An inexpensive and rewarding hobby
A set of scales like these can be picked up at antiques dealers and fairs for around £50. Individual weights, and sets of weights, can often be bought from online auctions such as EBay. Car-boot sales and country auctions often bring forth odd items which have come from a set, or whose purpose has been forgotten.

Good auction houses - including Stroud Auctions, Sworders and Tennants - are now able to offer online catalogues, online bidding and posting abroad (at cost) - see some of our Links if you want to explore beyond EBay! And specialist auctions offer to dispose of entire collections, some of which are of great importance and interest.

These include, for instance, the John Barnett Collection auctioned in January 2020 by Sworders - see for details.

Metal-detector finds are also of great interest, since their identification and provenance often raise a host of questions.

Look out for a nice 'mahogany' box, with an interesting label glued to the lid. The label shown here reads:
Manufacturers of all kinds of
Scales, Scale Beams, Steelyards, Patent Weighing Machines
Brass & Iron Weights &c.,&c.,

There should also be some marks on the beam itself (this one is marked TO WEIGH 3.OZ and AVERY LTD).

With some luck, you might get some weights with it - grains, scruples, drachms and pennyweights etc. would be appropriate for a balance of this size. Sets of weights are sought-after and worthy of study in their own right. Cleaning and restoration of these everyday objects, some of them centuries old, is a specialist field. Many of our members are skilled at this and can offer tips to new collectors.

More prevalent these days are scientific balances. These can often provoke a sense of nostalgia in those of us who recall using them in earnest before the electronics revolution changed techniques and artefacts out of all recognition! Here's a museum-grade balance with early electrical data recording attachment used in UK Government agricultural research:
One tip we sometimes offer is not to believe entirely the facts or judgements which sometimes appear on UK television programmes devoted to antiques. For more info please turn to our newsletter Fulcrum and read our Editor's reasoned arguments about scales and other artefacts pronounced upon by so-called experts.

Copyright © 2010
All rights reserved
Last updated 5th February 2020