The Pull of Collectible Corkscrews: Styles to Cherish

Published January 27, 2021
Collection of corkscrews

No matter its age, style, condition, or country of origin, nearly every corkscrew is considered a collectible corkscrew, and these collectibles are some of the easiest additions to find for your home bar or kitchen since so many historic corkscrews have remained in good condition. Here are but a few of the many different styles of corkscrews that are featured in both museum exhibits and private collections around the world.

The Purpose of the Corkscrew

As bottling wine began to become standardized in the 18th century, innovators saw the need to create a device that could help people easily open these cork-sealed bottles. The first patented corkscrew was invented in 1795 by an Englishman named Samuel Henshall. This straight-pull style of corkscrew was designed to have the person wielding the corkscrew use their force to withdraw the cork from within the bottle. While industrial production helped improve upon this design and resulted in even easier cork-removal, these historic tools are still quintessential pieces of the avid wine-drinker's collection.

Early Manufacturers and Their Corkscrews

According to wine merchant, Josef L'Africain, "the corkscrews that someone is most likely to find at a flea market on the East Coast are those made starting in the 1890s by three producers: Williamson, Walker, and Clough." These three titans of the corkscrew industry each devised their own distinct types of corkscrews:

  • Clough corkscrews - William Rockwell Clough's 1875 corkscrews were molded out of a single piece of twisted steel, and his near monopoly on the wire corkscrew market made him a difficult competitor.
  • Walker corkscrews - Edwin Walker's corkscrew business filed sixteen different patents in the late 19th century and is well-known for its Walker Bell corkscrew, which incorporated a bell-shape piece to help with stability and force.
  • Williamson corkscrews - William Alexander Williamson is most known for the finger corkscrews he patented in the 1870s-1880s, some of which include a collapsible design where the worm (screw piece) folds into the bow (circular handle).
Vintage corkscrew

Complex Corkscrews

The pleasing visual mechanics of these other collectible corkscrews are a constant hit with wine-drinkers and novice sommeliers.

  • Lever corkscrews - These corkscrews come in both the single lever - originated by Carl Wienke in 1882 - and the double lever - originated in 1888 by Neville Heeley - and their carefully placed wing-design helped increase stability and retain tension on both the bottle and the cork during the removal process.
  • Compound levers - These lever corkscrews look a bit like they belong in a mad scientist's laboratory, as Marshal Wier's original 1884 corkscrew uses a concertina (accordion-like) mechanism to screw into the cork.
  • Prong extractors - These corkscrew-adjacent tools are popular vintage items that you can find in corkscrew lots or collections which use single or double prongs - not worms - to slide between the neck and cork to allow for easy removal.
Corkscrew in a Wine Cork in a Bottle

Modern Corkscrew Adaptations

Unfortunately, the visual aesthetic of these manual aids was largely lost with the development of the contemporary corkscrew. Many 21st century wine-lovers have electric corkscrews that remove the corks for you with the press of a button and can be found at your local hardware or home goods store for $20-$50. The modern gadget gurus also love the coravin model wine opener because the system is devised to preserve the bottle of wine for longer by never actually removing the cork from within the neck, but rather through piercing a hole through the cork which wine can later be poured out of.

Coravin Model Two Wine Preservation Opener

Collecting Antique and Vintage Corkscrews

Thankfully, demand for antique and vintage corkscrews has been consistent over the past few years, and those looking to sell will find it easy to part with their wares. Of course, more unusual corkscrews or luxury brand corkscrews can be worth a few thousand dollars to any seller. Similarly, though, it's almost a guarantee that there'll be at least one antique twist corkscrew in your local antique shop, websites like Corkscrews Online makes feeling like a sommelier from home even easier. With a variety of easily accessible prices and styles, Corkscrews Online can match you with the exactly the type of corkscrew you were looking to add to your collection. Ranging from their low-cost Victorian direct pull corkscrew with dusting brush for almost $40 to the eye-watering registered Dray designer corkscrew for almost $1,300 - both of which are displayed on their Direct Pulls 1 page - there is a perfect corkscrew available for both your decorative and practical needs.

Antique leg corkscrew

Where There's a Wine There's a Way

Seeing as wine doesn't seem to be going anywhere anytime soon - at least if wine mom memes are any measurement for longevity - there will always be need for you to have a quality corkscrew on hand. For those who are looking for ways to impress their friends at their next dinner party, an easy answer is to invest in adding one of these antique, collectible corkscrews to your kitchen inventory.

The Pull of Collectible Corkscrews: Styles to Cherish