Welcome to Scale Tales
Showcasing members' favorite or most unusual scales
– or simply the scales that got them hooked!
My Path to Collecting, Researching
and Writing about Scales

1916 Vibrating Counter Scale Model No. 641, W. & T. Avery LD Birmingham, Johannesburg Cape Town & Durban [South Africa]

Above, 1916 Vibrating Counter Scale Model No. 641, W. & T. Avery LD Birmingham, Johannesburg Cape Town & Durban [South Africa]
Below, Maranville 1878 Dial Coin Tester

Maranville 1878 Dial Coin Tester

Scale collecting for me started innocently with a birthday present back in the 1980s – a typical set of English brass postal scales on a polished wooden base for my desk. As it turned out, that was only the beginning.

I was teaching mathematics and geography to high school students trying to make these subjects relevant to their lives – real world maths (as it is known in Australia) and practical applied geography. The school supported me by allowing me to develop a school-based weather observation/recording station and the science department was a useful source of measurement devices. The maths students complained there was too much geography while they learned basic dumpy level surveying skills in the field. The geography students complained there was too much maths in learning to draw contour maps. Other teaching innovations provided some needed light relief – I used apples and oranges on an equal arm kitchen balance in algebra lessons and the students quickly approved of the taste of that innovation.

From then on, I started adding scales, weights, and measures books to my private library at home and sought out different scales to teach various aspects of maths. Steelyards are wonderful for teaching leverage and “mathematical couples.” The measurement of different objects required different techniques and measurement units and by using various scales with alternative measurement units I incorporated this into my teaching.

After retiring from education in 2013, I realised I now had time to research my growing interest in scales, balances, weights and measures. Searching online I found ISASC and soon discovered their quarterly journal Equilibrium contained a wealth of information. I set about assembling a complete set from the first issue in 1978 up through the most recent. The articles in Equilibrium provided many answers to my questions about different scale makers, scale mechanisms and the design purpose of various scale types.

Detecto-Lette Junior Baby Scales — Jacob Bros Co New York Wedderburn Money Scale weighed pre decimal coins in Australian banks

Detecto-Lette Junior Baby Scales — Jacob Bros Co New York

Wedderburn Money Scale weighed coins in Australian banks

I had been a stamp collector during my primary school years and a coin collector throughout secondary school. I discovered counterfeit coin detectors (CCDs) in retirement. The social history behind CCDs varies from country to country. Illegal shaving of gold and silver coins in England led to the weighing of these coins using the type of scales known as rockers. During the Civil War period in the United States the Secret Service was created to combat the wide variety of counterfeit coins circulating in the country. Australia suffered at the hands of Chinese counterfeiters during the great depression of the 1930s. Clever inventors and manufacturers introduced and sold a range of devices designed to measure a coin’s diameter, thickness, and weight to distinguish the genuine from the counterfeit coin.

New No. 50 Ball Butter Scale — Henry Troemner Philadelphia John Allender counterfeit coin detectors and counterweights

New No. 50 Ball Butter Scale — Henry Troemner Philadelphia

John Allender Counterfeit Coin Detectors and Counterweights

Triner Ideal Postal Scale
Triner Ideal Postal Scale

In 2019 I was delighted to win an inaugural grant from the Eric P. Newman Numismatic Education Society (EPNNES) at Washington University in St Louis. The EPNNES Grant partially supported a trip across the United States that same year researching the three different CCDs invented by Harvey Maranville in 1857, 1860 and 1878.

It was wonderful to stand in the home of Harvey Maranville in Clinton, Ohio, and ponder the genius reflected in his three coin tester inventions. My articles were first published in full via the Newman Numismatic Portal (NNP). Later an abridged version appeared as a series of five consecutive articles in the 2020 and first 2021 Equilibrium issues.

The Excel spreadsheet count of my eclectic scale collection recently reached 200 scales, plus accompanying sets of weights, various measures and other scale-related ephemera. I continue to enjoy my retirement researching and writing about a wide variety of scales, balances, weights and measures, but I have a particular interest in coin scales and CCDs.

The photos shown are just some of my favourites from my collection. I choose examples that will fit on normal bookshelves to allow easy storage and display.

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In deciding which scales I want to add to my collection, I often reference the book Scales: A Collectors Guide by Jan and Bill Berning. This book is a wonderful pictorial guide to the wide variety of scales made for different purposes – postal, shop, egg, grain, dairy, gold, coin, gem, scientific, person, household, toy, miniature and miscellaneous. I would recommend it to anyone wanting to learn more about the diverse types of scales.

I wish you as much enjoyment as I have had finding and researching favourites for your own scale collection. Click on the photos at right to see more of my scales.

This Scale Tale was written by Malcolm M.

For more stories, see our Scale Tales Library