How Much Is an Antique Fire Extinguisher Worth?

Published December 18, 2020
antique fire engine

Antique fire extinguishers' luxurious copper and brass casings would make anyone ask just how much is an antique fire extinguisher worth. Unlike other shiny collectibles, antique fire extinguishers' glossy finishings don't act as camouflage for their real monetary value. Thus, if you've come across one of these industrial artifacts in your local antique store, you'll want to know how these items perform among collectors to best inform your counteroffer.

Brief History of the Fire Extinguisher

Humans have been creating ingenuous methods for putting out fires since they first discovered that a fire's flames burn. However, the fire extinguisher as the world knows it today was first manufactured in 1819 by Captain George William Manby who filled a cylindrical cannister with potassium carbonate. These cannisters were typically made out of copper and brass and were produced throughout the early 20th century, but soda and acid extinguishers were pulled from assembly lines after 1969. Another such extinguisher that is no longer in production is the pump extinguisher, created by the Pyrene Manufacturing Co. in 1905, whose chemical reactions created a deadly gas byproduct. It wasn't until the mid-20th century that the oxygen-depleting fire extinguishers were developed, and these are often used today.

Determining Antique Fire Extinguisher Values

As with many historic goods, antique fire extinguishers can be priced based upon their condition, type, and rarity. Since these items fit into the contemporary design aesthetic focusing on industrial modernism, they are quite popular items for sellers to list at auction and offer in stores. Unfortunately, buyers' demands do not meet with these overwhelming numbers of available antiques, and often antique fire extinguishers are being sold for a fraction of their estimated values.

Seek Professional Assistance When Handling Antique Fire Extinguishers

Before you make a move to polish, restore, or house an antique fire extinguisher, you must first be incredibly careful about manipulating it too much before you've had it professionally handled. Since this technology involves pressurized reactions, there is some likelihood that your antique extinguisher will still have leftover chemicals inside that could be quite dangerous. Look into experts in your area who would will be able to determine how safe your antique fire extinguisher is and if it could potentially release the leftover chemicals from inside the extinguisher's casing.

Antique Soda-Acid Fire Extinguishers

Soda-acid fire extinguishers are the typical copper or brass extinguishers most people envision when they think of these early-20th century tools. Since these extinguishers' casings can be polished to reflect an attractive shine, they are incredibly collectible and proliferate the collectors' market. On average, unrestored soda-acid fire extinguishers are worth around $100 to $200 but normally sell for about half of their estimated values. For example, a lot of three vintage brass fire extinguishers sold for about $300 at a Sotheby's auction, and two antique brass fire extinguishers with obvious wear only sold for about $70.

Vintage brass fire extinguisher

Antique Fire Extinguisher on Wheels

An interesting antique fire extinguisher you might come across is one equipped with wheels. These mobile fire extinguishers created a way for people to respond quickly to a growing fire's threat, particularly in a period when it could take individual fire squads hours to arrive on the scene and then both pump and administer the water to put out the blaze. Many people find these so-called "chemical carts" in old warehouses and storage facilities, and because of their rarity, they can be evaluated for much higher prices than average copper fire extinguishers can be. For example, an antique wheeled fire extinguisher from the 1930s was listed for $1,600 at a recent online auction.

Antique Fire Extinguisher on Wheels

Antique Fire Grenades

Unlike its name suggests, a fire grenade was actually an at-home fire extinguisher that was produced during the late-19th century and early-20th century, before the pressurized cannisters we know today were invented. According to Antique Trader, these grenades were "filled with salt water…or carbon tetrachloride and sealed with a cork and cement." These multi-colored glass balls were meant to be shattered inside a fire so as to help extinguish the fire's flames. Due to these fire extinguishers' fragility, they're often evaluated around $50 to $250. For example, a sealed set of HSN Nutting Fire Grenades sold at auction for close to $300.

Antique Fire Grenades

Resell Values for Antique Fire Extinguishers

Since antique fire extinguishers are such a visual collectible, a major consideration all buyers and sellers of these items must be concerned with is their physical condition. Now, if you already have an antique fire extinguisher in your possession, and you're thinking about selling it, investing in having your fire extinguisher restored can add both value and help your extinguisher stand apart from the numerous others currently being sold. Restorationists at businesses like Indiana's Antique brass and Copper Fire Extinguishers & Restoration can bring your extinguishers back to life. Prices vary depending on the size, type, and condition of the antique fire extinguisher.

Carbon tetrachloride 1930s fire extinguisher

Incorporating Antique Fire Extinguishers Into the Modern Home

Unfortunately, these antiques cannot be reused like other vintage items (like jewelry, compacts, apparel, and so on). So, once you've given your antique fire extinguisher a buff and polish, you can devise the best place in your home or apartment to display your new decoration; and while you're at it, you might as well remind yourself to check over your modern fire extinguisher to ensure that it's in working order.

How Much Is an Antique Fire Extinguisher Worth?