Love Antiques? Test Your Knowledge With These Old Mystery Items

Who doesn’t love coming across old items they’ve never seen before and pondering what on earth this thing could have been used for? It’s one of the best things about looking through old books, going to antique tool booths at flea markets, or perusing antique stores. If you love your antiques then you’ll get a kick out of finding out exactly how these old mystery items were used.

Mystery Item #1

This unit is made from metal with an inset of green linoleum. The item also plugs into the wall. You’ll never guess what this item was for!

Via/ Wiki Commons

What is it?

If you thought it was a set of electric hair curlers then you were absolutely correct! The metal bar heats up and the curlers clamp onto it in order to be brought to the right temperature. They certainly don’t look like any electric curler sets on the market today!

Mystery Item #2

This item looks somewhat like an old-fashioned drill or carpenter’s brace. It’s function was similar, but notice the elaborate decoration.

Via/ Wiki Commons

What do you think this item was used for?

If you thought this was a trephine then you are right. Trephining drills were used since antiquity to treat various mental and physical ailments, often with disastrous results. A hole was drilled into the skull and the patient was often left with limited motor and speech skills when done incorrectly. The particular drill in question was made in the 18th century and the elaborate decoration unfortunately probably made this surgical tool quite unsanitary – another risk of the operation.

Mystery Item #3

This sterling silver tool is not only elegantly ornamented, but has a mysterious shape. It looks almost like a jackknife, but does not have an extendable blade.

Via/ eBay

What is this item?

This sterling cigar cutter dates from the turn of the century and embodies the wealth it once took to take up this habit of cigar smoking. It looks quite a bit different from the scissor or guillotine cigar cutters of today!

Mystery Item #4

This ebony and silver item has a shape not unlike a Victorian baby’s rattle or a maraca, but has a very different use.

Via/ eBay

Think you know what it is?

This was probably the easiest of the bunch. It’s a darning egg of rather extraordinary quality. Most darning eggs are made completely of wood, but this one was clearly a cut above. Darning is dying art these days, but one our mothers and grandmothers knew quite well.

Mystery Item #5

This unusual pair of scissors is shaped like a chicken. These aren’t so common today! What is it?

Via/ eBay

Think you’ve got the answer?

If you’re not a fan of poached eggs then you might not be familiar with egg toppers: tools used lop the tops off poached egg shells. These items are still made today, but modern designs are often a lot less charming than the antique versions.

Mystery Item #6

This curved, serrated knife has a handle made from Bakelite, so we know it can’t be too old right?

Via/ eBay

Think you know what this item is?

It’s a grapefruit knife! The curved blade allowed for easy segmentation of grapefruits back when they were a far more popular breakfast and dessert food than they are today!

Mystery Item #7

These wooden paddles are rectangular and have spikes on one side. Oh, and they always come in pairs.

Via/ eBay

Think you know what they are?

If you though these are carding combs then were spot on! Back in pioneer times, a family would produce most or all of what they consumed. Wool from sheep was an important resource and the women in the family would card or comb the wool to remove burs, dirt, and other impurities they didn’t want in their finished yarn. The combs were dragged across each other in opposite directions with the wool between them.

Via/ Wiki Commons


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