What is the approximate value of this pre-WWII Jewish National Fund tzedakah box?
Unlike the majority of Jewish National Fund (JNF) boxes that are made of tin, your box is made of heavy brass, covered in dyed-blue leather, and it has hallmarks indicating it was made in Germany during the 1920s. Indeed, I am quite familiar with this specific JNF box, as I have seen a number of other examples over the years appear for sale. As to value, well, it’s “complicated.”
Like the stock market, the art and antiques/collectibles market can fluctuate; it can go up, it can go down, it can remain relatively steady in keeping with the rate of inflation, etc. Sometimes, in a certain niche of these markets – including Judaica – seemingly out of nowhere, prices can begin to climb and, at least for a while, seem to just keep going up.
If you had asked me the value of your JNF box ten years ago, I would have responded with a figure of $700-$900, considering that the condition of your box appears brand new with no wear. But beginning around 2015, unusual and rarely seen JNF boxes made in Europe and South America began achieving astonishing prices at auction, even reaching $10,000 for a particularly rare type. It was known among dealer circles that rare JNF boxes were being acquired by passionate collectors in Israel.
However, beginning in 2021, something even more surprising began to occur: JNF boxes made in Europe and South America that were not rare or unusual also began reaching notable amounts at auction. Another example of your blue-leather-covered brass JNF box appeared at auction in 2021, and it sold for $2,574. Just a year later, in 2022, yet another example identical to your JNF box appeared at auction and sold for an eye-watering $7,150! What is going on?
While the “JNF box boom” in the late 2010s was attributed to Israeli collectors, according to my sources, the recent interest from 2021 is being driven by American collectors who seemingly do not know or care about the rarity of some JNF boxes as opposed to others; if they do not own an example for their collection, they battle for it until they get it!
So what am I supposed to tell you as a value for your JNF box? Is it really worth $7,150? Technically…maybe. Again, like the stock market, where there are “booms,” there sometimes are “busts,” or perhaps more accurately, this could be a “JNF box bubble.” Will the price of your JNF box continue to increase? Will it level off? What will the value of your box be in one, two, or five years from now? I do not know. I’m simply a conduit for information; you can use what I’ve told you in whatever way you see fit.
These were my aunt’s from Israel. They had been in her family for several generations. Any insight as to age or origin? Thanks.
As you can see from the photos you sent me, your candlesticks have hallmarks in Polish, which include the words “Warszawa,” “Norblin,” and “Galw.” Your candlesticks, made of silver-plated brass, hail from Warsaw, Poland, were made by the Norblin factory, and date to the period of between 1890 and 1910. “Galw” is an abbreviation of the Polish word “galwanizacja” which translates to “galvanization”; it is another word for plated, attesting that your candlesticks were originally silver-plated when made.
Although your candlesticks are attractive and appear to be in perfect condition, the value I am going to give you is modest, for two reasons. The first is that in the period between 1880 and 1924, when two-and-a-half-million Jews left Eastern Europe to come here, the few items they shlepped with them were those that were most important to them. What was on the top of the list for many of these immigrants? Their Shabbos candlesticks, of course! Consequently, candlesticks like yours have survived in large numbers and are easy enough to find for purchase today.
The second reason is that the current Jewish buying public is not very interested in purchasing brass candlesticks unless the price is quite low. A typical, commonly seen pair of Warsaw brass candlesticks has a value in today’s market of $50-$75. Your candlesticks are of a style that is only occasionally seen, which makes them more desirable. Value: $150-$250.
I found your ad in The Jewish Press and am wondering if you might have any insight into a chanukiah that my father purchased. It weighs 25 pounds and is 21 inches wide and 24 inches tall. I included a few pictures. We would be happy to hear your feedback! Thank you.
Salt Point, NY
The styling of the main portion of your Chanukah menorah is quite distinctive, revealing depictions of closed hands holding all nine branches, with each branch being removable from the hands themselves. This was a popular form of Chanukah menorah hailing from the Netherlands, with most examples being about one-half to one-third the size of yours. The base of your piece rests on three claw-and-ball feet, with each side showing a face depicting a woman or a cherub. This type of base is found on all kinds of brass and bronze candelabra and candlesticks across Western Europe, with the earliest examples dating to the 17th century.
I have seen other examples of your Chanukah menorah before, and because of its size, it has, on occasion, been described as likely used in a synagogue, one of a matching pair that would have flanked the pulpit or the ark. However, I am not aware of any pre-war photos from a synagogue in the Netherlands that feature your Chanukah menorah, so without this type of evidence, I find this suggestion invalid.
How to determine the age of your example? Two factors: 1) the quality of the casting; 2) the construction, determined by taking the entire piece apart, and examining every element, including the threading of the screws, as old, pre-war threading should be somewhat uneven and at least a bit worn.
As this appraisal is from photos alone, I cannot inspect your Chanukah menorah for its construction features. However, I can see that the casting of the face and claw-and-ball feet is quite soft, which displays a certain crudeness, especially of the claws. On an old example, even one from the late 19th century, the casting of these elements would be much more detailed and sharp.
From what I can see, it appears that the best-case scenario is that you have an early 20th-century-made Chanukah menorah. Large Chanukah menorahs not made of silver have limited collector appeal; I’ve seen early 19th-century German brass Chanukah menorahs larger than your example sell for under $5,000.
If, upon in-person examination, the conclusion reached is that it dates to sometime in the 20th century before World War II, the value would be $1,000-$1,500. If your Chanukah menorah was found to be made after 1945, the value would be $250-$350.