In 1905 a young engineer invented a wire that could glow red-hot but not burn through, and the electric toaster was born.
The Percher, made by General Electric, was one of the first to be mass produced; it comes in six versions and is worth from $300 to $3,000 today. Collectors call it the Percher because the bread just perches near the hot wire waiting for the user to pluck it off and turn it over.
Find out about other collectibles described by The Saturday Early Show's Tony Hyman in the Collectibles Archive or visit Tony Hyman's Web site.
If you think you have a collectible worth a lot of cash, send an email to email@example.com with "What's It Worth?" in the subject line. Or write to "What's It Worth?" The Saturday Early Show, 514 West 57th St., 6th floor, New York, N.Y. 10019.
During the 1910s, Westinghouse began producing the Turnover toaster that rotated the toast using a lever. They became very popular, and because so many were produced, they are now worth less than $50.
Toasters from the early 20th century can fetch thousands of dollars. A porcelain Toast-rite can bring $2,000 or more, and early pop-up versions from the mid-'30s are worth about $1,000 in good condition.
The Toast-o-later has a conveyor belt that carries the bread past the heating unit faster or slower, depending on how dark you want it. And if you thought four-slice toasters were something new, a popular box-shaped model from the 1920s holds four slices and flips them simultaneously with the turn of a handle. It is worth about $50 today.
If you've got an old toaster, don't plug it in. Let a toaster expert do it. Hyman recommends Joe Lukach, a collector with 30 years experience. Lukach can be reached for appraisals and information at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information on the history and science of toasters, try Whole Pop Magazine Online. It also has recipes for toasters and a brief history of the Pop Tart.