A spring ritual for the Victorians was to hang a decorative flue cover in front of a room’s chimney opening to conceal the unsightly (and drafty) hole that was left after removing the stovepipe that provided heat to the home during the winter.
While today’s Victorian-home owners no longer need to use flue covers for their intended purpose, you can still enjoy their classic beauty as an authentic decorative piece in any space, no matter how small, as well as enjoying their value as collectible items.
Victorian flue covers are not among the highest investment opportunities for collectors (Kovel’s Antiques & Collectibles Price Guide 2010 listed a six-inch flue cover called “Victorian Girl, Blond Hair” at $50), but they are nonetheless a cherished, authentic connection to the era. As with any collectible, reproductions can be had for a fraction of the price.
The standard cover was a six- or eight-inch round or oval glass featuring a colorful, pleasant image—typically of a young woman or child, a romantic setting, a botanical print or a combination thereof—framed in brass or tin, with a metal chain for hanging and a cardboard backing.
Nancy Finn, owner of Etsy retailer Scooters Shop (scootersshop.etsy.com), who describes herself as a “purveyor of odd items,” says they were used as a sales-promotion tool in days gone by. “Like many items of that era, such as calendars and dishes, the flue cover was a giveaway as an advertisement for the establishment that sold them,” she says.
Be sure to stay tuned for additional tips on how to display and find antique covers!
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By Meryl Schoenbaum
Photography credits listed above