Corkscrews. bottle openers, and  pours
 can he plain, inventive, or quirky, and their intriguing mechanisms and decorative appearance appeal to many collectors. Corkscrews, in particular, are available in a huge range of materials and styles.

Worldwide, there are 1,000 patents for different types of bottle openers. But the most common form of bottle opener remains the corkscrew.

There are two basic types - the straight pull, which relies on the strength of the user, and the often more sought after and valuable versions in which a mechanism of some kind takes the strain. 


The allure of corkscrews rests in part on the many different devices they use to extract a cork mechanically - including levers, cranked handles, and complex concertina-style contraptions.

 In addition, handles can be made from a variety of materials, such as silver,
brass,  steel, carved bone, and'  wood Corkscrews come in many decorative forms, and some             
carry advertising.

 There are also artful novelty types, disguised as anything

from keys to animals, to conceal their true identity.

New recruits are constantly joining the ranks of corkscrew collectors, so rarities are becoming increasingly difficult to find, but beginners should find many examples priced at £10-40. Numerous novelty or advertising examples sell for less than £10.

Keeping it simple

The first English corkscrew patent, taken out by Samuel Henshall in 1795, lasted for 14 years and was for a T-shaped straight pull. Henshall's innovation was to add a cap, or button, to the screw. This limited the screw's penetration, but also gripped the cork on contact and turned it, breaking its adhesion to the neck of the bottle. Early versions are rare and can be worth thousands of pounds. When the patent ran out, other manufacturers produced variations on the type until around 1910. Simple all-metal examples can be found for less than £20, while those with ivory or bone handles often fetch £50-120, and those with a maker's — name or fine detailing cost about  ' £150. Present-day straight pulls are also collectable if they are decorative and made in fine materials.

A helping hand

A great many patents were taken  out in the 19th century for all manner of corkscrews with levers,  arms, and twisting mechanisms. Some enjoyed limited success and are rare today. For example, Robert Jones' design of 1840, which has a brass 'worm', or screw, and three prongs to pierce and grip the cork, can fetch as much as £4,000 if intact and in excellent condition .

Another type, often marked 'Lund', combines a simple T-shaped screw and scissor- type handles with a ring to fit around the bottle neck and the screw. After twisting the screw into the cork, you grip the handle and squeeze, which forces the screw and cork up and out. When complete, these corkscrews may fetch around ,£100. The 'King's Screw' has a top handle that is turned to insert the worm into the cork and a side handle that is turned to extract it. These often sell for ,£200-500.

Many new kinds of corkscrew,
often of simpler design, were designed early in the 20th century. These can usually be bought for £20-80 and could forma wide-ranging  collection.

Those marked with a maker's \ name, operated by an unusual \° mechanism, or finely crafted are all worth looking for.

Corkscrews in the shape of people or animals usually date from the 20th century. Since so many were made for the tourist trade, they tend to be inexpensive. 

One for the butler

Not all openers for bottles with corks use a screw. There are many other types and they are usually less expensive than corkscrews.

A good example is Converse's patent design, with two prongs that slide between cork and bottle. This 'butler's cheat', valued from ,£30 to £80, enables the unscrupulous user to uncork a bottle and take a drink, then top it up with water and put the cork back After opening

Most bottle pourers date from the early 20th century on. Widely available and inexpensive, they often incorporate human figures or advertise products. Champagne taps were designed to retain the fizz in half-drunk bottles. They have a gimlet which can be screwed through the cork of an unopened bottle, allowing a glass or two to be poured before the tap is closed off. The heyday for these taps was from 1890 to 1920. Silver champagne   taps are the most prized.

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