Best known for his stunning ceramic birds, Boehm had an intriguing sideline

2014-04-20T00:00:00Z 2014-07-03T12:19:27Z Best known for his stunning ceramic birds, Boehm had an intriguing sidelineBy Danielle Arnet The Smart Collector Arizona Daily Star
April 20, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Q: What is current value on my two limited-edition phrenology pieces by Boehm?

A: I’m going to answer with a question of my own. Might our reader be a pharmacist, perhaps retired?

Phrenology is the old “bumps on the head” method of diagnosing mind and body illnesses. Developed by a German physician in the 1700s, it is, to put it kindly, a pseudoscience. And it was quite a fad in Victorian times.

Sculptor Edward Marshall Boehm’s phrenology heads with incised lines on the skull were not limited editions. Back in the 1950s, the ivory ceramic busts about 5 inches high were handouts given to doctors and pharmacists by sales reps for the Schering Pharmaceutical Co. Made by Boehm Ceramics, the giveaways promoted Schering’s new tranquilizer, Etrafon. As you can imagine, many were distributed and many still exist.

Most collectors associate Boehm (1913-1969) with finely sculpted ceramic birds and fancy porcelains given by American presidents to heads of state. Linking Boehm to phrenology heads seems farfetched, but there it is.

On, we found several Boehm heads that sold on eBay in 2013. Results ranged from $20 to $125 each.

Q: We’ve had these old electric wall lights in storage for years. Can you tell us how old they are and what they’re called? Each is 22 inches high and weighs 5 or 6 pounds.

A: The wall lights with brackets seen in images are electric sconces. Judging by scale, they probably came from a theater or other public building. And they were either inside or outside lights; you can see hangers where they fastened to a wall.

Made of a white metal, they are cast lanterns in the Gothic Revival style, with spikes radiating from the top for drama. Such lanterns as adornments, or even as early municipal lighting, were often seen around 1900 to 1920.

Note how the alloy sags in places. That’s due to lead content and age. Originally, panes in the lantern may have held glass. Or not.

Value boils down to whatever you can get. I realize that’s not what you want to read, but the pair is unique with zero to few sale results to go by. I did find a somewhat similar but smaller single light minus the bracket that sold on eBay for $159. For your pair, I suggest posting online at a price you can live with and see what happens.

Danielle Arnet welcomes questions from readers. She cannot respond to each one individually, but will answer those of general interest in her column. Send email to

Copyright 2015 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Most Popular

Deals, offers & events

View more...