects will be completely different than intended for the lamp and diminished).
PAINTING DAMAGED SCENES: This sounds good in theory, but I find it problematic. The colr used, say with latex paint can be matched well on the lamp picture when it is turned off, but when it is turned on it may look awful! I do touch up lamps to remove white light glare through damaged spaces, but I do it with the lamp turned ON, so the colors are matched when viewing working lamp. This works very well, BUT when you turn it off you may very well see the repair very well.. Either way, it will show using paint, but I have found no other method that works.. I am open for suggestion.. All in all my method has worked well for my collection.. Usually just tiny spots anyway, and i don't even attempt it on large areas..
There are two books on motion lamps that you can find , They are found by searching MOTION LAMP GUIDE on eBay or Amazon (etc.) They picture many interesting lamps, and lot's of facts. One is by Sam and Anna Samuelian, entitled: Collectors Guide to Motion Lamps, and theirs is the book I use for reference. It is out of print now, so you will have to find a copy on eBay.. Good Luck as they sell for up to $150, but are excellent !!! Another good guide is: Animated Motion Lamps a Price Guide 1920's to Present, by Bill and Linda Montgomery, and also has price estimates from that year.
NOTE: If you like motion lamps you may LOVE vintage motion clock lamps as well! Do an eBay search for "Vintage Motion Clock" and check out the fire clocks.. they have effects that are amazing, and also come from 1940's-1960's. Mastercrafters, and United are two brands. Please see my guide on them...All My Best to everyone!I hope to see you at one of my auctions soon! I am happy to answer questions, or just chat motion lamps!!
PLEASE CLICK ON "YES" AT BOTTOM OF PAGE >>If you found ANYTHING that helped you!!!! PLEASE!!!! Thank-You!! PLEASE CLICK!!! MANY THANKS TO Sam and Anna Samuelian Authors of The Collector's Guide to Motion lamps.. THEY ARE THE BEST!