Folk Art: Antique Windmill Weights

Just the other day, after I posted a blog about the Whirligigs sought after by collectors, I guess my mind started going back to the days I spent growing up on a farm. Before I knew it, I was researching Windmill Weights. Maybe windmills were on my mind because of the need for this country to find new energy resources. Maybe the windmill images from the T. Boone Pickens commercials were forward in my mind. Only the Good Lord understands the intricacies of my mind. But, boy! I’m glad I did the research. I always thought windmill weights were in the form of animals, birds, moons, or stars, but I was mistaken, and I got quite the education on these folk art collectibles.

In case you’re not as old as I am, I’ll provide a little background info to understand the historical interest in windmill weights. Yesteryear, in parts of rural America and other parts of the world, many farms used windmills to capture the power of the wind to pump water out of wells for use on their land. Windmills also provided the energy to pump well water to fuel the early locomotives. Grain, especially in Europe, was ground by the energy provided by windmills. These windmills had many moving parts, of course, and a windmill weight was one of them.

Today, these weights are very collectible, valuable, and make great folk art. And there are lots of collectors who’d be grateful if you found a real beauty for their collection.

There are four different kinds of windmill weights – the Tail Weight, the Governor Weight, the Spoke Weight and the Regulator Weight. The Tail Weights are the most decorative of all.

There are hundreds of windmill weights to find, and they are still out there in the old barns and sheds. And some are quite valuable. Many of the weights you’ll find are painted, but I learned that this was usually done after the weight had out-lived its usefulness and later became a piece of folk art.

Many times paint is used to disguise a reproduction, however there are many ways to distinguish the real thing from a new reproduction.The best way is to look for rust. When these weights were used, they picked up sand in the rust, and this is what made the finish on the older weights. Watch for holes in the weights. They shouldn’t be straight up and down on the real ones, rather tapered. Any damage can quickly reduce their value.

I was fortune enough to run across the book, Windmill Weights, by Rich Nidey and Don Lawrence. I took a look at a site with some info on their book, and boy – what a head full I got.

I know you’re waiting for some price examples, so here they are:

A Black Bull with white writing, 18X24 inches, $920. Horse standing,white paint,16 X 17 inches, $920. Rooster, writing, Power & Pump Co. , 13 inches, $1495. ARooster by the Elgin Co., 15X19 inches, could bring you over $5000 today.

Today’s Photo comes from Ames Hill Antiques and this 15 inch star weight made by the U. S. Wind Engine & Pump Co. Batavia, Ill. c, 1890. is mounted on a tiger maple stand and has provenance to a Minnesota farm. It’s priced at $2250.

I think you’ll agree that these nifty items are worth looking for.

There is an endless stream of items people collect, and if we find them for collectors (or for ourselves) our coffers will be filled. An old saying I recall says, “Go where others have feared to go.” 31 Club says, “Look where others have failed to look.”

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What Makes a Collectible Valuable to the Collector

Daryle Lambert’s 31 Club Blog

Dealing in Antiques & Collectibles


Pauline Pottery, 10″ tall, sold at Craftsman’s Auction March 2006 for $2,880.

Often the one thing that makes a collectible so valuable is that there was enough production by the company so that anyone can find pieces to start a collection. Usually a budding collector starts with a less valuable item and then works his or her way up to the more expensive pieces.

Let’s take Rookwood for an example. If you’re collecting, you might make your first purchase of Rookwood in the commercial wares area of their production. A simple vase might fit the bill. But, as you advance in the collection, the artist signed pieces will become more appealing to you. Yes, they will be far more expensive, but over time you will have become more knowledgeable and realize that this is where the true investment will be. This is true of Roseville, Weller, Van Briggle, Teco and many other pottery companies whose production was expansive, and is a great way for the novice to learn as their collections grow without making too many mistakes.

But why is this important to us? We want to buy and sell, right? Yes, but unless we can get into the mind of the collectors — our customers — our buying will be more about ourselves and not about the ones we want to sell our treasures to.

There is an exception to this type collecting. There are some collectors who buy the rare items from companies who had only a limited production. In the industry, we refer to this type of collector “the advanced collector.” Pauline Pottery, produced right here in Chicago and then later in Wisconsin, is an example of an item an advanced collector might look for.

The Pauline Company was in business for only 10 years from 1883 until 1893. This lets you know that the number of pieces they produced would be very limited, and I doubt you will find many people that have a large collection of their pottery. However, this is where the advanced collector steps in. He wants one of the better pieces from the Pauline kilns to show the diversity of his collection. The pitcher that sold on ebay brought over $500, and even though it did nothing for me personally, I can see why a collector would want it in their collection.

The main problem with purchasing this type of merchandise is that there will always be a limited market for the company’s wares unless the item is exceptional. Don’t get stuck with common pieces by unknown companies because they will be yours forever. If you do see an exceptional item, but don’t recognize the mark, this is a time to get very stingy with your money. This is also an excellent way to find a Treasure while taking very little risk.

In the case of Pauline, the mark is a very indistinct crown with no writing but perhaps the artist’s initials. Their second mark just says “Pauline Pottery.” I suggest you keep your eyes out for very large and decorative pieces by this company, but leave the lesser ones alone. If you find that special piece of Pauline, I think that you should be able to buy it very reasonably. Therefore, your profit should meet our goals of at least doubling our money on our purchases.

Remember to tune into the AuctionWally BlogTalk Radio program on Monday. I am Auctionwally’s special guest and you can call in your questions. I hope I hear from you.

Join with like-minded 31 Club Members and put a turbo charge on your treasure hunting skills. Get FREE Mentoring. Learn Inside the Industry Secrets. Learn to make high profits and continue to grow your money buying and selling antiques, fine art, and collectibles. My 220 page book, 31 Steps to Your Millions in Antiques & Collectibles is FREE with your membership. The book is also available on If you buy the book on Amazon, then the membership is FREE.

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