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FAQ...and the BulbCollector mailbag

Ninety percent of the email generated from this site comes from people inquiring about the value of their old light bulb. Of that percentile, the majority of bulbs in question are fairly typical tungsten cage filament and ca.1905 carbon filament bulbs. High ranks also go out to heat therapy bulbs, such as those made by Nalco, Varicare, etc. Also high on this list of inquiries are neon The Time Machineand Austrian medium base figural bulbs.

At the opposite end of the spectrum it is interesting to make light of the more entertaining requests I get. For example, since the start of this site I have had three requests (from three different individuals) regarding the light bulbs used in the prop for the classic HG Wells movie The Time Machine. I'm sorry to say that I haven't been of much help in this area, I don't have any time machine light bulbs for sale.

Neon Osglim lamps have been a favorite among followers of the spiritual author Lobsang Rampa. Decades ago Rampa proclaimed a human aura could actually be seen in a dark room using a very dim light source. The Osglim seems to be the bulb of choice, or one recommended by Rampa himself. Several letters have reached the BulbCollector desk from new and veteran spiritualists alike seeking these bulbs. Not being clairvoyant myself, I have no magic way of locating Osglim bulbs- sorry.

This FAQ was written for non-collectors to help answer some of these questions and establish some very basic values of more common vintage light bulbs that I am asked about on a frequent basis. To add more of a personal touch I have included some of the email received here and my responses to those emails (names withheld).


Common Carbon & Tungsten Bulbs

Carbon filament lamp
Mazda tungsten lamp

A typical 16 candle power carbon filament bulb with black glass base insulation, circa 1905.

Value: around $10.00 if working and in good condition.

A typical Mazda tungsten cage filament bulb, circa 1915.

Value: around $10.00 if working and in good condition.

Heat Therapy Bulbs

Frequently I receive emails concerning the value and purpose of vintage light bulbs with thick spiral carbon filamentsheat therapy appliance often bearing the name Nalco and Varicare. While it is known earlier bulbs of the same design were used for precision optical light sources, the focus here concerns those used as theraputic heat sources. These bulbs were manufactured by various companies during the 1920s through the 1940s, and perhaps even later. They were used in theraputic fixtures like hand held lamps [Fig.1] as well as large scale "heat bath" appliances. The wattages of these bulbs usually range from 240 to 260 watts. Since they were designed as a heating source, they give off large amounts of heat and little useful light. Heat therapy bulbs [Fig.2] are extremely common and have little value or interest to collectors of antique light bulbs, thus I value them at around $5.00. There are certain exceptions that are unique and uncommon such as earlier tipped versions [Fig.3] and double filament bulbs [Fig.4].




tipped heat therapy bulb Austrian double filament bulb
Figure 2
Figure 3
Figure 4

Neon Glow Lights

I am often emailed about light bulbs with "glowing flowers" that describe figural neon glow lamps such as those pictured below. In the United States, these bulbs were first made beginning in the 1930s and continued to be produced at least until the 1970s. Most were made by the Aerolux Light Corporation and production lasted for many decades. These bulbs continue to be made today but all are imported from Asia, most being of far lesser quality than their vintage counterparts. These bulbs were sold as nightlights, general decorative objects for the home, and devotional objects. Hundreds of different bulb styles were made, the most common being those with flower filaments and religious symbology. Neon glow lights with comic characters and advertising logos inside are some of the more sought after types. Bulbs that glow lavendar-purple are typically more appealing to collectors becuase of the beautful color produced.

Aerolux glow light
Aerolux glow light

Glowing flower light bulbs such as this that light in a pink-orange [neon] color, circa 1930s-1960s.

Value: around $25.00 in good working condition.

Glowing flower light bulbs such as this that light in a lavendar-purple [argon] color, circa 1930s-1960s.

Value: around $35.00 in good working condition.

Related Topics:

BulbCollector Mail Bag
new mail added when time permits
names omitted for privacy

Q) "Tim, you may be an answer to my prayers. I have a need for some antique bathroom heater bulbs. I did not know what to call them until I came across your picture of the GE sausage heater. I have a circa 1932 home and the two upstairs bathrooms have in-the-wall, recessed heaters that appear to use this bulb. The bulbs are GE and are mounted inverted into the sockets. Each fixture houses three bulbs of 250 watts each. The heat produced is tremendous; great for the bathroom! In my interest to keep the antiquity of the home, and stay warm, I need to find/purchase some replacement bulbs. Any help you can give me will be greatly appreciated."
GE radiant bulb heater A) The bulbs you are looking for are radiant heat bulbs. Most were made for use in the old radiant heaters like the one pictured on my website. You are about the third person who has contacted me explaining that these bulbs were used in bathroom fixtures while restoring their old homes - interesting! Unfortunately these bulbs can be difficult to find today and no reproductions are being made. Your only source is going to be eBay unless you stumble upon one at a flea market or antique shop.


Q) "Hi, Tim. We are the proud possessors of a beautiful art noveau lady lamp. It was produced somewhere between 1910-1930 and came with one working grape cluster bulb with a standard base that is yellowish in color. The bulb on your website looks identical to our bulb except for color and base size. Would you happen to know where we would be able to purchase a bulb like that? Any information would be greatly appreciated."
Austrian grape cluster bulb A) A good place to find these would be eBay. Use a search term such as "grape bulb" and search on a weekly basis, or use eBay's automated search which will send an email notification to you for any auctions that appear having the heading "grape" and "bulb". They do show up occasionally but they can be difficult to find. Don't expect to locate one right away, it make take months. Also realize it is difficult to find two bulbs with the same matching color unless you happen to locate a group of them being sold in one lot.


Q) "Hi there! I spent a lot of time on your website today, and I'm hoping you can tell me a little bit about an old lightbulb that my dad and I found. The bulb I want info on has a wood base and the bulb itself has a filament with three loops in it. It looks quite old, but I don't know if it's a remake like the ones in the picture. It doesn't seem to have any tags, stickers, engravings, etc. How could I tell if it's an original and not a remake? How long were lightbulbs made with a wooden base? Do you have a general estimate on how much an original vs. a remake would sell for? Any information you can give me would be great. Thanks a lot."
1914 Edison Commemorative lamp A) Thanks for writing. Without first seeing your bulb, I'm guessing you have the 1929 Commemorative lamp, a reproduction made in accordance to the 50th anniversay of Thomas Edison's first successful light bulb demonstrated in 1879. It is the most common commemorative bulb I get emailed about and many people mistake it for an authentic early Edison lamp. These have varied widely in price: $50-$150 or perhaps more if you had the original box and gold identification label on the wooden base (often missing.) The most common traits of the 1929 bulb are bakelite (plastic like) thumb screws, a looped filament, wax filled insulated base (look at the underside of the wood base for the wax filling), etc. On the other hand, your bulb could be the 1914 Commemorative lamp which is similar to the 1929 however the thumb screws are made of brass, the filament wire coiled tighter, and the exhaust tip on the top of the bulb is more authentic than the fake blob on the 1929 edition. The 1914 editions originally had a round label on the bottom of the wood base that identified the bulb. They are a little more valuable and are harder to find than the 1929 examples. If you can email some close-up pictures t then I could tell you for sure which bulb you have.


Q) "Dear Tim, I have an old dental lamp/magnifier. The filament is broken in the bulb, but other than that, no other damage. Are there any businesses that can do such repairs? I am a non-collector and can't attempt such things myself. Any suggestions?"
  A) Do you have any pictures of the bulb that you need to replace? Maybe I could point you in a better direction for a replacement. Repairing the filament inside the bulb really is not an option. Although it has been done with success, the skills and equipment needed to do the task are great, only accomplished by someone in the industry of manufacturing light bulbs.


Q) Hi Tim, I am so glad I found your site. So interesting! I hope you can shed a little more light/info on a bulb I acquired. I have a working purple aerolux victory bulb & base. Is the V for victory ie in WWII? or a symbol for an electric co. or some other advertizing? Do you have any other info on what the V represents? Do you know the value? I will appreciate any help or direction you may provide. Thank you in Advance!
Aerolux Victory neon bulb A) Hello: yes, you are correct. The "V" symbolizes Victory and the positive postwar feeling here in the United States.. The Aerolux Victory bulb was produced with both an argon fill and a neon fill which means some bulbs glow pinkish-orange while others glow a lavender-purple color. The orange glowing bulbs are harder to come by and this is unusual since the lavendar bulbs are typically harder to find - but not when speaking of this particular glow light. There were also slight variations in the way the "V" was designed in some bulbs. For example most have a lightning bolt shape going through the letter "V" while some don't (the bulbs without the lightning bolt are scarcer). I have seen bulbs in good working condition with nice clear glass sell in the $30-$60 range.


Q) I have a house that was built in the early 1930's. In my bathroom there are two light fixtures that are on either side of the bathroom mirror. They have what looks like florescent bulbs in them. The bulbs are about 11 inches long. You have to snap on these caps on the top and bottom of the bulb and then it pushes into the fixture. We are remodeling the bathroom and the fixtures are plastered into a curved wall. We would like to keep them if it is possible. The only writing I have found is on the two caps that snap onto the ends of the bulb. It says Arrow H&H. Can we save these? Find bulbs? Any and all help would be greatly appreciated.
A) The bulbs that you are searching for are called Lumiline bulbs. They are long tubular incandescent lamps that people often confuse with fluorescent lamps. Lumiline's were highly popular during this time and were often used for bathroom and task lighting. GE still produces the Lumiline , but prices are high and range from about $25-$35 per bulb. I would suggest contacting your local electrical suppliers first, and then research prices on the Internet. An Internet search for "Lumiline" will turn up many online dealers. Before purchasing your new Lumiline, keep in mind that the new bulbs have disk shaped ends. You will want to save any clips or attaching hardware from your vintage fixture so that you can reuse them on your new bulb.