Conrad Biernacki

    What better symbol of our changing planet than a vintage globe - witness the USSR before its breakup, Ceylon before its independence created Sri Lanka, and Hong Kong when it was still British Pink. A testament to our ongoing fascination with our evolving world, vintage globes offer a compelling lesson in history, geography and politics - adventure, exploration and intrigue all rolled into one. Need another Reason to go for a spin?

   Historical Notes

Although maps have existed since ancient times, it wasn't until 1519, when Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan set sail, that the idea of the globe - a spherical representation of the Earth - was conceived. By 1713, Russian Czar Peter the Great boasted one of the most spectacular models ever made. Eleven feet in diameter, his globe featured a terrestrial map on its exterior and the night sky within. By entering through a side door, the czar and his guests could observe the stars moving across the heavens thanks to an elaborate clockwork mechanism. By the 19th century, armchair travellers traced the routes of explorers on their own parlor globes. During the first half of the 20th century, globes broke new frontiers - in classrooms, they were used to teach children about distant lands and to follow the political events of the day.

   What To Look For

Made from metal, glass or plastic (occasionally with a light bulb inside), some globes even feature dramatic black oceans instead of the traditional blue. Sizes can range from a four-inch money bank to a jumbo 30-inch inflatable hanging model. Be sure to avoid globes with large scratches, dents or cracks and always make sure that they spin properly. The best places to look? Garage sales, flea markets, nostalgia shows and '50s stores.

   Price Tag

Globes from the '20s to '60s are the easiest to find; prices begin at approximately $25 for the more common metal globes - with maps right on the metal or printed on paper and glued on - and can soar as high as $600 for exquisite light-up models with an airplane stand or one featuring a figure of Atlas. Prices soar for rare antique globes from the 18th and 19th centuries, which are sold through specialized dealers and major auction houses.

   For More Information

  • Cartomania (Association of Map Memorabilia Collectors newsletter), 8 Amherst Rd, Amherst, MA 01002-9746, (413) 253-3155 (include a self-addressed stamped envelope)
  • Mapline (The Chicago Map Society Newsletter), 60 West Walton St., Chicago IL 60610, (312) 255-3523

   Where to Find It

  • Afterglow, Toronto, Canada (416) 504-9923
  • Red Indian Art Deco, Toronto, Canada (416) 504-7706

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