This is the place to come to learn about Avery style needle cases.


It’s often the variety within each individual Avery needle case that makes it unique and more collectable.  To clarify, we are talking about needle cases that are almost identical but have some feature that is slightly different.  For example, there are two wheelbarrow needle cases: the Wheelbarrow with Holly and the Wheelbarrow with Roses.  These two items are identical in every way except the pattern on the top.  Sometimes we don’t even realize there is a variation until we examine an item closely or compare the ones in our collection to ones we see on eBay or in other collections.

However, we must also be careful not to assume that everything that is different was originally designed that way.  Often, the reason for the difference is something is missing or a missing piece has been repaired or replaced.  Occasionally you'll see a wheelbarrow needle case with no handles (missing pieces) or a different looking wheel (replaced parts).  Since Avery needle cases are roughly 125-150 years old, it isn’t unusual to expect there will be ones with missing pieces or repairs.  Moreover, if the repair was done many years ago it might look as if it was originally designed that way.  One thing to remember is that each repair was probably done by a different person and as a result, each repair is probably unique.  Therefore, if a needle case has something that is one of a kind, it probably is not an original variation.  In our opinion, minor well executed repairs should not detract from the beauty or value of an item, but they should be identified as such.

For example look at the Wheelbarrow with Holly needle case shown below.  At first glance they appear to be identical.  However after examining them carefully, one notices a few minor differences.  The wheel on the left has a slight decoration, tiny circles interspersed with lines and the spokes gradually taper as they radiate from the center.  The one on the right is plain and a tiny piece of brass, where the wheel attaches to the barrow, is missing.  This wheel resembles a specialized hardware washer, something that is used with screws, nuts and bolts.  When compared to other Wheelbarrow needle cases, it becomes clear that the one on the right is a replacement.  Now inspect the wheelbarrow handles and you'll see that the ones on the right are incomplete, the ends are missing.

The purpose of this page is to highlight the variations we have discovered within individual needle cases, both original variations and variations due to lost parts or repairs.  If you have or know of any needle case variation that is not listed here, please contact us so it can be added.

Original Variation Types

Here is a list of the variation types we have discovered so far that we believe were created at the time the needle cases were originally manufactured.  Detailed information about the needle cases with these specific variations can be found by selecting the variation type from the list below.

Different Company Names
Different Exterior Decoration
Different Metals
Different Interior Decoration
Different Sepia Toned Photographs
Different Chromolithography Prints
Different Sizes and Variation Combinations
Misc. Other Variations

Missing Pieces

Before discussing repairs and replacement pieces for Avery needle cases we need to have an understanding of what could be missing.  Sometimes we can get ideas by studying the original design registration/patent drawings that were completed as part of the manufacturing process.  These documents are available for most of the needle cases on our Master List, although many are not detailed enough to help us determine if something is missing.  Delicate parts, especially pieces that are cut-out, places where two pieces are connected or the clasps/catches that hold two pieces together, frequently break off or wear down from being used.  More often than not we’ll see a needle case on eBay that looks a bit different from others of the same type and we'll just get a feeling that something is missing.  For example the Walnut on a Leaf is sometimes missing it's clasp/catch, the Butterfly Needle Case is occasionally missing its antenna and the Golden Cart is usually found with just the trunk portion but missing the cart itself.  Some missing pieces are minor and don’t really detract from the beauty or collectability of the needle case whereas others are major.  Over the years we've seen numerous Avery needle cases for sale on eBay, often missing major pieces, described as being in "excellent condition".  Usually the sellers are unaware of missing pieces or repaired parts.  Buyers beware!

Detailed information about Avery needle cases with common missing pieces can be found by selecting the item below depending upon the significance of the missing piece.

Missing Minor Parts
Missing Small Parts
Missing Major Parts

Repairs and Replacement Parts

Whenever you see an Avery style needle case that has a slight variation from others of the same type, you need to ask yourself a few questions.  Are there other examples with the same variation?  Is there a logical reason for the variation?  Remember, the designer would have to create a special die or mold for the variation and that would be time consuming and costly.  There would need to be a good reason to go to the trouble of doing that; perhaps the designer wanted to create a separate variety for a specific client or special event.  For example the Beatrice can be found with interior panels that have the Milward coat of arms and one version of the Easel has Queen Victoria’s portrait in celebration of her Diamond Jubilee.  However, if there's only one needle case with the variation and there's no logical reason for it, there’s a good chance the variation is a repair or replaced part.

If the needle case is a rare one, there won’t be many others to compare it to making it even more difficult to determine whether the variation is a repair or not.  For example in over 20 years of collecting, we’ve only seen the Elephant with Howdah four times and in three of these the howdah cover is different (two examples are identical and match the one on the top left below, whereas the other two are both unique with flat tops; one of these is shown in the photo on the lower right below).  The howdah lid is the one piece most likely to break because it is the only movable part on this needle case.   How do we decide which is the original?  In this case a quick look at the patent design representation confirms the howdah was designed to look like the two that are identical.  A Google search for images of an elephant with a howdah, or better yet a Victorian elephant with howdah, will provide us with additional information.  Almost all of the examples we find match the design representation and the two that are identical.  That said, the two Elephant needle cases with the unique flat howdah lids are most likely replacements.

Let’s look at another needle case, the Umbrella, which we have seen a few times over the years.  We discovered two different variations, one with a pointed top and another with a ball on top (only one example with the ball top has been found).  After looking at a few actual umbrellas, modern ones and drawings or photographs of umbrellas from the Victorian Era, we found none with a ball top.  Logically an umbrella has a pointed top, therefore the needle case with the umbrella with the ball top probably is a replacement, especially since there doesn’t appear to be an obvious reason for the designer to have created two variations.  However, understand that we have only seen three examples so far, and as more examples come to light in the future we may have to reevaluate our position which is why we use the term "probably" when speaking of repairs and replacements.

Detailed information about Avery needle cases with repairs or replacement parts can be found by selecting the item below depending upon the quality of the repair or replacement.

Well Executed Repairs or Replacements
Average Repairs or Replacements
Obvious Repairs or Replacements

Master List

To date 227 Avery style needle cases have been discovered.  Visit these pages to see photographs of each design as well as the original design registration or patent and gain knowledge about variations within each design.

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Avery Survey

In 2013 an Avery Survey was created in order to gather as much information as possible about Avery style needle cases from collectors and interested parties around the world.  The Avery Survey is easy to complete and gives you a chance to contribute to this important research.  Be sure and stop here to see the survey results.

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About Us

Learn how the author turned a hobby cross stitching antique sampler reproductions into a passion for collecting Avery needle cases resulting in a published book, a Wikipedia article, a TCI Bulletin article and conference presentation and this website.

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New Avery Books

The companion books to Estelle Horowitz and Ruth Mann’s “Victorian Brass Needlecases” have finally been written.  Visit this page to learn more about how to order Terry Meinke's four books "A Guide to Collecting Avery Needle Cases - Third Edition" published in 2023, "Histories of the Redditch Area Manufacturers Associated with Avery Needle Cases" published in 2020, "Histories of the Birmingham Area Companies Associated with Avery Needle Cases" published in 2022, "Histories of the London Area Companies Associated with Avery Needle Cases" published in 2023, and “My Avery Needle Case Collection” published in April 2012.

A Guide to Collecting Avery Needle Cases