Our first insulator discovery was back in 1994 while wandering through the antique shops in Galena, Illinois. One of our purchases was a wire framed glass insulator / candleholder. A unique piece at the time, but we have since learned that the common Hemingray forty-two we acquired is not worth the seven dollars that we paid, not even with the wire holder. We picked up a few more insulators at a yard sale for a quarter a piece and decided we would try to make candleholders out of them for Christmas gifts. That idea never got off the ground, but it did get us start collecting.

I started searching for information on insulators at our local library. The aged books contained black and white drawings and outdated pricing information. Seeking more information, I decided to try one of our local antique shops to see if they could help. They gave me a card from a collector, Earl Paulson of Baxter, MN. Earlís response, to my inquiry, included a couple past issues of "Crown Jewels of the Wire", a few color pictures and a nice note. Thanks to his help, I was pointed in the right direction.

A subscription to Crown Jewels was a must and the McDougalds were very receptive to my inquiries. Carol sent an array of helpful information about the hobby. Its kind of ironic how my search took me to Baxter, MN only to find that Crown Jewels is published less than an hour from our house. We joined the "Greater Chicago Insulator Club" (GCIC) and the "National Insulator Association" (NIA). Since then we have added the "Northwestern Insulator Club" (NIC) and the one that brings us all together, "Insulator Collectors On the Net" (ICON).

The April 1995 Collectors Jubilee in Wheaton, IL was the first shows I attended. I was amazed at the varieties and colors. We made it to two more shows in '96, the Collectors Jubilee and the Chicago Regional show. My amazement reached new heights, when I walked into the room at the 1997 National show in Chicago. I was in awe. I wandered through the tables full of fascinating colors and shapes for hours and hours. I had no idea such a variety of colors and styles existed. Since then we have tried to attend as many of the shows, club meetings and swap meets in our area.

What do we collect? Thatís a tough one to answer. At first it was any insulator we could find, but that changed quickly. Then it was just glass. Thatís hard to do with some of the great porcelain pieces around. Having yet to pick a particular direction, we have amassed a collection of fairly common glass with few that exceed the hundred-dollar range. Having been born and raised in the Chicago area, I'm partial toward insulators with a Chicago or Illinois history and embossings. Some of my favorites are the base and shoulder embossed CD135 Chicago diamond groves. They share a shelf with the CD160 and CD162 - S & S Co. Mfg., the CD133.1 & CD134 - Electrical Supply Co. and the CD100 - Surge all with Chicago connections. Recently I have started to add a few of the Illinois porcelains to our collection. I'm also drawn to oddballs such as embossing errors and over and under-pours. I shy away from foreign objects. Marge on the other hand, is of Greek and Italian decent and favors the porcelains ITE and OTE's from Greece and the VMR - Napoli from Italy. Marge and I share an interest in glass, as she collects glass top hats. This gives us both an excuse to search the antique stores, flea markets and yard sales.

Without a specialty, It did not take long for the insulators to fill the seven shelves we started with. We replaced the wooden shelves with glass and located them in front of a window to capture the natural light. Here we display our favorite pieces. The others have been relocate to (my room), the garage. We set up twelve - twenty foot long shelves on one wall of the garage. Whats not on the shelves, sits on a three-tiered light box in the garage window or on the six ten foot/ twenty-pin cross arms in the back yard. I guess insulators are just like anything else, if you plant the seed and water it, it will grow. They must be growing, I don't remember buying all of these.

In August 1999 we set-up our first table at the regional show in Crown Point, IN. Marge and the kids were able to sell quite a few of our duplicate insulators, but I still managed buy more than they sold. We had a great time. It was a fun experience and we met a lot of nice people. I tried to recap this experience in an article written for the GCIC newsletter. Carol also let me share our story in the November 1999 issue of "Crown Jewels of the Wire" titled "Our First Sale" .

I have not had the opportunity to walk and search any of the lines yet, but hope to someday. For now, I enjoy wandering the antique stores, flea markets, garage sales and the shows / swap meets in search of the hidden treasures.

I am always interested in acquiring new additions or talking about our collection and can be reached by e-mail me at:

or for a snail mail address or phone, see member # 6210 in the NIA directory.

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  • by Russ Frank
    Last updated
    May 2008