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Miners’ candlesticks – or ‘sticking tommys’ as they are often called – were used primarily by hard-rock miners in the western United States and Canada.

Either hung from a spike or driven into a timber beam or a rock, conditions necessitated that many are relatively unsophisticated in their manufacture, but this 10in (25cm) long piece, found in the mining area of Nova Scotia, was crafted by a 19th century blacksmith who took pride in his work.

According to David H. Thorpe, a collector from Phoenix, Arizona, this miner’s candlestick embodies several characteristics, any one of which would make it highly collectable. “First it incorporates a ‘tool’ (the anvil) – an art form seen on the higher end sticks. Sometimes you will see shovels, picks, drills, etc incorporated into the design.
Secondly, the stick is mechanical. The bar that raises up or down in the form of a cross is actually a fuse-cutter and blasting cap crimper. Third, is the so-called ‘gal-leg’ thumb tab, the boot-shaped feature, which is used to open and close the grip of the candle thimble. Lastly, the stick is in superb condition.”

Thorpe added that, while some mining candlesticks were used by Michigan copper miners in the late 1800s (identified by a very tight bend in the hook, as the copper miners preferred to wear their stick on their cap) he believes this to be a California piece. “We believe, by the design, that this stick may have been made by a northern California blacksmith by the name of Charles Cleaves,” he said.

Thorpe – who edits an online mining collectables magazine called Eureka (www.eurekamagazine.net) – was clearly impressed. In fact he was there at the end on October 8 to post the winning bid of $3817 (£2510).