What Makes a Pocket Mirror Valuable?

Why are some Pocket Mirrors worth over $1000 while most sell for less than $50? Most of the value is simply because of supply and demand, Pocket Mirrors that sell for the most money are usually the rarest, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Below are some of the factors to consider in prices of Pocket Mirrors.

Quality / Appeal:

This is the most subjective category, but ultimately the most important. Does a potential buyer like / need this Pocket Mirror for their collection? Some collectors are very specific and when they find the one thing they are looking for, they will pay any price. Other buyers will only buy things that they find catch their eye in a particular way. At the end of the day, 90% of the decision to purchase a mirror is based on what someone subjectively thinks of it, for a Pocket Mirror to have lots of value it needs to appeal to a large group of people willing to pay for it.

Words that indicate rarity:

This list is not exhaustive, but is just an example for you to get an idea of how key words or wording on a Pocket Mirror can increase its value.

  • “Saloon” instead of tavern or bar on mirrors for these types of establishments
  • a “T” after western state names indicating that it was still a US Territory and not yet a state “Arizona T.”, “California T.”, etc.
  • In general, in Pocket Mirrors with geographical references of any kind, Western States will be more valuable than Eastern States, the farther West you go, typically the higher value compared to a Pocket Mirror of similar design with an Eastern State.
  • Smaller cities will be worth more than larger cities when listed on a Pocket Mirror
  • Historical trivia (like telephone numbers without area codes) can help date a Pocket Mirror to an early period (1940s for example)
  • Custom produced or one-off artwork will be more valuable than a stock image
  • A Pocket Mirror by a famous illustrator (the best example is Angelo Asti, who produced great images of beautiful girls)
  • Finally, the more artwork, text, imagery, etc on the mirror, the better

Historical Information:

The more research you can do to identify where, when, and who produced a Pocket Mirror, the better value you can expect from it. Often if you know the manufacturer or the city or business listed on the Pocket Mirror, you can use old records to track down more information. For example, if you know the name and city of the business on the Pocket Mirror you can call the library and often their help desk can help you find old phone books or other reference material to give you an address, how long it was in business, who the owner was, etc. With that information you can start going more in depth. This knowledge for most collectors is really interesting, and having a story to go with a piece really helps the value.

Condition:

Condition is always of paramount importance with any type of collectible. Collectors want these items so that they can enjoy looking at them. If the Pocket Mirror is damaged, dirty, scuffed or otherwise in bad shape it will hurt the value significantly. Common issues with Pocket Mirrors are below:

  • Foxing – brown stains from rust on the metal collet that holds the Pocket Mirror together. If the foxing is underneath the celluloid layer it is permanent damage.
  • Dents – depending on the severity, dents can range from unimportant to very damaging
  • Celluloid Damage – exposure to UV, heat, moisture or age can cause celluloid to break down and crack or otherwise display damage. This damage is permanent and detracts from the value.
  • Broken Mirror – cracked or broken mirrors can be replaced by professional restorers, however most high end collectors prefer Pocket Mirrors with all original pieces.
  • Dirty – If the only issue is dirt, dust, or other debris on the Pocket Mirror it can usually be cleaned without adverse effects. Careful cleaning with a damp cloth, mild soap, or toothpaste can remove the dirt without damaging the mirror. When cleaning a Pocket Mirror you have to be extremely careful not to let moisture get anywhere near the collet as it can cause rust and foxing later. If you clean a Pocket Mirror always make sure you dry it off immediately, but do not use a heat source like a ¬†hair dryer because the heat can damage the celluloid.

Note: all information here is only my personal opinion, no guarantee is made on my behalf, especially if you seek to clean, repair, or otherwise alter the state of a Pocket Mirror based on these recommendations.

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