There are two kinds of collectibles: collectibles that we find, and collectibles that find us.
Okay, maybe that’s not the only way to categorize collectibles, but the point still stands. While seasoned collectors are familiar with the ongoing hunt for new items leading up to the thrilling moment of discovery, sometimes we stumble upon our most beloved treasures almost entirely by accident. To brilliantly illustrate the latter scenario, we present to you the story of this Stanley London Brass Brunton Compass.
Welcome to Staff Picks: A closer look at the most awe-inspiring collectibles in the Gemr community.
This intricate Stanley London compass comes to us via Niki Watson, a geoscientist from the tropical island of Maui, Hawaii. In an interview with Gemr, Watson explained how her profession and her collecting interests intertwined perfectly for her to find this appealing piece.
“My friend and I were on a camping trip over by the Russian River, CA and [we] stopped over to visit his relatives in town on the way back,” she explained. “Their house was full of interesting collectibles and trinkets, so I was, of course, looking around at everything and came across the compass. As a geologist, we use these all the time out in the field, so when I saw this antique brass compass, I was intrigued and excited to get my hands on it!”
Watson questioned her friend’s uncle about the compass, who told her that he purchased the piece at a yard sale in Ireland about 15 years ago for “a few bucks.” After seeing Watson’s fascination with the compass, he offered to give it to her outright since she would have a practical use for it.
“I was baffled and told him no, I can’t take this,” Watson told us. “However, he insisted and said it was just sitting there as a decoration and he would be happy if I made use of it. I checked it out and it still worked great, so now I have it and have used it to measure geologic features on my field studies!”
Although Watson has since found lighter compasses that are easier to use in the field, she still considers her Stanley London compass “an awesome piece to have.” Though this may seem like a tidy “happy ever after” for a serendipitous story of being in the right place at the right time, there’s still much Watson would come to learn about the item.
At the time of the interview, Watson was unsure of the Stanley London compass’ age. She actually had a request for help in the compass’ description on Gemr, though she accepted that the item may hold some mysteries she’d never uncover.
“It would be interesting to know its origin,” Watson mused, “who it belonged to and the adventures that they used it on, but that’s something we’ll never know!
We conducted our own research on the subject, and it turns out the compass may not be quite as old as it looks. The name “Stanley London” takes us to www.stanleylondon.com, which specializes in “fine brass reproductions of antique sextants, compasses, telescopes, and other surveying instruments.” That is to say that this compass is not an “antique” in the truest sense of the word, but the company still uses the term to describe its items as antique in style and not in age. Furthermore, the bulky styling and the machining/casting marks of the compass do not line up with what would be expected of an antique compass, yet closely conform with more contemporary compasses. The compass may be considered vintage depending on your definition of the word, but we’ll leave further discussion of the item’s exact age and value to our community.
Yet at the end of the day, does it matter if Watson’s compass is a bonafide antique? Of course not! As with all collectibles, the true value lies in the eye of the beholder. It’s in the knowledge that the compass traveled all the way from Ireland to the United States before landing in the hands of an unsuspecting geoscientist, as well as the mystery of where it had been prior to that point. Every item has a story to tell, and seeing how each tale unfolds is a story unto itself.
Watson’s passion for her compass embodies everything the Gemr community represents, which is why it is more than worthy of today’s Staff Pick. In fact, with these words of advice to the Gemr community, she concisely sums up this attitude.
“Keep things that are priceless to you, no matter what their value may be in dollars.”