News-Antique.com - Jun 06,2008 - Bob Bortfeld collected the usual things growing up - coins, stamps and comic books. But the collectible he now acknowledges as his "top interest" came to him quite by happenstance much later in life, while he was on a business trip in London, England.
"I saw a corkscrew in an antiques shop," he said. "It was gorgeous, bone-handled, over 100 years old."
Bortfeld bought that corkscrew. Then, later, another, and another.
"Once you have three, you have a collection," he declared. "Now, I'm up to six or seven hundred. You get into it. It becomes an obsession."
Bortfeld was probably predisposed to collecting corkscrews, having penned a wine newsletter with his wife, Susan, in the 1980s. The Bortfelds also own Vintages, an antiques shop in Los Gatos, Calif. that sells a variety of vintage antiques, including estate jewelry, vanity and hand-crafted items, and, yes, corkscrews.
Like any serious collector, Bortfeld enjoys the hunt and those memorable, special finds. He once stepped into a silver repair shop where he saw a picnic corkscrew.
"Their sterling was really expensive," he recalled. "Corkscrews like that one typically sell for $85 to $90." Bortfeld bought it for $15.
Early on, Bortfeld frequented estate sales. He occasionally buys on the Internet, but with reluctance.
"I like to see it, touch it and feel it," he said. "Good ones are not very common in shops."
Bortfeld evolved into a very selective collector. He estimates that 90% of his corkscrew collection is over 50 years old, with some pieces dating to the early 1800s. A favorite, made around 1900 by Tiffany Company, features an ivory handle and sterling mount.
One of Bortfeld's few new corkscrews is a hand-carved gem that he purchased in France. About half of his collection is figural - depicting people or animals.
One features a man's head on the screw and another head on the cap lifter.
"A lot of the figural ones are not very practical," Bortfeld noted. "Some of the rare ones are terrible corkscrews. The reason they are rare is they were not successful."
Initially, corkscrew applications extended well beyond opening wine bottles. Up to the early 1900s, perfume, ink, medicine and even beer bottles typically had cork stoppers.
Today, corkscrew aficionados, both veteran and novice, have no shortage of resources to turn to in furthering their pursuit.
The Golden Gate Corkscrew Collectors meets twice a year in the San Francisco Bay area. In addition to buying and selling opportunities, each meeting includes an educational component. The April 2008 event included a presentation on fake corkscrews.
The Canadian Corkscrew Collectors Club draws members from all over North America. Its publication annually showcases members‚ "Best Six" corkscrew collections. Bortfeld's rack-and-pinion style corkscrews were recently catalogued by the club.
At the elite end of the corkscrew collector spectrum is the International Correspondence of Corkscrew Addicts, the most prestigious corkscrew collector organization in the world. Its roll is fixed at 50 members who have World Class collections of up to 3000 pieces. They