WHETHER MADE OF cut crystal, pressed glass, porcelain, ceramic, bronze or elaborately engraved brass, old doorknobs have a Victorian charm that is making a scavenger out of almost everyone with a yen to remodel an old home.
Dates on most of the old doorknobs available today from auction houses and retail stores specializing in vintage furnishings range from the late 1800s to the early 1900s. And there seems to be a stampede to find them.
Barry Abell, at the A. N. Abell Auction Co. in Los Angeles, says a box of hardware recently "went for a small fortune."
A pair of doors that were unrestorable came in, he added. They sold for $40 just for their hardware.
At the Cleveland Wrecking Co. in Vernon, customers who purchase an old door are as likely as not to arrive with a screwdriver so that they can take their hardware with them and leave the old door behind.
Prices for doorknobs there have ranged from $5 for decorative brass hotel doorknobs to $200 for elaborate, entry-door hardware.
Round or faceted, milk glass is at pretty much the same level, along with jet-black ceramic knobs. These were common hardware in the 1920s. At wrecking yards, door handles often can be found with a transparent glass handle on one side and a milk-glass handle on the other, with a mirror affixed to the inside of a bathroom door.
Fancy brass or bronze knobs with intricate flower and leaf patterns is slightly more expensive. Moving up, a faceted turquoise-blue opaque-glass knob will fetch $65.
Hand-painted porcelain, which may have French origins, will vary in price according to quality, but it is now among the rarer--and more expensive--finds. The creme de la creme-- which cognoscenti immediately recognize--is the Bennington. This knob has a fairly plain, smooth and shiny, mottled brown surface, but its price tag can easily hit the hundreds.
To research the doorknob that has caught your fancy, check "The Antique Door Knob," by Maudie Eastwood. There are knobs that look like Benningtons but are not.
Places that carry doorknobs include Hodgson's Antiques, (818) 799-0229, and Mission Antiques, (818 799-1327), in South Pasadena; Flying Unicorn, (213) 466-9071, and A. N. Abell Auction Co., (213) 734-4151, in Los Angeles; Scavengers Paradise, (213) 877-7945, in Studio City, and Cleveland Wrecking Co., (213) 269-0633, in Vernon.