Pocket globes were once categorized as delightful curiosities and playthings for children, but today, they serve as precious treasures providing a window into history. These terrestrial spheres, sometimes no larger than an apple, have captured the imagination of collectors for centuries. While they may appear small and unassuming, these antiques carry a rich history and can possess significant value.
A Glimpse into the Past
The story of pocket globes—also called miniature terrestrial globes—begins in the 17th century, a time of great exploration and discovery. English mathematician and printer Joseph Moxon started making pocket globes as amusing gadgets and geographical tools. These small handheld globes often featured detailed maps, astronomical constellations, and vital geographical landmarks at the time. It wasn’t long until he influenced European scientific instrument makers to expand on this creation. Some of the most notable contributors are the Bauer family, hailing from Nuremberg, Germany, in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Johann Bernard Bauer, the patriarch of the Bauer family, was a skilled scientific instrument maker and engraver known for producing various globes. One of Johann’s sons, Carl Johann Sigmund Bauer, followed in his father’s footsteps as a globe maker and engraver. He is mainly known for producing miniature globes intended for educational purposes. He is also known for his miniature globe set entitled The Earth and its Inhabitants, which includes hand-colored depictions of world peoples on folded paper inside the box. While some of these sets are unsigned, some bear the initials “C.B.” on the globe or its box.
The Value of Pocket Globes
A variety of factors influences the value of pocket globes:
- Age: Age plays a significant role in collectability, with collectors seeking antique pocket globes from the 17th through the 19th centuries. The names of landmasses and geographical features can clue to when the globe was made. For example, portions of or the whole of Australia was popularly known as “New Holland” until the 1800s.
- Rarity: Rarity is another critical factor. The scarcity of a particular pocket globe can make it more valuable. Rare variations include terrestrial globes in lidded boxes (wooden or ones with board and paper) and pocket globes with brass meridians.
- Condition: Condition is crucial when determining a pocket globe’s value. Items in excellent condition with minimal wear, damage, or fading are more desirable. Rare items with damaged cases and missing parts do not typically command as high of a price as their undamaged competitors.
- Size: The size of a globe can impact its worth. A standard pocket globe is approximately 3 inches in diameter. More enormous pocket globes are often more valuable, but smaller, more portable versions can be equally collectible.
- Material and Craftsmanship: Many pocket globes were used as artistic objects rather than scientific objects. Creators outlined continents and countries in different colors, with place names and tiny paintings of animals or zodiac signs. Finer globes were ivory, while modern replicas might be made from rubber or plastic.
- Casing: Pocket globes from British producers can typically be differentiated from German producers by their fish-skin celestial cases. The Germans opted for illustrated cardboard boxes.
- Markings: Some pocket globes include markings on the globe or its casing. The pocket globe from this video contains the marking “MPS,” representing “Marke Polar Sterne” by the Carl Bauer family.
The emergence of pocket globes as practical tools for navigation and education dates back centuries. Because various artisans and innovators across different periods and regions made notable contributions to their designs, these collectibles’ value extends beyond their craftsmanship and functionality. These globes act as windows to history, offering a tangible connection to the past, as people used them in their respective eras.
Whether you are pursuing the market to begin your pocket globe collection or to expand on an already existing collection, remember to play witness to your curiosity. Select authentic items that bring you joy and allow you to make connections with the world around you.
Still curious about these pocket-sized antique treasures? I examine more antique globes in this video on WorthPoint. Then, visit the WorthPoint Price Guide to research what similar items have sold for!
Will Seippel is the CEO and founder of WorthPoint, the world’s largest provider of information about art, antiques, and collectibles. Individuals and organizations use WorthPoint, an Inc. 500 Company, to seek credible valuations on everything from cameras to coins. WorthPoint counts the Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, and the IRS among its clients.