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Buying & Selling
Among tall-globe lanterns, "Brass-tops" are generally considered by collectors to be the "Holy Grail" of the hobby. These lanterns are distinguished from others of the tall-globe variety by a smoke dome that has a brass or brass-plated top. The main purpose of such a top was apparently to control corrosion, since brass will tarnish but will not rust and deteriorate like steel. Collectors like them because the contrast between the different types of metal, especially when the brass is polished, creates a very attractive appearance. Also, most brass-top lanterns were manufactured in the latter decades of the 19th century when railroad construction was at its peak. Therefore brass-top lanterns often carry very historical railroad markings.
The point when brass-top lanterns ceased to be manufactured is unknown although some were manufactured after 1900. Occasionally some brass-top lanterns like those from the "Chicago, Milwaukee & Puget Sound" are found with a globe seat, which was not invented until after the turn of the 20th century. Also, a few post-1900 Adams & Westlake lanterns which are normally found in all-steel versions are found with brass tops. It is likely that brass-top lanterns were phased out of production because of the extra expense involved in producing them as well as improvements in protecting steel-top lanterns from corrosion through tin/solder coatings. Below are a few examples of brass-top lanterns.
Note: Thanks to Bill Cunningham for providing corrections and additions to the information on this page.