James Zalaznik is corkscrew crazy.
The neighbor’s love for corkscrews stems from his parents, Nancy Phillips and David Zalaznik. On a trip to Paris, the couple stumbled upon a small shop, where they purchased a pair of corkscrews. This sparked a passion that they would pass along to their son, who started collecting and selling the devices in 2002 at the age of 13. Together, the family has more than 1,500 corkscrews.
Employed at his family’s CPA firm, Zalaznik is a consummate collector. His family’s homes and offices are lined with numerous displays, each with elaborate assortments of corkscrews from vintage to modern. Zalaznik’s passion for corkscrews runs deeper than merely collecting them. His near-encyclopedic knowledge of the mechanisms of different varieties of corkscrews has cemented him as one of the foremost experts on corkscrew collections and has allowed him to speak at collectors’ conferences and seminars.
Zalaznik’s corkscrew collection features oddities, including figural corkscrews concealed in ornate statuettes to corkscrews once owned by American diplomats and Nazi War criminals. A steel German corkscrew is hardy and utilitarian by design. A French or Italian corkscrew is ornate and functionally complex. Many of these corkscrews date back to the earliest corkscrew patent in England in the late 1700s.
This collector discovers something new about corkscrews daily. The advent of the internet has transported the market from antique shops and books to eBay listings and blogs. Finding one’s niche has never been easier.
What is your preferred corkscrew mechanism?
For personal use, we use a brass Vintner bar mount corkscrew. We’ve had it for over 20 years, and it’s opened thousands of bottles. It takes virtually no effort and can open a bottle in a matter of seconds. Mechanisms can vary significantly, and I’m sure that’s one aspect that draws in many collectors, but for me the mechanism is usually an afterthought. I usually collect based on rarity and then figure out the mechanism afterward. Some mechanisms are so complex and interesting that I have had to reference books to figure out how the corkscrew works.
What would you say to someone who wishes to begin collecting corkscrews?
Go for it. It’s a fun and interesting hobby that never gets old. The website auction.collectorcorkscrews.com hosts a few high-end ($100 minimum) corkscrew auctions a year. It’s a great resource to review past sales. There are vintage corkscrews which have sold for north of $30,000, but there’s no shortage of common corkscrews under $25 that can be found on eBay. There are several dozen books published on antique corkscrews and more being published every year. I recommend “The Ultimate Corkscrew Book,” which provides a broad idea of what’s out there. I would also recommend the book “World-Class Corkscrews,” which features some of the world’s rarest corkscrews; your mind will be blown. Finally, I would recommend that you join the largest corkscrew collectors club (corkscrewclub.org). Membership is only $25 and you get access to hundreds of documents as well as the ability to talk and trade with hundreds of collectors around the world.
How do you think the corkscrew collecting scene will change in coming years?
The majority of serious collectors are older professionals who have acquired impressive collections over the years. I imagine that many of these collectors will eventually decide to liquidate or downsize their collections. There will be several opportunities to acquire rare pieces that may have been in someone’s collection for more than 40 years. Membership in clubs has also been increasing annually and the largest corkscrew museum in the world just opened last year, so it’s an exciting time to be a corkscrew collector.
DID YOU KNOW?
The corkscrew was invented before the cork. The design stems from that of a “gun worm,” used to remove unspent rounds from muskets.
What is the one thing you would like to tell others about your passion?
People are always amazed when they see our collection for the first time. They often tell me that they didn’t know that there were so many different kinds. The largest collection in the world has more than 30,000 different examples. I still find corkscrews that I’ve never seen before, so it never gets old.
Check out the rest of Zalaznik’s collection at here.
Story by Maximillian Chow-Gillette