Scoops Are A Treat For Collectors

Posted: July 29, 1990

As Americans scoop through nearly 900 million gallons of ice cream this year, most will use simple plastic or metal dippers - or, in a pinch, the nearest clean spoon.

But for a few avid fans, the actual scoop rivals the importance of the frozen dessert - and that has turned some scoops into pricey collectibles.

For example, a scoop designed in 1925 by John Manos of Pittsburgh to deliver a heart-shaped slice of ice cream now sells for as much as $5,500, said Edward Marks, of Lancaster-based Ice Screamers, an association of ice cream memorabilia collectors.

"Four years ago they sold for $1,500. But it's an idiot's bid for people who must have them," Marks said.

During the 26 years Peg and Joe Carbine of Glenside have been selling refurbished, antique tools at the Up Country Flea Market in Cedars, they also have added to their collection of scoops, which now exceeds 200.

"I always liked anything different," Peg Carbine said. And some of her scoops are not for sale.

"I keep the ones I like," she said.

One of those is the shiny brass Maryland cream-pie disher that neatly ejects a pair of rectangular ice cream blocks and is valued at $275.

The Dover Mfg. scoop, patented in 1924 and valued at $605, also will remain in the Carbine collection. Designed to improve cost effectiveness, the Dover product features a guillotine-like blade used to slice the excess ice cream back into the container - ready for sale to another customer.

"You did this down where the customer couldn't see it, and they would never know. You were losing maybe 15 to 20 percent of your ice cream otherwise," said Joe Carbine.

Wayne Smith of Walkersville became a scoop saver by chance.

"When I got married . . . my wife wanted an ice cream scoop. . . . I was fascinated by the mechanisms," he said.

That fascination led Smith to write Ice Cream Dippers, An Illustrated History and Collectors' Guide to Early Ice Cream Dippers, that documents the specifics of about 113 scoops.

According to Smith, the first ice cream scoop patent was issued in 1878 for George William Clewell's dipper, which was shaped like a small cone. It was manufactured by Valentine Clad in Philadelphia. Ice cream was released from Clewell's scoop by turning a knob that activated a scraper.

As refrigeration technology improved, ice cream got harder, which made the cone scoops difficult to use. The advent of the ice cream cone also meant that servers needed a third hand to hold the cone while wrestling with the cantankerous knobs, Carbine said.

Although scoops quickly progressed to the more familiar one-hand operation, shapes and styles were highly varied until after World War II.

"Most collectors are looking for scoops that date from the 1870s until the 1940s. After that they were not nearly as interesting," Smith said.

Triangular scoops made a neat pie- a-la-mode scoop, long ovals were designed for banana splits, cylindrical scoops deposited neat tubes into ice cream sodas, and the 1908 Bohlig dipper boasted a bowl that divided in half to drop the ice cream.

For Joe Carbine, the fun of collecting includes reclaiming the scoops from the ravages of time. He has fitted his hammer head with a piece of copper pipe that grips a small metal ball and is used to tap away the dents that mar the bowl. The whole scoop is run over an abrasive wheel to bring out the dulled finish on what is usually bronze or nickel plating.

Allan "Mr. Ice Cream" Mellis of Chicago collects a wide range of ice cream-related items, but said that scoops are probably the most collectible.

And with good reason, Peg Carbine said.

"With ice cream scoops you have so much beauty and utility," she said.

For more information, send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to:

Ice Screamers, P.O. Box 5387, Lancaster, Pa. 17601. Dues are $15 per year and include a quarterly newsletter and admission to the annual conference.

* Allan Mellis, 1115 West Montanta, Chicago, Ill., 60614.

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