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Delaware Collectibles

Delaware, on the USA’s Atlantic seaboard, was first settled by the Dutch in 1631 when they established a trading post there. After it had changed hands several times, the British claimed it as their own in 1664, retaining control until American independence. Today, many collectors hunt for various antique items and books from Delaware. Some items, such as early Delaware furniture and silver coins are mostly seen only in museums.

History books from Delaware are much sought after. Nineteenth century histories of Delaware, like those by Scharf or Runk, fetch high prices in good condition, as do books by 20th century historians like Conrad, Bevan, or Reed. Though worth less, works by C.A. Weslager such as The Richardsons of Delaware are popular. Collectors also favour illustrated books like Silliman’s A Time to Remember and Hoffecker’s Wilmington, A Pictorial History.

Old postcards showing Delaware scenes can sell for surprisingly high prices, but only if they have genuine rarity value. Some of the more valuable ones include cards from the early 20th century, which were actually printed in the darkroom before mass photographic printing was perfected. Cards that depict businesses or buildings that no longer exist, railway stations and ports can all have extra value. Collectors also look for other paper ephemera including old deeds, cigar bands, trade cards and sports programs,.

Paintings by Frank Earle Schoonover (1877-1972), who often depicted Native Americans and mountain people, fetch high prices at auction, as do works by any of the Wyeth family. Early engravings by Robert Shaw and illustrations by F.O.C. Darley are snapped up at auction.

Although you’re unlikely to come across very early Delaware silver coins, coins from the second half of the 19th century are much more readily available. The best reference book for Delaware silver coin collecting is Ruthanna Hindes’ Delaware Silversmiths 1700-1850. It’s now out of print, although secondhand copies are available at a premium online.

Other Delaware collectibles include old low-digit Delaware car number plates, milk bottles from defunct Delaware dairies, souvenirs of Delaware Memorial Bridge’s opening, pre-Prohibition beer bottles and old shop signs. If it has some age and some history and it’s from Delaware, it’s almost certain to be collected.

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