There's a galaxy of globes out there.
Celestial globes map stars and constellations. Lunar globes depict the craters, seas and mountain ranges of Earth's moon. Terrestrial globes, the most common type, represent the world's continents, countries and cities. All show places in small spheres, making them feel within reach.
"Globes symbolize possibilities," said Andy Newcom, Hallmark's home decor expert, who accessorizes his Kansas City, Mo., house with globes. "They signify seeing new places and things, and meeting new people."
Newcom likes how globes look grouped together on a shelf or table. Their round shape unifies a collection, even though their styles and sizes may vary wildly.
Replogle, one of two American globe manufacturers, makes more than 120 models. They range from an old-school 12-inch blue-ocean desk globe with a plastic base ($35) to the 32-inch "Diplomat" floor globe, featuring 10-color cartography, touch-on illumination, more than 20,000 place names and a handcrafted mahogany cradle ($8,500). And between, there's a globe to suit almost any personal taste.
"Manufacturers have definitely revived globes, making them more stylish in recent years," said George Glazer, a globe enthusiast who has a New York store specializing in old globes. In the late 1950s globes became more utilitarian; desk globes were set on tin stands and floor globes looked as if they belonged in a dusty library corner.
Glazer admires globes because they're useful, scientific instruments. If it's noon where you are, you can set a globe's time dial (the metal disc on top of a globe) to noon facing your global location. The other numbers on the dial show what time it is around the world.
Glazer also appreciates the details of globes before World War II. The former American globe manufacturer Weber Costello produced black-ocean globes with art deco chrome airplane bases. The airplane globe reflected a fascination with aviation and travel, and featured principal railways, shipping lanes and short-wave radio stations. Their sleekness complements modern decor.
Some companies have begun reproducing old globes. Restoration Hardware's catalog and Web site, restorationhard ware.com, sell copies of Weber Costello globes with the world boundaries of 1921. The blue-ocean map gores are applied by hand. The globes rest on ebonized rosewood stands accented in nickel-plated chrome or bronze. An 8-inch globe sells for $79, a 13-inch version for $179.
Vintage old globes fetch hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars. Todd Spencer Miller, owner of Charlecote Antique English Furniture & Accessories in Kansas City, Mo., recently sold a matching set of celestial and terrestrial globes for $145,000. "A pair of globes, made in about 1800, is extremely rare," he said.
Globes old and new are popular holiday and retirement gifts. Sales have increased in recent years because world events have hit close to home. "People want to look and see where Iraq and Afghanistan are," said Patrick Carroll, manager of Gallup Map Co. in Kansas City.
Carroll's family store has sold globes for decades. He said globe sales took a hit after Germany unified and Russia split in the early 1990s. "People were hesitant to invest the money in one at a time when the world was changing in major ways," Carroll said.
So the two American globe manufacturers, Cram and Replogle, came up with updating programs. People can get new globe balls, at a much lower cost than replacing one, to place on their existing stands.
Globes, no matter how current, are conversation starters at parties. They can be interactive, such as Leap Frog's talking Explorer Globe ($100 at leapfrog.com) that recites populations, flying times between countries and other facts. Or they can be heirlooms that are just interesting to look at.
"All ages respond to them," said Annette Philippi, a sales associate at the Halls Plaza store. "They're educational and practical, but also beautiful and decorative."
Update your globe
Manufacturers will send you a new one, without the stand, as countries change. Here's how it works:
Cram: Call 800-227-4199. Know the diameter of your globe and whether it's illuminated. Replacements cost between $25 and $90.
Replogle: Call your dealer or customer service at 800-275-4452. Know the five-digit globe model and the month and date of your purchase. Replacements cost half of the retail value of a new globe ball. Major country changes help determine the age of your globe and whether it's outdated:
1992: Yugoslavia divides into new counties including Croatia and Macedonia.
1991: The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics dissolves, creating 15 countries including Russia.
1990: East and West Germany unify; North and South Yemen unify.
1980: Rhodesia becomes Zimbabwe; New Hebrides becomes Vanuatu.
1976: North and South Vietnam unify.
1960: French Equatorial Africa, French West Africa and the Belgian Congo dissolve, creating 19 new countries including Chad, Niger and Somalia.
1953: Korea becomes North Korea and South Korea.
Replogle, replogleglobes.com Cram, maps-globes.com
Stores for old globes:
George Glazer Gallery, georgeglazer.com, 212-535-5706 Murray Hudson Antiquarian Books, Maps, Prints & Globes, murrayhudson.com, 731-836-9057 or 800-748-9946