“What Is This Thing?”: 76 Times People Stumbled Upon Mysterious Antiques And The Internet Explained What It Was

I have always enjoyed the mystique surrounding antiques. There's something enthralling about an object that has stood the test of time. It's not just a product. It has a story. A personality. And if you're also captivated by them, then look no further, for we bring you a subreddit that celebrates the wonders of bygone eras.

Welcome to r/WhatIsThisThing, a thriving community of 2.3 million internet detectives who gather to identify whatever things people submit to them.

Established in 2010, r/WhatIsThisThing has become a true gem on the platform, ranking in the top 1% based on its impressive size. From intricate Victorian-era trinkets to beautifully crafted Art Nouveau relics, let's take a look at some of the gorgeous stuff it has seen.

#1 Metal And Glass Locket With Writing

Answer: It's called a "theca" and it has relics from saints in it. If it can be confirmed authentic, it's very valuable. Each one of those relics is hundreds of dollars, each.

lisabrr's answer:

Saint reliquary made up of bone shards that supposedly belonged to said saints.

Image credits: Playful-Grape-4430

#2 Ok, I Know It’s A Chair, But What’s With The Extended Arms?

Answer: It looks like a plantation/planters chair. You’d put your sore swollen legs up on the arms after sitting on a horse all day, like a pregnant woman with her legs up in the same fashion. This is why the back is so sloped as well. If you sit up straight it wouldn’t be comfortable to put your legs up like that, but in a reclined position it’s good for blood flow and air flow. 

Image credits: Chwk540

#3 Found At A Used Book Store. All Parts Rotate And The Markings/Months Makes Me Think It Could Be For Mapping?

Answer: An astrolabe, the ancient times GPS. Used usually for navigation, also for time measure and other science uses. I got one similar as a keyring. If it's too small It won't be easy to use, by my experience.

Image credits: sterling97

#4 A Scissors Like Device I Bought Years Ago On Flee Market

Answer: It’s a vintage umbilical clamp. That’s why it’s shaped like a stork! Eventually this style did evolve into several types of embroidery scissors that the midwives would use while awaiting labor.

Image credits: OffpeakPL

#5 Witt: Silver-Handled Vintage/Antique Clamp Of Some Kind. "Beak" Of Clamp Is Hollow - So Not Umbilical. Clamp Does Not Open Wide Because. US Quarter For Scale

Answer: That looks like a glove stretcher. To loosen up the fingers in leather gloves.

Image credits: MamaBearsApron

#6 My Grandpa Dug Up This Roman Cameo Looking Thing In His Garden In Northern Italy 12 Or So Years Ago, Any Idea What It Could Be? More Info In Comments

Answer: It looks exactly like the souvenir intaglios that Victorians collected on their European Grand Tours. They were very very popular and usually kept in a set and framed.

Image credits: sktchup

#7 Glass Bulb, Filled With Liquid, Metal Disk Floating Inside

Answer: Fire Extinguisher. Beware contains Carbon Tetratchloride.

Image credits: guitarsail

#8 What Is This Red Leather Devil Figure, Found In A Wooden Box In An Attic?

Answer: It’s called a Jenny Haniver. They’re dried skates or rays modified to look like monsters.

Image credits: Jaol17

#9 Help Identify What These Are And What They Were Used For? Passed Down By Family - UK

Answer: Cover plates for a book. They are generally riveted over the normal cover. Probably for one involving royalty or heraldry from the engraving.

Image credits: Haylez116

#10 I Found This Under The Floor Boards In A 1800's Era House

Answer: It removed the top of soft boiled eggs.

Image credits: KleverKlem

#11 Landlord Found It In The Basement. Heavy Metal. Google Isn't Responding Well To "Scary Wand" Or "Aggressive Pleasure Instrument"

Answer: Soldering iron. The end you are holding is the head, and is usually copper. The other end would normally have a wood handle.

Image credits: CornStarchEnema

#12 What Is This Tool? Has Stumped Antique Dealers For Years And Even Stumped Four Antiques Roadshow Appraisers Yesterday. It Is 8.5" Long And The Bowl Is 2" Diameter

Answer: it is a carpet stretcher.

Image credits: willamettewondering

#13 Found At An Antique Market In Wisconsin USA. About 6" Across The Top, The Hole Is About 3.5". Tiny Spittoon?!

Answer: Child’s potty, a chamber pot.

Image credits: skathic

#14 Found This In An Old Crumbled House, But I Have No Clue As To What It May Be! It's From A Company Called « Rally »... Help Me On This Mission!!!

Answer: The device is being described as a "razor hone", i.e., something for sharpening single-edge razor blades

Image credits: Mymyl12

#15 Strange Object From Tiffany's Mysteriously Given To My Wife By Her Grandmother While Refusing To Say What It Was. Probably Bought In The 1930s Or 1940s. About 10cm/4" Long. All She'd Say Was "She Used It As A Young Woman But Didn't Have Much Use For It Nowadays". Any Ideas?

Answer: Tree Branch Muddler

Image credits: zsaleeba

#16 Found In The Woods Near The Water’s Edge At My Home In Maryland On The Chesapeake Bay, The Site Of A Shipyard From 1750-1800. The Property Has Documented History Back To 1650’s. It Has Raised Decorative Images On Both Sides And Is Made Of Metal. 1 Image Also Shows A 1906 Indian Head Penny For Scale

Answer: It's a smallsword guard

Image credits: JurySad104

#17 For Context: It's In A Dentists Office

Answer: A very old dental drill.

Image credits: reddit.com

#18 Friend Received This Passed Down From His Great Great Grandfather. It’s Believed To Be From Persia & About 2,000 Years Old

Answer: It’s a hairpin or a clothes pin/brooch. If it’s something 2000 years old, you need to see a professional at a museum/institute of archaeology to get it evaluated AND then get it insured.

Image credits: trvlbugspnner

#19 Big Wooden Thing That Kinda Looks Like A Clothes Pin. It's About 4lbs, And 85cm Tall. It's A Dark Wood That's A Bit Worn Down And I'm Guessing It's Over 40 Years Old?

Answer: a dolly tub for washing clothes. the hole at the top would have had a piece of wood going through which would have been used for handles.

Image credits: solidboom

#20 Carved Piece Purchased From An Antique Shop In Poland. What Is It And What Could It Be Carved Out Of?

Answer: Rib bone from a whale. In the 2nd pic, you can see the soft marrow tissue inside, you wouldn’t find that inside of a tusk.  

Image credits: OkDiet734

#21 Found In My Backyard In East Nashville, Tn

Answer: Looks real for sure! It's a decent fit for Hopewell type points from about 2000 years ago, but a local expert would certainly know more. If it's found in your yard it's definitely yours and nobody would take it if you reported it, and I'm sure your state archaeologist or archaeological society would be happy to tell you more and make a record of where you found it!

Image credits: CelestialMeatball

#22 I Was Given This. I Have No Idea What It Is. Metal Square Box

Answer: Portable ashtray

Image credits: kcoib17

#23 I Think Brass Man, Head Comes Off And Backpack Opens

Answer: Definitely looks like tobacco paraphernalia. My father-in-law has a huge collection of tobacco jars, pipe stands, and the like, and many of them share similarities with this. Matches would be kept in the backpack, the head used to tamp tobacco down into the pipe, and the walking stick used to clean out the pipe.

Image credits: AliceOlivia94

#24 My Grandfather Told Us To Not Remove This When Renovating

Answer: Aztec calendar. Funny thing, I remember a bunch of these a while ago being smuggled over the border and they were made of meth

Image credits: CloudiaNYT

#25 It's Made Of Really Heavy Hardwood. Unsure Of The Age Unfortunately. Given By Family Friend. Thanks

Answer: It's half a Viking chair

Image credits: TheWanderingEyebrow

#26 Found Among Grandma's Things. All Snowflakes Go Into Box, Spring Clasp On The Box

Answer: charms - peace, love, happiness.

Image credits: EMFB

#27 Found In A Garden. Metallic Object That Closes In On Itself

Answer: a Hindu ritual box. It is missing the middle piece that would sit in that central hole.

Image credits: ScZi

#28 Found In Fathers Antique Collection, Neither Of Us Know What It Is. Think It’s Made Of Silver, Very Very Heavy, Both Parts Open Up And In The Smaller One It’s Some Kind Of Old Residue (Too Scared To Touch It, Maybe It’s Poisonous??)

Answer: Betel nut and lime holder. It's worn on a belt

Image credits: koalakarma8

#29 A Fish Like Object Found In A River

Answer: Gobeunok or Gogok are comma-shaped or curved beads and jewels.

Image credits: Hazzah02

#30 Found In A Creek Bed In Oak Hill, Texas. Has A Small Hole On Top Of The Head That Goes All The Way Through

Answer: "Seems to be a pendent head from the Caddo tribe. Looks legit and definitely pre-columbian. There's an oak hill Caddo site near there. Could be an import as well but unlikely." -My Archeologist Father

Image credits: kennyfool

#31 Found In Walls Of Victorian House

WaldenFont's answer: The way I read "those that are exposed," I'd think it's supposed to warm you when you're out in the cold. [Victorians] were forever fretting about exposure to cold and damp.

YellowOnline's answer: It's Victorian quackery.

Image credits: DejectedOps

#32 Found In A Garden Back In 1959, Still Haven't Been Able To Identify What It Is

Answer: It's a broche or pin featuring Napoleon.

Image credits: Nautaliski

#33 Found Metal Detecting Outside Of An Old Church

Answer: It looks like a Ferrotype photograph. They started being used in the 1850s's.

Image credits: turtlesupremelord

#34 What Is This Thing? Hanging Over Sink In A House Built In The Late 1800s

Answer: It’s a holder for a glass. There used to be small cylindrical glasses that everyone had near their sinks to grab a sip of water. Which was an improvement from drinking out of a wooden cup from a bucket or a ladle. Those claw holders are often in housekeeping sinks in the area where the maids worked, or by the grooms' area. Everyone used the same cup/glass.

Image credits: estantonfantastico

#35 Found Hanging On A Nail, Behind A Picture On The Wall, Hanging On The Same Nail. The Hole In The Center Is About The Size Of A Quarter. Link In Comments For Photo Of Back Side. What Is It?

Answer: it is for preventing wax from dripping down a candle, that you'd put through the hole

Image credits: osumike07

#36 Small Vintage Metal Decorative Item That Gets Blazing Hot When Plugged In. (Unplugged Immediately To Avoid Fire)

Answer: It is a cigarette lighter. My great-grandmother had a small stand with ashtrays and two of these. You turn them upside down, and they heat up, but when you rest them like in the photo, they should turn off.

Image credits: junkshopper2000

#37 What Is This Ancient Bronze Pot With Two Spouts That Looks Like A Hanging Lavabo But Whose Necks Are Too Low To Carry Water Without Spilling?

Answer: Looks like a Betty Lamp which burned whale oil. Wicks would reach out the openings

Image credits: watamat

#38 Cast Iron Tiny Pot Thing. Double Walled

Answer: cast iron glue pot.

Image credits: variousred

#39 Found In An Antique Store. Says Used During Civil War And Wwi

Answer: "Bully Beef" can opener. Designed in 1865 and supplied with cans of pickled beef. "Bully beef or corned beef is meat made from minced salt-cured brisket of beef in gelatin. The word bully possibly comes from the French "'bouilli' (boiled), as French troops ate boiled beef in Napoleonic times. Tins of bully beef featured in the rations of armies until the Second World War. Cow-shaped can opener that is made of metal and painted black. A large L-shaped blade is attached by screw to the body of the knife. Above the knifes blade is a cows head in metal. The body of the blade is curved and loops back on itself in the shape of a tail." LINK It's definitely a “Bully,” “Bulls Head,” or "Bully Beef" can opener. Here's a pretty decent article on the history of can openers. TL;DR: A can opener

Image credits: F1x98

#40 This Is Attached To A Property Deed From The 1700s. Anybody Know What It Is?

UrungusAmongUs's answer: Maryland State Seal

CovfefeBean's answer: Deeds must be signed, sealed, and delivered. That’s likely a hanging seal, provided you have a deed.

Image credits: johnsinternetsales

#41 Blue Glass Thing Found At Goodwill. About 5 Inches High With A Hole In Top

Answer: That is a whale oil lamp. Hand blown glass. Very odd blue color. Not cheap 

Image credits: Red-Bell-Pepper

#42 Beautiful Purse With Legs Found In Antique Store. Both Sides Open And Small Objects Are Stored Inside. Two Of The Objects Unscrews. The Material Looks A Bit Like Bone And Is Probably Bakelite. The Label Reads Otto Gillberg Case And Briefcase Factory. The Hooks Might Be Lace Hooks But What's The Rest

Answer: It actually says what it is on the label, an etui, "a small ornamental case for holding needles, cosmetics, and other articles."

Image credits: insteadofahug

#43 Big Antique German Chest. Apparently It’s Been In My Family For Generations. Made From Dark Black Wood And Ivory. The Panels Are Etched And Decorated. Inside Are Numerous Drawers. The Chest Contains A Bunch Of Very Old Books, The Oldest From The 1690s. What Is This Thing?

Answer: Known as a Kabinettschrank (“display cabinet” in German), this type of furniture is sometimes called a cabinet of curiosities or wonders. The etchings look a lot less intricate than a lot of the other display cabinets I've seen in this style. It might be someone's attempt to re-create one they saw somewhere.

Image credits: Polymes

#44 Two Mystery Objects Found In The Gwalia Ghost Town Museum Near The Outback West Australian Mining Town Of Leonora. An Ornate Cast Iron Case With A Hole And A Turnkey(?), And A Leather & Metal Box With A Handle, Button And Transparent Panel

hyperdream's answer: The object on the right is a collection box that a railway worker would carry to collect fares.

Fellatination's answer: The object on the left is a cast iron air compressor or pump. It's ornate so it was likely used by the railroad and not the miners.

Image credits: Gerald-of-Nivea

#45 What Is This? I Found It In A River In Shropshire, UK About 15 Years Ago

Answer: It's a vintage 1920s - 1930s sterling medal / pendant with dove bird "COME HOLY SPIRIT" in Latin. About 7/8" in diameter, hallmark marked. Originally on a heaver 17" long sterling chain.

Image credits: many_mishaps_melly

#46 Was Given To Me As A Gift From A Friend Who Said It Was Used To Hold Teas And Spices. Haven't Found Anything Else On It

Answer: it's called a paan daan.. It holds all the contents of a paan... A betel leaf with other ingredients..

Image credits: TheJigIsUp

#47 This Thing That My Friend Found In The Water

Answer: "This is a figure of the Santerian Orisha Olokun. One hand holds a snake, the other a mask. They typically come off because these figures are kept in water 100% of the time. If you found this in the ocean, then this is more evidence towards that as Olokun is tied to the ocean. This was probably disposed of ritualistically and replaced with a new one.

Image credits: Saaintt

#48 1 Through 300 Metal Tags Found In An Old (1920s)ice Box. The Copper Wires Are There Just To Hold The Whole Stack Together

Answer: They look like locker numbers.

Image credits: crinnaursa

#49 My Boyfriend Found This In His Backyard. It Appears To Be A Medal Of Some Sort? There's Nothing On The Back Of It

Answer: a hub cap for a carriage wheel. The flange is at the surface of the hub and the decorated area is pressed back in.

Image credits: Lilwest

#50 Found These Glass Goggles In The Wall Of Our 100 Year Old Home

Answer: old safety goggles with the strap missing. Possibly for brazing work on the plumbing

Image credits: prodigyrun

#51 My Mil Has Had This Thing For Years And No One In The Family Can Figure Out What It Is. Looks Like It Was Mounted On The Wall Or Something At One Point. Any Ideas?

Answer: It’s an old bee keeping tool according to google “Bees Parker's Foundation Fastener - Wooden Beekeeping tool Circa 1800's”

Image credits: chesterTHEcheese

#52 Found This Hidden In The Ceiling Of My Basement With A Bunch Of Others. Made Out Of Glass, Appears To Have Some Sort Of Tape Or Paper Border Around It. Hining A Light Through It Doesn’t Project A Clean Image

Answer: Magic Lantern glass slide.

Image credits: jjwood84

#53 Found 32cm Under Surface In Horse-Plowed Field, Norway. Reads Copper/Bronze

Answer: A buckle/hardware for a leather harness. Two straps diagonally and one across horizontally.

Image credits: aGreenStone

#54 Found In The Basement Of German House That Was Built Shortly Before World War II

Answer: Mortar and pestle. A very old one, too

Image credits: DaveDave_Org

#55 This Cylindrical Container My Wife Bought

Answer: Royal Navy cordite bucket.

Image credits: dbstanley

#56 My Dad Found This Earlier Today With His Metal Detector And Has No Clue What It Is. Its About 5cm X 4cm. What Is This Thing?

Answer: It is part of a bracelet or belt. It would have had companions, joined by links on all four corners. It is too small for a trivet.

Image credits: bannockboy

#57 Medal Found In My Nana's Belongings. Written On The Back Is "The Great War For Civilisation"

Answer: The Victory Medal (also called the Inter-Allied Victory Medal) is a United Kingdom and British Empire First World War campaign medal.

Image credits: Lyzrd_Hangover

#58 Left Behind For Me From A Family Member Who Passed. Zero Clue What To Do

Answer: a document relating to letters patent in the Ireland.

Image credits: reddit.com

#59 I'm Usually Boss At Identifying Makers Marks But This One Has Me Completely Stumped

Answer: It looks like the Simpson Hall Silver Co mark that was continued to be used by International Silver after International Silver purchased Simpson Hall

Image credits: polyPollyanna

#60 Found In Tip Jar At Work (Us)

Answer: Two kopeck (1/100 of a ruble) from year 1891, St. Petersburg, copper

Image credits: BoiIEd

#61 Driftwood With Metal Plaque Found On The Mississippi River Bank

Answer: Looks like a piece from a bedhead. I think the sheath of wheat is a xtian symbol about reaping what you sow and of death and renewal. Something along those lines. Wheat has been used on double (marital) beds for centuries, including the bedhead and upright posts. They're also used on chairs in a literal or a stylised way and represent prosperity in relation to the 'reap what you sow' type of symbolism.

Image credits: Funtimeline

#62 Former Owners Left This At The House. We Live Near An Ottoman Fortress And Where A Roman Road Went

Answer: a carving of Serbian Knez, Mihailo Obrenović III

Image credits: M--P

#63 Round Metal Object With No Opening On Top, The Lever Turned At One Point, Any Guesses To What This Could Be?

Answer: It is indeed a chalk line.

Image credits: gumbyprincess1

#64 Found This Metal Detecting In New Hampshire. Small But Super Heavy

Answer: a dragon torch holder

Image credits: foxpunch

#65 Some Type Of Hammer Type Tool, All I Know It Was Sent From Africa Around 1945

Answer: Called a sugar hammer

Image credits: sirSwampDonkeyJr

#66 What's This Heavy, Brass, Genie Lamp-Like Object With Both A Weird Cutout Spout And A Narrow Upwards Spout?

Answer: It’s a lamp. It’s literally an oil lamp, to be used to create light. The wick goes in the spout. The oil goes in the belly. You light the wick and a flame will burn on the end of the spout like a little candle, and you can carry your lantern around with you.

Image credits: FlaxxtotheMaxx

#67 Found This Gold Ring At Beach In Mauritius And Would Be Fun To Know What Coat Of Arms Is That

Answer: Keating family crest (Irish)

Image credits: alatalot

#68 Thumb Protector Possibly, But For What? Found At A Yard Sale

Answer: For shucking clams/ oysters. Protects from sharp edges, knife slips

Image credits: deceptiveshadow

#69 Art Nouveau Style Hook Made Of Silver

Answer: a boot button hook. Used to hook all those tiny buttons on ladies boots. Just a guess on my part

Image credits: _erik_reddit_

#70 What Is This Thing Hanging Outside My Fireplace. It Seems To Have Gears Inside Of It, And Pivots Into The Fireplace

Answer: it's a clockwork spit turner for turning a roast or other meat automatically. Hang on, I'll try to find some documentation

Image credits: burnout641

#71 Green Circular Tool With Spikes? We Found This At An Antique Store And Nobody Knew What It Was

Answer: it's probably a castration device. It puts a tight rubber band on to cut off circulation

Image credits: ceejayy16

#72 Metal Spiked Thing At Antique Store In Md. Even They Didn’t Know What It Was, The Tag Says “What Is This!?”

Answer: It is a roast or ham holder that mounts to a cutting board. The cutting board is missing.

Image credits: z_Dax_z

#73 Antique From The 1800’s, Have To Figure Out What It Is For A School Project

Answer: Antique Soap Saver. Small scraps of soap were put in the cage and when people did dishes by hand the soap saver was swished though the dishwater to made suds

Image credits: Earffff

#74 Found At Antique Festival Near Atlanta, Is 17" By 5.5"

Answer: It's for rolling newspapers into a "log" for the fireplace

Image credits: gordone1

#75 What Would This Antique Silver “Locket” Have Been Used For? It Looks Like Possibly Ink Residue On The Two Pads Inside, But No Indication That The Inside Door Would Have Been Sealed Tightly Enough To Be A Reservoir

Answer: It's actually a purse. There's space in there for some coins for bus/cab fare, some powder makeup (behind the little door), and calling cards.

Image credits: didilamour

#76 Found In Some Old Stuff. Can Be Opened To Reveal This Piece Of Paper

Answer: A prayer neckless. You put a prayer in it and carry with you for various reasons. It is probably a part of Quran. Crescent and star is Turkish flag and the symbol on the front is ottoman tugra, symbol of the sultan

Image credits: reddit.com