Antique Door Knob Identification & Value Guide (2023)

During my first visit to my ancestral home to collect my old belongings, I was greeted by a wonderful sight – a hallway adorned with whimsical door knobs! Intricately designed and decorated, each door knob had some exclusive features that piqued my curiosity.

And, well, my research led me to a whole new world of door knobs. Each era had its special knobs with a unique character and story impacting how expensive it can be today! So, if you want to know how to identify and appraise those old door knobs, this is the article you need!

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • The Victorian-era door knobs are usually the highest-selling items in the category, thanks to their ornate designs and intricate patterns. 
  • Antique door knobs were crafted from various materials, including gold, crystal, and glass, but the earliest ones were strictly made of brass or bronze. 
  • If you come across a glass door knob at a thrift store, it may have traveled to you from the First World War and has a high value! 
  • Vintage door knobs typically cost somewhere around $20 to $2000, depending on many factors, which you will learn about in this article. 

What Makes Vintage Door Knobs Different?

Vintage Door Knobs

One sure thing about antique door knobs is that they will be heavier and more solid than the ones you see today. Also, you will see very precise and detailed carvings and designs in them, along with the features below.

  • Made of brass and bronze (early 19th century), crystal, porcelain, gold (Victorian era), and glass (World War I) 
  • Elaborate knobs with intricate designs, motifs, and patterns, especially during the Victorian era 
  • Smaller and rounder (can fit in your palm) in shape as compared to the modern ones
  • Engraved with brand seals, logos, and letterings
  • Rustiness, discoloration, natural tarnish, or patina reflecting their age 
  • Classic mechanism and operations for the mortise lock mechanism 
  • Decorations like scalloping, hand-painting, etchings, distinctive shapes with filigree, and precious metals 

The Interesting History of Vintage Door Knobs

The onset of the 19th century gave rise to the era of vintage door knobs. The earlier models were mostly made from strong metals, such as brass or bronze, that serve fundamental functions.

These knob designs were pretty simple before they were merged with ornate designs and intricate patterns in the Victorian era. These decorative elements were made from expensive materials like porcelain, gold, and crystal.

Soon, the Edwardian period followed, when the antiques became less flashy and more classy with limited motifs, shifting their purpose from luxury to decor. Unlike the Victorian era, even the middle class could afford it.

Finally, it was World War I when glass door knobs replaced metals like steel due to rationing. Even so, the knobs were impressively strong, so much so that some made it to the present era.

Main Types of Vintage Door Knobs

We can categorize door knobs mainly into two categories:

1. Commercial Door Knobs

Commercial door knobs are customized with monograms, initials, and logos to help with the brand’s identification and promotion. This type of door knob can be professional as well as personal, costing between $50 to $100 or more.

2. Residential Door Knobs

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/155303887741585681/

These types of knobs are more personalized (than custom-made) as they represent the style and choice of the residence’s owner. The average price of a residential door knob would be approximately around $12 to $200, as the unique designs may cost more.

Identification and Valuation Factors of a Vintage Door Knob

Now, let’s check out how other factors like age, material, style, & brand can help you spot and value a REAL antique door knob!

1. Vintage Door Knobs’ Age

Aged & Rusty Antique Door Knob

It was the early 19th century when the era of vintage door knobs truly began! There are mainly four periods that define the complete timeline of these antique items, each carrying its own design and patterns that make the door knobs special.

Here is a table to trace the age & price of vintage door knobs using their key features:

Historical Timeline Specific Features Estimated Price 
19th century Simple design, Function-based, Made of brass/bronze $10 – $50 (a rare antique may cost more than $150)
Victorian Era (1820 – 1910)Flashy knobs with intricate patterns, Filigree decorations, Techniques like etching and scalloping, Expensive materials, like porcelain and gold$10 – $50 (pairs can cost around  $180) 
Edwardian Period (the 1910s)Classy and elegant designs, Made from porcelain, gold, and crystal but less ostentatious, Decor focused $15 – $100 (a lot of 10-14 door knobs may cost up to $800)
World War I (1914 – 1918) Glass designs, Different shapes$12 – $100 (pairs of glass knobs may cost up to $500)

2. Door Knobs Designs

Antique Door Knobs Designs

Antique door knobs with unique patterns, like concentric, asymmetric, spirals, and symmetrical, are popular amongst collectors. But if you are looking for a truly eye-catching piece of art, an expensive and precious representative design is a great pick.

As for those wishing to keep it different, odd-shaped and enameled are the go-to choices!

Now let’s take a look at how the vintage knob designs impact the resale prices:

Vintage Door Knobs DesignsDesign FeaturesEstimated Price Range 
Spiral and Swirls Spiral/swirls all over $50 – $90 (A set may cost around $120 or more)
Asymmetric Single design all over $40 – $130 
Multifold Symmetry Two-fold to eight-fold patterns$20 – $80 
Concentric PatternCircles from center to the edge $15 -$60 (A good pair can cost around $400)
Odd-shaped Hexagonal, rectangular, curvaceous (no round or oval design)$10 – $200 
Representative Animals, people, objects$25 – $1400
Single LettersMade for companies or firms $40 – $130 
Radial From the center to the edge $40 – $70 (A rare antique may be priced around  $150)
EnameledEnameled for decoration$15 – $140 

3. Old Door Knobs Shape & Size

Vintage Oval Door Knob

Most antique door knobs are round or oval and can easily fit in your palm, which means they are comparatively smaller and rounder than modern designs. Many knobs also have an attached metal rod at the end, which means they go back to the 1820s!

Antique Door Knob ShapesAverage Price Range 
Round $20 – $60 (rare antique knobs and lots can cost above $350)
Oval   $15 – $80 (pairs can cost up to $600)
With Spindle or Metal Rod   $10 – $80 (small sets may cost up to $250)

4. Antique Door Knob Materials

Different Types of Antique Door Knob Materials

Vintage door knobs were made from a variety of materials, including brass, crystal, bronze, gold, and more. Among these, the oldest ones were made of brass, bronze, and even wood.

You can identify the age and the value of a door knob just by checking its crafting material, and here’s how!

Antique Door Knob Materials Time PeriodEstimated CostsEstimated Costs (Pairs & Collections) 
Wooden 1885-1910$5 – $120 $170 – $450 
Brass / Bronze Early 19th century $15 – $1500 $150 – $2000
Crystal Victorian Era/ Edwardian Period $10 -$100 $50- $500
Porcelain Victorian Era/ Edwardian Period $10- $220$80 – $500
GlassWorld War I & afterward $10 – $150 $20 – $600

5. Popular Door Knob Brands

Branded Antique Door Knob

Always look for a reputed brand or niche manufacturer like Russell and Erwin to ensure that your doorknob is authentically antique and worth enough!

You can spot the brand’s name engraved on the bottom of the knobs and base plates. You can also find serial numbers in some models, which can help you trace the age.

Here are a few door hardware brands and their average pieces:

Brand Name Founding YearNotable Features Estimated Price 
Russell And Erwin 1849 Firm’s name lettered on the base, fancy designs all over, including the highly collectible ‘doggie door knob’$25 – $3000
Sargent 1857‘Sargent & Co.’ engraved on the back plate with the serial number $20 – $400
Yale and Towne 1868Variety of shapes, ‘Y&T’ engraved in the middle of a distinct floral design, logo usually found on the back plates $30 -$50 (A pair of Y&T door knobs may cost above $300)
Corbin Russwin 1849 ‘RUSSWIN’ etched in the door lock plate or the lock $40 – $100

6. Popular Vintage Door Knob Styles

Antique Victorian-Style Door Knobs

Understanding the style of an old door knob can also help you appraise your model rightly. For instance, the vintage Art Deco and Nouveau knobs feature exciting nature-inspired motifs in uniform and abstract patterns, making them distinctive and precious.

Similarly, French door knobs can be spotted with their intricate carvings, scrollwork, inlay, and salvage designs.

Here is a quick table of popular vintage door knobs styles and their average costs:

Door Knob Styles Key Features Average Costs (Single Units) 
Victorian StyleIntricate designs, etched or scalloped patterns$5 – $125
Art Nouveau StyleNature-inspired designs (leaves, flowers, animals, stars, waves, etc.) $15 – $180
Art Deco Stylegeometric designs, bold lines, sunburst motifs, shiny finishes $10 – $150 
Eastlake Stylegeometric shapes & patterns, stylized and geometric natural motifs$10 – $110
French Style Intricate carvings, scrollwork, inlay, salvage $15 – $100

7. Old Door Knobs’ Aging Signs & Condition

The value of a vintage door knob majorly depends on its age, design, and material, but signs of aging like rust, tarnish, and patina indicates years of preservation. The rule of thumb is you should not interfere with such changes as they make the knobs more authentic.

But if your doorknob starts showing cracks or gets damaged, it might need a restoration or repair, which can affect its original value. You must consult an expert in this case and accordingly take the next step.

Can You Replace Modern Door Knobs With Antiques?

Not every antique door knob can replace its modern counterparts, but with the help of an expert, it can be incorporated.

Is There a Way To Identify a Door Knob Replica? 

A considerable gap between the knob plate and door surface, rust, corrosion, and loose bulging sections are some ways to tell an original door knob from a replica.

In Which Year Was the First Doorknob Patented? 

The very first patent of a door knob was received by an African-American inventor named Osborn Dorsey in 1897.

Which are the Best Platforms to Buy Authentic Vintage Door Knobs?  

Apart from niche manufacturers and antique stores, one can purchase or sell antique door knobs on eBay, Etsy, Amazon, House of Antique Hardware, etc. 

All it takes is a little focus and time to identify an original door knob from a replica. And you can save yourself and others from a false purchase. If you want to learn about more door hardware, check out this vintage padlocks identification guide now!

Judith Miller
Judith Miller

Judith is an antique expert with nearly 20 years of experience in the field of antique identification and valuation. She has reviewed over 30 thousand vintage items and has worked with numerous antique shops. She enjoys seeing new places, attending antique shows and events, and sharing her knowledge with people! Know more about me

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *