Canes and walking sticks are useful items, but can also be beautiful works of art. Besides mass-produced canes, rarely will you find two that are the exact same, making an interesting field for collectors. What's the difference between a cane and a walking stick? A cane is straight like a sugar cane, with a straight up and down handle, while a walking stick has a perpendicular or curved handle. To refer to them both, let's just say "sticks."
I think sticks probably have been used since humans started walking upright. In the past few centuries, they have served physical and fashionable purposes and been presented as gifts between friends, relatives and political dignitaries. Sticks can be handed down from generation to generation, or inscribed to commemorate a personal or historical event.
Pre-19th century sticks were longer than what you see today, as people would use them for puddle jumping and navigating uneven terrain. As road surfaces improved, the stick became less a pole-vaulting navigational device and more a fashionable piece of attire. The Victorian Era was an age for extravagance and dramatic design, and the canes fit the period.
From the 1850s through the 1940s is what I personally consider the golden era for sticks. During that period, styles ranged from primitively carved folk art to Fabregé-crafted sticks with handles made of gold and hardstones (ex: jade, amethyst and carnelian). That's what makes stick collecting so fun: each stick varies based on the imagination and the materials available to its maker.
Sticks are made from just about anything you can possibly imagine. You will find every type of hardwood and exotic wood used in the beautiful shafts, while handles are made from stones, carved wood, precious metals, bone, antler and horn, bamboo and so much more.
One of my favorite canes in my collection is my Haluska watch cane. It has a sterling silver knob handle that serves as the winding mechanism for a small (1/2" diameter face) clock that protrudes through the smooth side of the Malacca wood shaft.
Stick collectors are as different and varied as the sticks they hunt to find — what interests one might not interest another. Today's market for sticks is as strong as ever, and they sure are fun to hunt for at flea markets, auctions and online. I love to buy sticks and always am on the hunt for a new stick or an entire collection!
OH YEAH...and don't forget stick holders and cane racks! These are a must have if you build a cane collection. They too are made from every material you can imagine, in every style, for every budget.
Learn more about antique walking sticks and canes by watching these appraisals from