How to Identify Vintage Anglepoise Lamps: The Complete Guide to Anglepoise Lamps

How to Identify Vintage Anglepoise Lamps

The Complete Guide to Spotting Authentic Mid-Century Anglepoise Lamps

How to Identify Vintage Anglepoise Lamps: The Complete Guide to Anglepoise Lamps

Anglepoise lamps have been gracing desks and workspaces with their signature adjustable style since the 1930s. Their unique spring-loaded arms allow the shade to be positioned in almost any direction.

Over the decades, the minimalist yet functional Anglepoise lamp design has become truly iconic. However, with the popularity of the mid-century retro style, contemporary reproductions make it hard to identify authentic vintage Anglepoise lamps.

So how can you tell if an Anglepoise lamp is a genuine mid-20th century original versus a modern version or cheap replica?

Examining details like the maker’s marks, assessing the materials, construction quality, functionality, and overall design evolution can provide insights into a lamp’s provenance. Scrutinizing all these elements can determine if an Anglepoise lamp genuinely hails from the mid-century versus being a convincingly retro-styled replica.

This comprehensive guide will explore all the key identification factors experts use to spot an authentic vintage Anglepoise lamp.

A Brief History of Anglepoise

The Anglepoise lamp was created in 1932 by British automotive engineer George Carwardine. Carwardine patented the innovative spring arm design that allowed Anglepoise lamps to hold their position in any direction. This was a major breakthrough compared to earlier balanced-arm lamps which only stayed put when aligned exactly with the base.

The original Anglepoise Type 75 lamp, affectionately called the “grandmother”, was first manufactured by the Herbert Terry Company. It featured stainless steel arms with bronze friction joints and was noted for its sturdy yet flexible construction.

During World War II, Anglepoise shifted manufacturing to support wartime efforts. After the war, they resumed lamp production and began expanding their catalog of models, including new table, floor, and desk lamps.

By the 1960s, Anglepoise lamps were widely popular around the world. Their combination of functionality and elegant, minimalist style made them a fixture in both homes and offices.

Today, Anglepoise continues producing their signature lamps with updated models like the Type 75 Mini and Giant models for larger spaces. Vintage mid-century Anglepoise lamps remain highly sought after by collectors and design fans.

How to Identify Vintage Anglepoise Lamps

There are a few ways to tell if a lamp is a Vintage anglepoise, a modern version, or a cheaper replica.

Assess Anglepoise’s Distinctive Style

Anglepoise lamps have an instantly recognizable silhouette thanks to a few key design elements:

  • The springs – The stainless steel springs are the core of Anglepoise’s adjustable functionality. Vintage lamps had springs made from a special magnesium alloy which gave them a bronze hue. The springs allow the arms to stay balanced and hold their position.
  • Arm and joint construction – The arms connect with bronze or aluminum cast joints in vintage models. Smooth joint movement so the arms can be repositioned is essential to the Anglepoise design.
  • Shade design – Most vintage Anglepoise lamps have simple, elegant bowl-shaped shades. Later models introduced new shapes and materials like acrylic. But the vintage shades are typically metal or conductive plastic for optimal light direction.
  • Base design – Anglepoise base styles evolved over the decades but were generally minimalist weighted bases. The Type 75 introduced the classic four-legged base while later models like the Type 1227 had broad flat bases.

Beyond these essential elements, Anglepoise lamps are known for sleek, slender silhouettes that almost seem to float thanks to their cantilevered arm design. When you see an Anglepoise lamp, the distinctive mechanical springs and arms are a dead giveaway.

Assess The Build Quality

A key factor that distinguishes vintage Anglepoise lamps from later reproductions is the material quality and meticulous construction methods used in the mid-20th century British-built originals.

Here are some of the hallmarks of build quality to look for:

  • Solid brass fittings – Vintage Anglepoise lamps used solid brass or bronze for small fittings like fastener heads, screw covers and lid stays. Lower-quality replicas may use plastic fittings.
  • Substantial arm joints – Examine the joints where the springs connect to the shade arms. Authentic joints will be fairly thick and made from die-cast aluminum or bronze vs plastic or thin metal.
  • Heft – Pick up the lamp to gauge its weight – well-made vintage lamps feel hefty, around 4-6 lbs. due to the metal components. Replicas with more plastic parts will feel lighter.
  • Tight tolerances – Vintage lamps have tightly fitted pivot points with minimal play or wiggle room when joints are rotated. Any obvious gaps point to a newer lamp.
  • Smooth motion – Repositioning the springs and shade arms should feel smooth and fluid vs stiff or scratchy friction. Choppy movement indicates poor construction or wear.
  • Lacquer coatings – Many vintage lamps are coated in glossy lacquer applied over the springs and base. This protected the metal from corrosion. Reproductions often have a matte look.
  • Fit and finish – Expensive tooling produced tight seam lines and cleanly cast parts. Replicas may show rough edges or inconsistent gaps.

The exceptional craftsmanship of vintage Anglepoise lamps becomes obvious when you handle them and scrutinize details like solid brass screws and buttery smooth joint rotation.

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Look For A Maker’s Marks

One of the easiest ways to verify you have an authentic vintage Anglepoise lamp is to check for a maker’s engraving or stamp. This indicates the lamp came directly from the original Herbert Terry factory versus being a contemporary replica.

Here are some key maker’s marks to look for:

  • Herbert Terry – Since they were the original manufacturer, the “Herbert Terry” name on a lamp is a clear sign of vintage authenticity. Marks may say “Herbert Terry & Sons”.
  • HQI – Standing for “High-Quality Imports”, this stamp started being used in the 1960s as Anglepoise began exporting lamps.
  • British patent numbers – Anglepoise held patents on their lamp designs, so model numbers paired with British patent numbers help confirm age and authenticity.
  • Labels – Some lamps had paper labels with branding on the base or neck. “Anglepoise” and “Made in England” labels help confirm vintage origins.
  • Date stamps – Later Anglepoise lamps included a 4-digit date stamp, like “73” for 1973. This helps narrow down exact manufacturing dates.
  • Construction details – Markings like “Aluminium Castings” indicate the material used and production methods.

Checking for an authentic maker’s stamp is one of the most reliable ways to verify if you’ve found a true vintage Anglepoise. While reproductions may copy the Anglepoise design, they certainly won’t have the original factory markings.

Testing an Anglepoise Lamp’s Functionality

Beyond visual inspection, you can assess a lamp’s authenticity by putting it through some functional tests:

  • Smooth motion – When repositioning the arms and shade, the motion should be fluid and effortless. Stiff or choppy movement can indicate excessive wear or lower-quality construction.
  • Arm balance – Let go of the arms in various positions – they should stay firmly in place. Any drooping can signify worn-out springs.
  • Light operation – Plug in the lamp if possible to test the power and light functionality. Flickering or dimness can be signs of age or damaged wiring.
  • Switch function – The on/off switch should have a positive click and cleanly control the light. Faulty switches are an easy fix but point to previous wear and tear.
  • Shade rotation – If the shade is designed to rotate, it should turn smoothly in both directions. Stiff rotation can mean accumulated dirt or grime.
  • Base stability – The weighted base should hold the lamp firmly upright. Any rocking or wobbling suggests potential fatigue cracks in the base.

While wear is normal in any vintage item, serious functionality issues like broken springs would lower the value of collector’s item lamps. Minor wobbling or stiff joints can likely be repaired by a professional restoration service.

Estimating the Age and Collectible Value

For serious collectors, identifying the specific model and production year is key in determining an Anglepoise lamp’s age and resale value.

There are a few techniques that can provide hints about age:

  • Style clues – The design of the springs, shade, joints and base are style clues. For example, the Type 75 model with four-legged base dates to the 1930s-40s.
  • Wiring – Cloth-coated wiring indicates very early 20th-century manufacture. Plastic wiring sheaths came later in the 1960s and 1970s.
  • Colors – Earlier Anglepoise lamps were produced in black and silver. Painted colors like bright red or blue started appearing in the 1950s onward.
  • Branding – Look for “Made in England” or “British Made” markings which were introduced in the 1960s. Pre-WW2 lamps had no special country markings.
  • Model numbers – Matching the lamp style with Anglepoise model numbers (e.g. Type 1227) provides approximate age based on when each model was first introduced.

Determining the production year and model then allows collectors to estimate value based on rarity, condition, and current demand trends. While vintage Anglepoise lamps are popular collectibles, those with unusual color schemes or in pristine condition fetch higher resale prices.

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Anglepoise Lamp Models Over the Decades

Since George Carwardine’s original 1930s design, Anglepoise has produced dozens of lamp models with unique features and styling. Understanding the evolution of Anglepoise’s iconic lamps can help collectors identify important vintage pieces.

Type 75

Herbert Terry and Sons Model 75 Anglepoise Desk Lamp, circa 1970

The Type 75 launched in the 1930s as Anglepoise’s first lamp. At just over 14 inches tall, its compact size made it popular as a desk lamp. It is recognizable by its classic four-legged heavy base and bronze-colored magnesium alloy springs. The original version had a chrome plated steel shade. Type 75 lamps made after WWII switched to an aluminum shade for cost savings. Over 7 million Type 75s have been sold, making it the most popular Anglepoise lamp.

Type 90

Mid Century 80s Herbert Terry Model Apex 90 Anglepoise Desk Lamp

Introduced shortly after the Type 75, the Type 90 is a larger floor lamp version. It stands over 3 feet tall on a cast iron base, with larger springs and arm segments giving it bolder proportions compared to the Type 75. The Type 90 was available in multiple color shades including black, ivory, red, and blue. It remained in production throughout the 1940s and 50s. The Type 90’s taller stature made it a popular floor lamp choice.

Type 1227

Anglepoise White Model 1227 Mini Desk Lamp

First introduced in 1955, the Type 1227 has a distinct dual-arm design made possible by a center rear spring. The 1227’s graceful X-shaped silhouette with sloped arms is uniquely mid-century. Its weighted oval base and aluminum shade also give it a light, modern feel. The 1227 was a popular desk lamp choice through the 1960s and 70s.

Painted models

In the late 1950s, Anglepoise began offering colored models of their lamps in vibrant hues like bright red, lime green, and a distinctive robin’s egg blue. Earlier Anglepoise lamps had simply come in metallic finishes of black, silver, and bronze. The colored versions added a new level of style, and became synonymous with 1960s modern decor. Painted springs and colored shades helped the Anglepoise lamps fit in with the bold, lively colors of that era.

Related Questions

Beyond identifying vintage Anglepoise lamps, there are a few other common questions about these iconic lights:

What is the best-selling lamp in the Anglepoise collection?

The Type 75 model, sometimes called the “grandmother”, is arguably the most popular and famous Anglepoise lamp. First created in 1932, the Type 75 introduced the distinctive four-spring design and was known for its durable industrial construction. Over 7 million of the Type 75 lamps have been sold over the decades. This model established the template for all later Anglepoise lamps.

What is the difference between Anglepoise 75 and 90?

The main difference between the Type 75 and Type 90 models comes down to proportions. The Type 75 has smaller springs and arm segments which give it a more compact, scaled-down look suited to desks and small tables. The Type 90 is around 30% larger with beefier springs and arms, making it bolder and more prominent. The Type 90 was designed as a floor lamp while the Type 75 works as either a desk or table lamp.

Why are Anglepoise lamps so expensive?

There are a few reasons for the higher prices commanded by Anglepoise lamps, especially vintage models:

  • Precision engineering – The unique spring mechanism requires skillful engineering.
  • Quality materials – Brass and aluminum used in vintage models are more costly.
  • Craftsmanship – They are hand assembled in the UK requiring trained staff.
  • Brand reputation – The Anglepoise name carries a design pedigree.
  • Collectibility – Vintage lamps are sought after by collectors and design fans.

While expensive, the price reflects Anglepoise’s exceptional functionality, elegant design and timeless appeal.

What are the most popular vintage Anglepoise models?

Some of the well-known vintage models prized by collectors include:

  • Type 75 desk/table lamp – The original 4-spring 1930s design.
  • Type 90 floor lamp – Larger version of Type 75 on tall base.
  • Type 105 and 107 table lamps – 1950s styles with broad bases.
  • Type 1227 – Slim dual-arm lamp first sold in 1955.
  • 1960s painted models – Colorful options like bright red or teal.

What is the Anglepoise lamp made from?

Authentic Anglepoise lamps are constructed from aluminum or stainless steel springs with cast bronze or aluminum arm joints. Other materials commonly used include:

  • Metal shades – Aluminum, copper or brass.
  • Metal bases – Weighted cast iron or aluminum.
  • Wiring – Cloth or plastic-coated wiring.
  • Fasteners – Brass nuts, bolts, washers.
  • Joint pins/bushings – Brass or stainless steel.

Avoid lamps with excessive plastic parts, as vintage models emphasized metal components. The materials used in the original Anglepoise lamps ensured functionality and longevity.


With their surging popularity in recent decades, vintage Anglepoise lamps now command the attention of collectors and interior design enthusiasts. But identifying legitimate mid-20th century Anglepoises requires looking deeper than stylish design alone.

The most reliable authentication indicator is manufacturer markings, as most vintage producers like Herbert Terry are no longer operating. Their stamps and labels provide clear proof of age. In addition, examining the materials, construction quality, functionality, and overall design can provide insights into a lamp’s origins. Testing things like smooth motion and stability reveal the engineering integrity of original Anglepoise lamps.

As we’ve seen, appreciating the intricacies of Anglepoise’s iconic adjustable lamp mechanics is key to preserving an important slice of British design history. With practice inspecting details, you’ll soon be able to distinguish the exceptional craftsmanship found in a genuine vintage Anglepoise lamp.