Tuesday, October 30, 2018

These Quirky Citrus Collectibles Can be Worth Thousands



The University of Florida hosts a quirky and amazing event once a year called Collectors’ Day. Avid collectors of all stripes take over the natural history museum to show off their special treasures to the public. It’s pretty fascinating. With my children in tow, I’ve marveled at hundreds of spatulas, a horde of Pez dispensers, and my personal favorite, an array of stereopticons, accompanied by boxes and boxes of antique cards.

At last year’s Collector’s Day, one booth I especially enjoyed was the one featuring a beautiful assortment of antique citrus reamers. I loved the shimmering rainbow of glass these came in. My favorites were the ones that looked like strange little clowns. (Not the scary kind of clowns.)

You surely know what a citrus reamer is, right? Some have a handle, while many sit atop a saucer and cup, and they feature a roughly conical ribbed spire. To use a reamer, you halve an orange, lime or lemon, and rotate it on the cone to extract the fruit’s juice. Some also have a clever way to remove or catch seeds.



Reamers are a very old-fashioned way to juice citrus fruit, but for my money, they still work pretty well! Invented over 200 years ago in Europe after the discovery that oranges, limes, and lemons prevent scurvy, these devices have changed over time. They started out as basic wooden implements, but soon evolved into pretty and sometimes extravagant little items.

According to historians, citrus reamers were especially fashionable during the Gold Rush of the 1920s in California. During this period in history, they were popular in bars, where they were used to extract the juice from citrus used in cocktails. Supposedly, the rather heavy devices not only served as d├ęcor, but could also stand in for a bouncer on occasion. It seems they’re heavy enough to clonk an unruly customer over the head with.

There are actually many collectors of these functional and sometimes beautiful items. The National Reamers Collectors Association even holds conventions where people gather to buy, sell, trade and talk about reamers.

Image from https://athomearkansas.com/article/main-squeeze/
They come in almost every color of the rainbow. The most valuable ones, of course, are the more unusual hues, like swirled, fluorescent green, opalescent, or my personal favorite, inky black. Many look like people or animals. They also come in the shape of oranges themselves.

Citrus reamers also helped increase the popularity of orange juice. Back before this refreshing beverage was a common one, Sunkist brands ran a “Drink an Orange” marketing campaign offering free citrus reamers to customers who saved their orange wrappers. In a funny way, it seems that orange juicers helped create orange juice.

Today, many people who enjoy fresh juice turn to faster electric juicers or more powerful manual models instead. However, the classic citrus reamer has been around for hundreds of years for a reason. If you’d like to use one to juice your own oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, or other citrus, you can find many interesting vintage reamers on eBay.

References:
https://newsok.com/article/2363946/old-citrus-utensils-prove-appealing
http://www.reamers.org/reamerinfo.html
http://articles.latimes.com/1987-08-08/local/me-376_1_reamer-collectors

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