Father Time Collectibles

From the Worthpoint family to yours – here’s to a very happy and healthy 2018!  May the New Year bring you much health, happiness, and of course, wonderful vintage finds.

Father Time has been associated with the passage of time and the onset of the New Year for centuries, and he’s also made appearances on some unlikely – and in some cases, really unusual – collectibles.

Father Time – the winged, old bearded man holding an hourglass and scythe – has been associated with the passage of time and the onset of the New Year for centuries.  This figure, whose responsibilities include all the “duties of time,” has been noted in artwork dating from as early as the mid-1500’s. Father Time is often depicted on items like grandfather clocks, watches, and other timekeeping devices, like sundials.  He’s also a popular motif on New Year’s cards and celebratory ephemera, and was the logo mascot for the Elgin National Watch Company. But he’s also made appearances on some unlikely – and in some cases, really unusual – collectibles. 

According to the Worthopedia, here are some up-to-the-minute selections of Father Time highlights that sold at auction in 2017.

Hiram Walker & Sons Father Time Bourbon Whiskey Bottle

Here we have an 8-1/2” tall prohibition-era “Father Time” prescription bottle. In October 2017, this empty, almost antique Hiram Walker & Sons Father Time brand bourbon whiskey bottle sold for $24.95.

Prohibition in the United States lasted from 1920 though 1933.  During this time, it was illegal to buy or manufacture alcoholic beverages, but it was not illegal to drink them.  An interesting loophole in this law was that physicians could “prescribe” liquor to their patients as a treatment for stress.  In the photo above, we have an 8-1/2” tall prohibition-era “Father Time” prescription bottle. Its clear glass surfaces are decorated with molded spider webs and features a spider on its reverse. The bottle is marked “Hiram Walker & Sons Limited” on its stopper. In October 2017, this empty, almost antique Hiram Walker & Sons Father Time brand bourbon whiskey bottle sold for $24.95.

Candle Snuffer

In March 2017, a Department 56 Father Time candle snuffer sold for $15.00.

Candle snuffers were designed to help extinguish burning candles without the dangers associated with hot melted wax.  Early examples were called “douters.” This word, a contraction of “do” and “out,” was first noted in the very early 1600’s. In 2000, Department 56 released its 7” tall, two-piece porcelain Father Time candle snuffer.  The figure was dressed in a blue tunic, held an hourglass in one hand and a scythe in the other, and wore half a dozen watches around his neck. This limited edition was sculpted at the Bronte Porcelain Company in England. In March 2017, a Department 56 Father Time candle snuffer sold for $15.00.

Card Game

In August 2017, a What O’Clock Old Father Time card game from McLoughlin Brothers sold for $101.

Although the concept of Father Time doesn’t seem to have much to do with children today, folks in the Victorian era thought differently.  Here we have a c. 1895 card game called What O’Clock Old Father Time, manufactured by the McLoughlin Brothers Company from New York.  According to the company’s catalog, “This game has 48 cards bearing clock dials, upon which the hands indicate every hour and half-hour of the twenty-four. The highest card take the lower ones of each trick played. The game is simple, for children. It gives practice in telling time promptly.” The game’s eye catching box, which measures 5-1/2″ tall by 4″ wide, is decorated with an image of Father Time.  In August 2017, a nice example of What O’Clock Old Father Time from McLoughlin Brothers sold for $101.

Father Time Doll

In June 2017, a Susan Dunham Father Time doll sold for $16.95.

Although the idea of a Father Time figure or doll is not terribly unusual, this particular one is quite the head-turner.  The United Federation of Doll Clubs (UFDC) is an international organization which is dedicated to the research, education, conservation, collecting, and appreciation of dolls. Every year, UFDC hosts a convention which attracts thousands of doll collectors from all over the world. Event attendees receive a limited-edition doll which is exclusive to this gathering. At the 51st National Convention, held in Chicago in 2000, this was a 15” tall Father Time Doll. It was created by doll artist Susan Dunham. The porcelain doll came clothed in a long white robe, with a long train; his accessories included a scythe, and a mask of his older face.  In June 2017, a Susan Dunham Father Time doll sold for $16.95.

Holiday Ornament

In August 2017, a Radko Father Time Christmas ornament sold for $30.00.

The Christopher Radko company has been producing hand decorated, blown glass ornaments since 1985.  Today, the company is practically synonymous with Christmas, given its prolific output of holiday inspired decorative items and tableware.  According to the Radko website, “Christopher Radko ornaments have decorated the White House, adorned the Kennedy Center, and garnished the personal collections of celebrities such as Elton John, Oprah Winfrey, John Travolta, Robert DeNiro, Elizabeth Taylor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Maria Shriver.” In 1998, the company produced its “Father Time” ornament. This timeless edition is quite large, measuring 8” tall and 4” wide, and depicts Father Time as an angel sitting upon a cobalt, star-covered sphere.  True to form, he holds a staff in one hand and an hourglass in the other. In August 2017, a Radko Father Time Christmas ornament sold for $30.00.

Poster

In April 2017, a near mint example of this vintage concert poster sold for $430.

This final highlight is not exactly a Father Time collectible, but includes many references to the bearded old man and the onset of the New Year.  Here we have a very rare, vintage concert poster by noted Fillmore artist Wes Wilson.  It was created to promote a December 1966 “New Year’s Bash” event featuring headliners Jefferson Airplane and The Grateful Dead, two of the premier bands of the time. This very appealing purple, grey, white, and orange poster shows the side view of a woman’s face and the lettering forming the shape of her hair.  She holds an hourglass, clearly as a nod to Father Time’s constant accessory, and the graphical treatment of 1966 and 1967 suggests a seamless transition from one year to the next.  In April 2017, a near mint example of this “time capsule” sold for $430.


Rebekah Kaufman is a Worthologist who specializes in vintage Steiff and other European plush collectibles.  You can follow her blog, which focuses on vintage Steiff finds, Steiff antiquing and travel adventures, international Steiff happenings, and the legacy and history of the Steiff company at http://mysteifflife.blogspot.com.  Sign up for her Steiff newsletter by contacting her directly at steifflife@gmail.com.

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