What is that worth?

By Kirsti Scott

valuable antique glass insulatorThe CD 128.8 Brooke Patent insulator flanked by two Harloe CD 109.5 insulators (Dario DiMare).

“Browse the beach. Get some glass. Find a friend…how cool is that?” When lifelong insulator collector and expert Dario DiMare called me with a story about an insulator that had not been seen for a hundred years and was found on the beach, I had to know more. Dario was thrilled with the find, not only because a new insulator doesn’t come along very often, but because he currently maintains the CD number system for identifying insulators and he got to assign a new number to this unique beach find.

Dario started collecting insulators in at age 10 when he found an insulator dating to 1865. He is a member of the National Insulator Association and contributes to Drip Points, the magazine for the organization. As Dario mentioned in “Glass Insulators: Conducting fascination for over 100 years” in Beachcombing Volume 27, he is happy to answer any questions about insulators. So, when two beachcombers set out for the beach on a coast in the Northeast U.S. and came home with an insulator they couldn’t identify, they did just that!

East Coast beachcomber Scott and his daughter have been collecting sea glass since she was in middle school, first visiting beaches on foot and then by kayak. “We started adding other things to our collection such as bottles, insulators, and any other historical items we could find on the shorelines,” says Scott. “In early December of 2021, we were exploring some shoreline we had only been to once before and were finding lots of interesting ‘treasures.’ We were excited about an aqua-colored bottle stopper that my daughter had just found when I saw the tip of the insulator sticking out of the sand. I reached down and picked it up, and at first was not sure it was an insulator because of its unique shape and our limited experience with the collection of insulators. I rinsed it off in the water and noticed a chip. But holding it up to the sunlight, we saw the wonderful green color.”

vintage glass insulator found on the beach

The CD 128.8 Brooke Patent insulator (Dario DiMare).

By the end of the day, they had found other glass items, which they carefully wrapped, but just placed the insulator in a bag. “Once we arrived home, we slowly unpacked the items, and the insulator spent a few days in the laundry tub waiting to be cleaned,” Scott continues. “After cleaning, it sat on the window sill for two weeks before we finally got around to posting it online. And that’s when things got interesting!”

Within a few hours of posting, Scott started getting comments, at first from sea glass enthusiasts, but then from insulator collectors, saying how rare this one might be. “Needless to say, when the first offer for over a thousand dollars came, I took it off the window sill and put it somewhere safer!” exclaims Scott. “Over the next couple of days, my daughter and I enjoyed reading the comments, offers, and all the excitement over what we had found.”

Scott got in touch with Dario, who explained what CD numbers are and more about the hobby of insulator collecting. “Dario and I have spoken a lot on the phone, and we appreciate all of the information and advice he has given to us,” says Scott. “It was nice to have a friendly and honest person to help guide us around the hobby with this insulator. His excitement for the hobby is infectious. (Not that I need another hobby, but…)”

patent for vintage glass electrical insulator

Patent for the CD 128.8 insulator.

Dario did extensive research and managed to find the patent for the insulator that Scott found. It is now known as the CD 128.8 Brooke Patent insulator. “This insulator was patented by Homer Brooke of New York, New York. It is quite similar to the Harloe CD 109.5. Morton Harloe and Wilton S. Bloes out of Peckville, Pennsylvania patented this piece, which was produced in a plant in Hawley, Pennsylvania,” Dario explains. “Many people thought Scott’s was simply a green CD 109.5. But it is not. It is very different and very cool!”

Though he would have loved to add this one-of-a-kind treasure in his own collection, Dario put Scott in touch with just the right collector, who made an extremely generous offer, well over the listed value,  to purchase the insulator for his collection. With the money that Scott and his daughter received, they have the cost of her first year of college covered.

top view of valuable glass insulator

Top view of a Harloe CD 109.5 insulator and the CD 128.8 Brooke Patent insulator (Dario DiMare).

“All I can say is that new things continue to be discovered all the time and I am thrilled by all of these great finds. I absolutely love learning new stuff and get all pumped up every time somebody finds a new piece,” says Dario. “So, keep digging, hunting, shopping, and looking for insulators. The hunt is really sometimes more exciting than the find. OK in this case the find was flat out awesome! These guys were just so happy about everything, and it really added to the dad and daughter bond. They have a story for a lifetime. And the insulator has a new home. How cool is that?”

One of the other benefits of new finds is that you may also end up with new friends. “Scott drove to an insulator show after everything was done just to meet me and take me out to dinner. We are now friends. What is that worth?” asks Dario. “There is some nice stuff that comes out of beachcombing and insulator collecting. You can find stuff worth a lot of money and get a big financial reward. Or you can find a new friend that is worth much more than any check in the mail. A lifetime friend is priceless.”

This article appeared in the Beachcombing Magazine January/February 2023 issue.

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