Whether you’re a member of the Hollywood elite with a book addiction or a less notable bibliophile, you’ve probably desired to see the insides of a book up for auction but haven’t had the time or money to fly to the auction location to inspect it. While many auction houses have made it easier for you to bid long distance, with online and phone bidding, getting a good look at the goods (or bads) remains a problem.
Books are especially difficult to fully represent with photography, or to completely describe to someone else in words. A 300-page book has about 320 surface areas to show, counting the covers, all sides of the book, any preliminary pages, and so on. So, here in the rare books department, whenever we can, we take advantage of Heritage Auctions’ continued commitment to employ technology to make the auction process easier, faster, and more transparent, and to deliver to bidders as much information as possible in order to help them make an informed decision about a lot. One particular way we do this is through the use of Video Lot Descriptions (VLDs) for premium lots in our auctions.
A Video Lot Description is a two to four minute video presentation of an auction lot, produced entirely by Heritage Auctions, and hosted on a given item’s webpage once online bidding opens.
Along with being signed by the author no less than three times, this screenplay has a well documented history (primarily) in Rice’s newsletter, Commotion Strange, regarding the arduous process of getting the film underway — even though it had been optioned by producer David Geffen. A brief synopsis of the grief is given here by Rice herself, but the details are so complicated and frustrating, that it prompted Heritage Auctions cataloger Paula Bosse (who researched well) to say, “If ANNE RICE — one of the most popular novelists of our time — has this much trouble finding a home for her baby, how much more difficult is it for an unknown to get a project produced and released?”
The first tip was to record family members about their experiences during a pivotal time in history. We’ve been making general (not historical event oriented) audio recordings of our own family members — and both my husband and I have been flabbergasted to find out how much we really didn’t know about even our own parents’ lives! (If you need help starting, check out StoryCorps.)
The second was to “play the original song versions used in samples of your kids’ favorite hits” and discuss what melodies have been borrowed from yesteryear. Our kids tease us about the music we listen to (admittedly we are eclectic listeners!) and we tease them right back with information about how that music isn’t “new.” These discussions, however intended, have given our children a wider knowledge of music, culture and history than most of their peers.
Tip number three:
Identify longstanding Black-owned restaurants, retail shops or other companies, then call them up and arrange a visit. Many will have older equipment, as well as photos, so it will encourage interactive learning.
Tip number five was to have your child research a person prior to watching a biopic and then have them compare what they read to what they saw. I can tell you that I’ve personally done this dozens of times, including performing online searches during the commercial breaks when watching biographies and biopics on TV. (In fact, I just did this last week watching a biopic about Jessica Savitch!)
The last tip was actually quite a mind-blower…
Often we drive by local honorary street signs in predominantly African American neighborhoods but may not know the history of each honoree. Visit the local library and have your children research the real person behind the road marker.
Honest to gawd, hubby and I had just had a similar, though not person-related, discussion when he “discovered” the location of a “missing city.” He’s a prolific reader of old newspapers and read about one no longer on maps: Golden Gate City, in South Dakata. There’s a Golden Gate Street in Central City, South Daktoa, but sans town we bet there are people living there who don’t even know why the street has it’s name. How many streets do we all drive on of which we are ignorant to the street’s name’s origins?
Lignin, the stuff that prevents all trees from adopting the weeping habits, is a polymer made up of units that are closely related to vanillin. When made into paper and stored for years, it breaks down and smells good. Which is how divine providence has arranged for secondhand bookstores to smell like good quality vanilla absolute, subliminally stoking a hunger for knowledge in all of us.
This should apply to most paper ephemera too, right? (Provided the old paper isn’t stored in wet or humid places where mildew will overpower any other scent.)
You never know what you will find when you browse around at the thrift store. Do you remember the Love Is… couple?
This glass had a stem and base. I wondered if it came with flowers originally. It would suit flowers for the bride. I’m only guessing, but it would have been a very nice way to send flowers to the bride-to-be, or to propose with flowers in a glass vase like this.
I remember this Love Is.. couple. At one point I even wrote my own list of Love is… sayings in my diary for them. I ended up with a pretty good list but not all of them were winners. I didn’t have the courage to send them in then, I was just a kid, what did I know about love, romance or relationships. Of course now I’d disagree. I think kids can know a lot about love and relationships (not every relationship is about physical love). To me it seems this is one of the things we can see in the Love Is… couple. They have love with affection and real thought for each other’s wants and needs.
The Love Is… drawings were created by New Zealand artist, Kim Grove, as a series of love notes in the late 1960’s for Roberto Casali. They later married but Roberto became ill with terminal cancer and Kim stopped working on the cartoons in 1975. Roberto died in 1976.
Since 1975 the cartoons have been drawn by Bill Asprey.
OK, so you waited around, hoping just the right thing was going to pop up at eBay or some other site, and now, as the shipping delivery window narrows, you’re starting to worry that all you can do is go with the obvious eBay gift card or get something lame. Gift certificates, from eBay, your local antique mall or online dealer, aren’t bad ideas. But here are a few other options you might wish to consider…
Gift Idea #1Newspaper Archives is the largest online newspaper archive, with over 100 million pages, covering more than 400 years, from more than 10 countries — and growing! I know that as a collector and researcher, having an online database of old newspapers to search through is one of the most awesome things ever. Let me repeat that: One of the most awesome things ever.
This isn’t just a great gift idea for collectors, history nuts, or those obsessed with research; it’s a great tool for genealogists too. While genealogy sites offer lots of information, old newspapers help fill in more of the stories… Not just information on people and events, but it’s a great way to find photographs of buildings, family businesses, and other places long gone.
1.) Add the magazine to your cart,
2.) On the next page mark the “this will be a gift” box
3.) Enter your gift recipient’s address during the checkout process.
4.) After placing your order, look for the “Send Magazine Gift Notification” link on the order confirmation page, or go directly to the Magazine Subscription Manager to manage your gift subscriptions.
Gift Idea #3 Maybe you’ve already settled on a gift card, but aren’t sure how to present it? How about a nifty greeting card that’s also a bookmark? In My Book® is a line of 15 cards which are perforated, so tearing along the perforations changes the greeting card into a bookmark!
I don’t collect records by series or any other system, to be honest. Like everything else I collect, I mainly rely on the serendipity of stumbling into something and falling under it’s charm… Then, whether I buy it or not, the obsessive researching begins. So I didn’t know that the old Capitol Records series of Record-Readers were once sold as Looky Talky book and record sets.
S. Nishimura, “one price silk store,” founded in 1604.
K. Kawata, another silk vendor ad, this one targeting “Ladies desiring Embroideries or Drawn Work.”
K. Tamamura, “the leading photographer of Japan.”
K. Kimbei, a photographic studio promoting magic lantern slides, among other items.
An ad for the Nagasaki Hotel.
The top half of this ad is for the Batchelor’s Hair-Dressing Rooms, “Ladies’ Department under the sold supervision of Mons. Mogaillard, a clever Parisian Artist.” (Note that cigars are also available — for gentlemen only, I’m sure!) The bottom half is for C. & J. Favre-Frandt, an import-export shop.
Pope & Co. worries that you’ll perish from hunger on trips to the interior! The small print mentions tinned goods, but the large print mentions wines, liquors and cigars. The next page is a continuation of their ad which meantions specific champagnes, whiskey — and Schlitz Beer!
Please submit your reviews (or reviews you liked) of vintage books, films, games, records, etc. to be considered in future issues of New Vintage Reviews! (And let me know if you’d like to host a future edition!)
There are many charming and antiquated things of note in this antique travel book titled The Club Hotel, Limited: Guide Book of Yokohama, Tokyo and Principal Places in Japan and I thought I’d share a few of them before this book and map sells.
Printed at the “Box Of Curios,” No. 58, Main Street, Yokohama, Japan, there’s no copyright or publication date; but it’s circa 1880s to 1910s. This antique book with blue cloth boards and gilt lettering contains all you’d expect in a guidebook, including hotels, excursions, tea rooms, shopping, bars, geisha, libraries, museums, churches, temples, etc. — including black and white photos, ads for businesses, AND, neatly tucked in the built-in pocket in the back cover, a fragile but pristine color map! (Map opens to roughly 12 1/2 by 8 1/2 inches, so it would not fit completely on the scanner.)
I’ve never longed to travel to the Orient, but if I could travel back in time, perhaps I would change my mind for the book says, “One can go all over Tokyo at any hour unarmed and unannoyed, which one certainly could not surely do in London, Paris, Vienna, or other Western Capitals.”
Apparently, The Club Hotel, Limited was an actual place as there are photos of the building, the entrance, the dining room, and the bar.
According to the text, The Club Hotel, Limited was located “near the landing place (English Hatoba).” More details are found on this page:
Despite The Club Hotel, Limited being a real hotel, this book has ads for many other places rather than really promoting the The Club Hotel, Ltd. (The ads must have paid for the printing, me thinks.) In fact, the first ad in this book, right inside the front cover, is for The Hotel Metropole, “the only hotel in Tokio under European Management.”
Here are some interesting (if racist due to the times) things of note from the text’s Preliminary Remarks:
The Japanese will be found pleasant mannered people. Treated politely, they are invariably polite, and as a rule very kindly disposed towards foreigners. Many of them are incorrigible procrastinators. It is always “to morrow” with them. Hotel servants, however, are often very quick, as well as good and attentive, and seeing so much of foreigners they understand foreign requirements.
The people who stamp about the streets playing a double whistle are blind Shampooers, i.e. “Massage” operators by trade.
Japanese baths are generally heated with charcoal, and it is well to be careful of asphyxia from the fumes. The bath-houses with men and women bathing in full sight of each other, are a curiosity to Europeans.
Geisha or Singing girls, which could be ordered through the tea-house, and are listed on the same page as Japanese Wrestling, Public Libraries, Museums, Places Of Worship, etc. (The scan below also includes the small map of the Temples of Shiba.)
But, of course, the collector in me is most intrigued by all the discussion of “curio shops,” which are heavily advertised in the back of the book. (Note how the chapter begins promoting the European Curio Shops of Yokohama.)
Most notably, Kuhn & Komor, No. 37, Water Street, Yokohama, which asks you to kindly note the company’s trademark “Stork and Sun” used as a sign board on all their branches.
A few other interesting old ads I’ve scanned will be posted soon!
License To Pawn isn’t a “how to” in terms of opening or running a pawn shop, but the book contains more information on the business side of things than I had previously known or even thought of before; it takes a lot more than money to invest to enter and remain in the business.
License To Pawn isn’t a “how to” for collectors, dealers or buyers, but there are tips on how to negotiate, what affects the antiques and collectibles market, etc. Like the show, Rick bluntly lays down the realities.
Yes, there are stories about interesting objects (and persons) who come into the shop (most of the stories about objects are those already seen in show episodes), but that’s not what License To Pawn is really about either.
What License To Pawn really is, is the stories of the men behind the counters at the World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop. And that’s far more entertaining and inspirational than even I, a huge fan, thought!
The book focuses on Rick, but even if Big Hoss, The Old Man, and Chumlee didn’t have their own individual chapters, which they do, each is included in Rick’s stories; it’s a family business, after all. However, Rick (even without my serious girl crush) remains the focus of the book.
While I am a fan of the show, I’m not one who stalks, even in terms of internet reading and media stories about celebrities so I had no idea that Rick suffered from epilepsy (grand mal seizures) as a child. This led to his belief that he wouldn’t survive to adulthood — and an eventual drug problem. But those seizures, which he eventually did outgrow, led to something else wonderful.
[The seizures] altered my life in nearly every way. Whenever one hit, I would be out of school for as long as ten days. The muscle pulls were so painful and severe that ai could do nothing but lay in bed with ice packs on my hamstrings and quadriceps.
It was there, in that bed in our suburban home in the Mission Valley section of San Diego , that my life changed again. I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t move more than a few inches without pain. I didn’t have a television in my room. Video games and iPads hadn’t been invented. I was left to my own devices.
So I read books.
A lot of books.
…I have a very analytical, mathematical, calculating mind. I know I’m not supposed to believe in things like karma. But certain things have happened in my life that can’t be explained by simple coincidence. How else can you explain the sequence of events and circumstances that led to me turning those bedridden hours — which should have been the worst hours of my life — into something that would provide a foundation for a life of curiosity and fun?
That’s what happened. That’s how profound the discovery of books was in my life. I didn’t like school, but I loved books. Reading has been the basis of just about everything that came after. In that bed, I fell in love not only with books but with knowledge. The experience tapped into something I might never have found without the trying circumstances that led up to it. So much of the enjoyment I’ve gained from life has stemmed from a book — either researching some arcane item or reading to learn how to do something practical with my hands.
(Is there anything sexier than a man who loves to read — and research yet!)
And then there are the Horatio Alger-esque stories of each member of the Pawn Stars cast’s rise from humble backgrounds to lives of security and comfort through hard work and determination. Passion and skills into profit, yes; but even more than that, the stories in this book are about finding yourself even when you do your very best to get in your own way. Overcoming obstacles — internal and external — with responsibility for personal accountability, education, and a dedicated pursuit of goals. There’s even a “be careful what you wish for” story; now that the show’s made the cast and the store so popular, Rick can’t be out on the floor, doing what he loves. All things worth reading. Even if they weren’t mixed in with stories about antiques and collectibles — and the unique individuals who buy and sell them.
I only have two complaints about this book…
One, Hyperion is often noted for their “strike while the iron is hot” approach to publishing. This makes sense, but I couldn’t help but feel that this book would have benefited from at least one more round of editing; there were several awkward phrasings, etc., which would have been simple fixes to make the book a bit more polished. And I do mean editing — this is not a slight towards Rick or any of the Pawn Stars themselves (or even Keown); another pair of professional editor eyes would have caught the small problems. Something that bothered me more than a bit for Rick, the reader!
Two, my kids are a fan of this show and while I think there are incredible personal stories my children would benefit from reading, I don’t feel comfortable giving them the book to read due to one adult joke. While reading about prostitutes across the street is certainly less shocking than the plethora of police and crime shows on mainstream prime-time television (not to mention song lyrics on the radio), a joke about oral sex is a bit too much for me to feel comfortable letting the 11 year old read the book.
Overall, License To Pawn is easy to read, charms with great stories, and offers an entertaining look at the world of pawn shops as well as the cast of the show and the cast of characters and objects one is likely to find at pawn shops. It’s definitely worth the read.
It drives me nuts when appraisers, auctioneers et al. dismiss books (along with magazines and ephemera) as having “little no value” — unless, of course, they are ultra rare first printings of first editions, signed works, manuscripts and journals from historic persons or covering historic events, contain original art, etc. I mean, a-duh! These things are not so much valued for the works themselves, but really are coveted and collected for other reasons; i.e. a signed Hemingway book is collected for the signature, not-so-much the book itself. So at best, I call those works cross-collectibles which benefit from higher prices due to a competitive audience across collecting genres — especially from those non-book collectors.
The sad fact is, the experts are right. Most books, magazines and ephemera have little monetary value because fewer people are collecting them, keeping the prices (the value that matters to most decision makers of popularity) low. This is why you rarely see these items on the collecting shows. *sigh*
The fine folks at Heritage give an auction estimate of $1. One friggin’ dollar! Oh, and a neatly tacked on “- up”, which I presume to mean “and up.” (Though, the “- up” also means the mandatory Buyer’s Premium, 19.5% of the successful bid with minimum $14 per lot.)
It’s not that Heritage Auctions is wrong in their estimate (or their buyer’s premium; it’s their business and someone should get paid for posting info online so people like me can rant). The auction closes in a couple of days and the antique work is still at $1.
But here’s the kicker.
I’ve actually sold a few copies of this book. It pained me to do so each time. Not only because it’s hard for me to let go of things, but because they sold for like $29 to $45 — something I thought rather an insult for such an old, richly illustrated book. I consoled myself then that eBay wasn’t where the really big book collectors and history lovers were; that bigger legitimate auction houses would reach a wider audience, fetch more appropriate — bigger — bids for such books. But if Heritage can’t do it…
I should clarify a few things. For both my peace of mind and accuracy.
I sold my copies of this book (in the exact blue cloth boards with photo inset) on eBay nearly a decade ago; the prices on eBay haven’t changed much though — if the book actually sells, it’s at a higher price than the one at Heritage. (So if you’re interested… *wink*) And I sold copies I found because then, as now, I sell so that a person just longing for that item can have it, rather than it being less loved and sitting on my shelf. At least there I succeeded.
If there’s a moral to this little story, it’s this: Books, magazines, etc. don’t have the monetary value they ought to; but that means those of us with less money can afford to collect and enjoy them. And, collectors shouldn’t make assumptions that “the big auction houses have higher auction prices.” Even with the buyer’s premium, the antique Roosevelt hunting in Africa book is 50% cheaper than on eBay. So whether you’re new to collecting or an old hand at it, include the big auction sites in your hunting and see what killer deals you can make.
The Guide is a no-nonsense book on the basics of the Pickers’ business model. As shown on the show, Mike and Frank are antique and collectibles middle-men who try and find sources, usually collectors and original owners, to buy from in order to resell to antique dealers and collectors. Aside from their dense Rolodex of existing sellers, the pair cold-call potential customers and mine other interesting ‘honey-holes’ for their wares. After decades in the business, the Pickers have their business down to a science and this book breaks it down into its simplest components. Picking is a specific facet of the antique and collectibles industry, and Guide to Picking does a good job of making the differences clear. A picker is like a gold miner rather than a coin dealer; picking gets down and dirty with the abandoned or forgotten collectibles.
Although the book is full of anecdotes, it uses them as part of the teaching process. It is fun to hear stories about Mike and Frank’s adventures, but the book sticks to business throughout. I particularly like that anecdotes from the show assume you’ve seen the show, rather than repeating the entire story in the book. From finding sources, to making the deal, to turning a profit by selling to a customer, the Guide gives tips and tricks for making the deals go as smoothly as possible. It doesn’t promise making millionaires, though; they’re clear about the amount of work it takes and the amount of risk involved, so it may, possibly for the better, scare off people hoping for easy money. The book comes right from the mouths of people doing the work every day, which makes it feel more trusted than a more traditional antique dealer guide.
The most approachable aspect of the book is that conversational tone, but this also contributes to the weakest part of the Guide. As i mentioned above, the book cover credits four writers, and the acknowledgments thank several other contributors for their part. Having a lot of cooks in the kitchen makes the Guide difficult to follow at some points, because the conversational tone uses a lot of “I” and “me” without being clear about who’s doing the speaking at the time. This difficulty becomes more manageable once the reader gets a little ways into the book, so once that hump is over the Guide feels like sitting in a southern-Minnesota Perkins restaurant, eating a piece of the pie of the day and shooting the shit with two dusty guys who just got done climbing in the rafters of a slowly disintegrating barn.
Every antique dealer has their own business philosophy, a fact that the Guide addresses multiple times, but I have to say that the American Pickers Guide to Picking has a pretty firm grasp on the uncertainty and fluidity of antiques and collectibles dealing. Much of the time, the book doesn’t just have the One Right Way to do things; each chapter covers a variety of options, based on benefits and drawbacks, to put in a toolbox of skills for making a go of the picking industry. The last chapter, too, covers the future of picking — and the entire industry of collecting, by extension — by acknowledging the huge impact of the ever-changing internet and how the collectors of the future are the kids of today.
At a little over 200 pages, the Guide to Picking is an easy read, but it crams a lot of information into those pages. A lot may feel old-hat to other antique dealers, but the personal voice makes it a fun read, in line with the tone of the show, and there might be something still to be learned hidden in the pages. American Pickers Guide to Picking is a fun how-to book, full of tips and tales of the picking world, ready to make a picker out of anyone willing to pull on the gloves and get a little dirty.
American Pickers Guide to Picking
By Libby Callaway, with Mike Wolfe, Frank Fritz, and Danielle Colby
Approx 206 pages, 6″x9″ hardcover
In fact, the story of and between 19th century painters and American photography really has never been told — or, I should say, “hasn’t been explored” until Linderman came along and looked into it via his collection of antique tintype photographs.
If you’re curious now, if you collect antique tintypes, are a collector of photographs and/or cameras, are an artist or have other interest in photographic history, I can’t recommend this book enough.
Technology, commerce, art, and culture collide at a crossroads, supposed “forward progress” exposing values, leaving the role of art and artists themselves as question marks…
If you’re like me and enjoy collecting and have a creative streak, you’ve probably faced the issue of balancing your delight in making things with your collector’s desire to keep the integrity of your antiques and vintage items. While this clash of interests often presents a quandary for all artsy folk who collect, my primary problem persists in the area of vintage graphics.
I love to make collages, make special scrapbook pages, and in general practice the paper altered arts — but I’m extremely uncomfortable destroying antique books, vintage magazines and other old piece of ephemera. If a book or magazine is so damaged that it’s of no real value; fine, I can render the rest of it useful and beautiful once again with a paper project. But if the work is sound, no matter how filled with lovely images it is, I just can’t do harm. …Yet another part of my soul aches to use what’s right there, in reach. However, this digital age now puts an end to the majority of our concerns via the gift of the scanner.
In most cases, even the most delicate antique books and papers can be safely scanned. Not only does this offer collectors a virtual copy of the works, but, when scanned at a proper size (300 dpi or larger), this gives you a printable file. In just a few minutes you’ve preserved a copy of the image and created one you can now print (as many copies as you’d like) for use in collages, altered art paper projects, scrapbooking, and other projects.
What other projects, you ask? Well, now, thanks to all sorts of printers, gadgets, programs, and papers, you can transform your digital image files into patterns for cross stitch, needlepoint, and other needlework patterns; iron-on transfer papers to images to use on t-shirts, quilt squares, pillows and other fabric projects; LCD projector or DLP projector, opaque projector, and even slide projectors (though the lights often burn out before your project is done, resulting in problems lining up the image again) allow the image to be projected onto walls, canvas, etc. for painting murals and other larger decorating or art pieces — really, the possibilities are only limited by your imagination!
If you’re unsure where to start, there’s an online course you can take. While it focuses on paper art collage principals, it will help you get used to a lot of the basics. And there are places like Zazzle which do all the work, placing your images onto everything from posters, apparel and mugs, to greeting cards, iPod cases, and skateboards. You can make stuff just for you and your friends and family (at discounted prices) as well as sell stuff with your images to others. (I do it! This is my Zazzle shops with friends.)
The only note of caution I have is that if you decide to sell anything, you should know your intellectual property or copyright laws; items created for personal use fine.
So start flipping through your antique books, your vintage magazines, your postcards and other paper collectibles, with a creative eye… Who knows what images you can now safely use? It’s like having your cake and eating it too!
Image Credits: My own altered art piece made from antique and vintage images, used in my art collaborative project, Kindness Of Strangers, at Etsy & Zazzle.
But with the help of the complied advice from other book collectors at Private Library, you shouldn’t be intimidated — you should be inspired! Go learn how to get started in book collecting and set your own bookshelves to sagging. *wink*
At an estate sale I recently was lucky enough to get this little, unassuming, antique book… Plain brown boards, penciled notes and a math problem… A slim 6 and one-half inches 3 and one-half by inches.
It may not seem appealing to you — and that, likely, is how I managed to procure it. But hubby and I always look for old books; no matter how bland and boring their outsides are, the insides can be fabulous. And this is one of those fabulous ones. Inside, on the fragile old pages, are little Victorian hair braids — Victorian mourning pieces!
There are only a few of them, each carefully glued in place, the fading script documenting the details. But holding the book in your hands is a magical sort of a moment. I find it as close to sacred as any experience I’ve had.
Some people find this creepy. Or just plain wrong. But Victorians didn’t pretend death wasn’t a part of life, yet they also took their mourning seriously. They had more than the short and simple funeral services we have today; they had many more rules of etiquette. And they had more rituals, most of which I think would be more comforting and that I find beautiful. Including mourning hair art.
Because hair is symbolic and it lasts forever, Victorians would save hair from the deceased loved one and make mementos they could keep forever. According to Godey’s Lady’s Book (circa 1950):
Hair is at once the most delicate and last of our materials and survives us like love. It is so light, so gentle, so escaping from the idea of death, that, with a lock of hair belonging to a child or friend we may almost look up to heaven and compare notes with angelic nature, may almost say, I have a piece of thee here, not unworthy of thy being now.
Sometimes it was jewelry they could wear. Other times it was incredible sculptures, like the one seen on Oddities. And sometimes the hair was simply and eloquently braided and placed in a memorial book like this.
Notice how the neat old script includes the name, age, and either the death or birth date of the lost person below their braid of hair.
In the above photo you’ll see the wispy curl of hair that has not been braided so much as decorated around… It is the only piece of hair not braided and glued in place, but rather it’s affixed to a small swatch of fabric and golden “stickers” surround it. The roughly inch long piece of hair was not long enough to braid… It belonged to a three month old baby.
[Everyone say, “Awwww…”]
I’ve not yet decided how long I’ll keep this beautiful memorial book…
Part of me wants to keep it forever. But I also know I risk becoming obsessed with finding more, of building another collection… And this is a pricey category of collecting.
Lauren Roberts is a bookmark collector I met when we were both presenters at the first Bookmark Collectors Virtual Convention. I’ve admired her bookmark collection — and collecting habits — so much I’ve been waiting for us both to have the time to do a proper interview.
Lauren, besides being a collector and a blogger, what’s your daytime, meat & potatoes, gig?
I work as an administrator at a community college. It satisfies my urge to eat and live without worry, but my passion is with BiblioBuffet, books, cats, reading, and bookmarks.
When did you begin collecting bookmarks and why?
I fell into it purely by accident, which you can read about here, in my first On Marking Books column. About 45 minutes inland and south of Santa Barbara is a quaint town named Ojai (prounced “oh hi”). It is famous for the Ojai Resort, which is quite pricey and attracts a lot of out-of-towners, but it is even more famous as the home of Bart’s Books, which has been there since the mid-1960s.
The store has been modernized now–it even has a blog–but at the time of this discovery, around ten years ago, I’d guess, it was still owned by the old owner and there was no Internet page or even pricing. The store is actually an old home, and both its “yard” and the house are full of the kind of rickety old shelves you’d expect to find. Outdoors is where the cheaper books are even though they are still protected from the weather. You can sit on benches under trees and just read. They also have books they leave outside the gates so if you feel the need to browse at 2:00 am you can; just toss your money in a box.
I was in the former living room when I saw the old olive-colored book on books (which I adore). I sat down in the chair with the book to look it over. When I pulled the cover, it automatically fell open to the chapter titled “Baldness and Intellectuality.” Marking the beginning of that chapter was a bookmark made of hair, golden brown, male by the length of it. I was utterly charmed and remain so.
You can see the book and bookmark in my antique coffee table.
Being a reader and book lover, the transition to bookmark collector seems rather natural. But readers are usually selective; they won’t just read anything. Is it the same with your bookmark collecting? Do your bookmarks reflect what you read in terms of subject matter? What do you focus on in terms of collecting bookmarks in terms of themes?
It’s true that I am fussy about my library. I love nonfiction and literature that is older than I am, especially classical literature. (I’m not at all interested in modern fiction.) When I began to collect bookmarks I went after vintage ones.
I would browse eBay a couple of times a day looking for pieces that just stood out to me in the same way I browse bookshelves looking for books that appeal. eBay was so great when I started; it has, unfortunately, gone downhill in its attempt to move beyond the collector into retailing. But then sellers would often be selling what they found in attics and such.
Bookmarks are much more popular now than five years ago when they were one of the tiniest niche markets around. You really had very little competition. Now, it’s larger though not large by other collections. The unusual ones that I like often go for hundreds now. I can’t afford those. So my buying has tapered off, I am sorry to say. But not my interest.
My bookmarks don’t reflect my reading interests since, as I said, I like and collect vintage and antique ones. I can’t think of any subject I won’t collect a bookmark about, though religion is something I tend to avoid. I also avoid most modern ones since they aren’t particularly attractive. I am not out to build a large collection but one that is meaningful to me. Every piece in it is special.
What are some of the themes?
I didn’t set out to collect in any niches, but from the beginning was attracted to vintage and antique ones. I occasionally found and find a modern one I like but really, it’s the older ones that fascinate me more because the quality of the work that went into them. Even companies that used them as advertising for washing machines or watches or hotels or whatever used die-cut designs, thick paper, elegant graphic design, and attempted to make them beautiful pieces that people would keep and use for a long time instead of today’s cheaply made, “just sell it” ones like those that authors give away. I guess you could say my interest lies in bookmarks up to about the 1950s or early 1960s, about the time I was born.
Some of themes I have are food, books, home, WWI, WWII, political, book festivals, clothing and accessories, places, travel, library, metal, fabric, worlds’ fairs, exhibitions, ivory, wood, pianos, sewing, music, garden, beauty, shoes, education, smoking, and many more.
Even though bookmarks take up less space than most other collectibles, a person (unfortunately) has to limit, pick and choose, what will become part of their collection. What collecting standards do you have?
I have to love it! That may not seem like a standard but it is. I do not buy it unless I fall in love with it — and, fortunately, I am by nature a minimalist rather than a hoarder. I don’t collect books just to have books. I have done weeding to get rid of books that I had little interest in and by the time I came to bookmarks I had no trouble passing up ones that did not interest me. Plus, now that I have probably around 1,300 of them I can bypass those when I see them, which is rare anyway.
When I began collecting I stored them in an open box. When the bookmarks topped the box and threatened to topple over, I got a bigger box. Then another bigger box. After that, I realized I needed to store them.
I looked around online a lot, but eventually settled on these archival boxes with three rings inside for archival page inserts. The bookmarks were sorted into large categories (food), then if necessary into sub-categories (candy, cereals, meats, milk, soft drinks, alcohol, etc.). I tried to put more or less relevant categories together in one binder–like home and food–but found I had too many in those two categories to fit into one binder. At the moment I have seven binders and the coffee table. The latter is where I have all the three-dimensional ones, regardless of their theme, plus some of the more unusual two-dimensional ones.
What things have you learned from collecting bookmarks?
How much history and story can be in one of those little things! That’s the most amazing part of bookmarks to me. When I began collecting and later writing about them I really had no idea how much they could hold. You could build an entire year’s worth of education just on bookmarks. Seriously.
When I sit down to research a bookmark for an upcoming column I use both the library and the Internet. And I don’t look at just one site. Wikipedia is often where I start since it gives an overview–not always accurate–plus, more importantly, sources and links. I am also fortunate to be an excellent researcher, Googling various words and phrases to find numerous links. I will go far beyond the first page of results–once I even went to page 93!–to find information. Alas, there have been a few times when I have had to abandon a particular bookmark because I couldn’t get enough information to write about it.
But several times now, I think, I have been contacted by people who saw my columns and wrote. One was a family member who corrected a bit of misinformation about the Buster Brown shoe line. Another was searching for old family records. The latest was a descendant of a family that did steel engraving; she was enthralled to find the two bookmarks I wrote about–gorgeous pieces–and said that if I ever wanted to sell them she definitely wanted to buy them. But they are not for sale.
I think sometimes about offering talks at schools or groups about bookmarks. And I am only sort of sorry that museums and important libraries do not yet recognize their importance; their willful ignorance helps me stay in the market.
(I hope this interview and your blogging doesn’t ruin that, Lauren!)
You know what they say, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em,” so I decided to join Mimi — in an interview.
When did you begin collecting Weight Watchers publications?
A couple years ago. It’s hard to say–it just sort of “happened.”
Did you set out to purposefully collect Weight Watchers items — or did you sort of realize that you were doing so over time?
It all started with one cookbook: a fellow WW member gave me a copy of The 1972 Weight Watchers Program Cookbook. I became so intrigued with it that I had to know everything about this crazy & wonderful program. Incidentally, my mom lost a great deal of weight on the 1972 WW program after I was born–so this added to my fascination with it. After I got my hands on that first retro cookbook… pretty soon, I started looking for more information, recipes, books, magazines, etc.
It became a hobby (read: obsession), and people started giving me their old WW stuff. The WW magazines are my favorite. They are hard to find, but they really contain some of the best “gems” and really represent the evolution of the WW program over the years.
What’s your criteria for collecting Weight Watchers publications? Are issues limited to a specific time period, condition rules, etc.
I am really only interested in the magazines from 1970-1976. These were the really wild and wacky years. Or as I like to call them: The Knox Gelatin years… The liver-once-a-week years…. The Fluffy Mackerel Pudding years. So the recipes are really horrifying and funny. But there is also something endearing to me about the program during these years. WW was so genuine and sincere about helping its members. It was like a family. Or a secret society or something. Really kitschy and cool.
How many do you think you have?
Maybe 50? But growing every day…
How do you organize them?
Since I reference and use them regularly–they are kept in a jelly cupboard in my kitchen alongside all of my other favorite cookbooks–both retro and otherwise.
How do people react to your collection?
Most people think my retro WW magazines are pretty odd. Most of the recipes are gag-inducing. Some of the recipes literally make you say “what were they thinking??” My husband tries not to look at them anymore. He had a bad experience with an aspic, and that scarred him for life.
You’ve been putting your collection to use; tell us about your blog and the Skinny Jeans Project.
My blog www.theskinnyjeansproject.blogspot.com is both a tribute and an adventure. As a Weight Watchers lifetime member who has lost over 40 pounds on the modern day WW program, I wanted to pay tribute to the history of WW and all of the brave women (including my mom) who followed this program in the early days. I also pay tribute to Jean Nidetch–the founder of WW and author of all of the publications I reference on my blog.
But most of all–my blog is a crazy adventure that I decided to embark upon as I turned 40. I figured it was time to do something BIG. I wanted to get back into my “skinny jeans”, so I thought I would incorporate the rules and recipes from the 1970’s WW program into my current weight loss plan and write about it. I re-create some scary retro WW recipes and yes–I even eat them. At times it is horrifying. At times it is delicious. You never know what dietetic disaster will end up on the platter… Maybe a giant Mackerel and Cantaloupe Salad? Maybe a Crown Roast of Frankfurters? Maybe a Chicken Buttermilk Loaf? Stop by and check it out! I dare you…
Because you use the books and magazines as intended, do you consider them collectibles?
I guess so. To me they are both collector’s items and cherished resources. Not all of my Retro WW magazines and cookbooks are in mint condition, but I love them all just the same!
Do you think you will begin collecting other cookbooks, health & diet publications, etc. from that period — or will you remain a Weight Watchers purist?
I admit that I am drawn to any cookbooks or magazines with a good selection of gelatin mold recipes. Better Homes and Gardens Circa 1955-1970 are my current fave. I also cherish my Knox On Camera cookbook from 1962. It’s a bit creepy, but I have a slight obsession with Knox Gelatin and anything that can be gelatinized. There’s something wonderful to me about “gel cookery” and the women who took that much time and effort to prepare something so disgustingly weird.
I also love any cookbooks or magazines focusing on the topic of retro dieting. I recently picked up a cookbook from 1961 called “Glorious Eating for Weight Watchers” for .50 at a flea market. It was published by Wesson Oil, had nothing to do with Weight Watchers and mostly contained pictures of fried food. I found this to be quite strange. I had to have it.
Anything you’d like to add or mention about your collection that I didn’t mention?
Aside from the recipes, which is what I love most about my Retro WW Magazines–each issue features a fashion section, a “success stories” section, and many valuable articles about health and fitness. But the best part of WW Magazine HANDS DOWN is “Ask Jean…” where readers get to write in with their questions, comments and complaints and have them answered by Jean Nidetch–the founder of WW. These letters and responses are never dull, because, well…let’s just say: Jean has chutzpah and tons of charm. To say the least.
So do you, Mimi; so do you.
I’d like to thank Mimi for sharing more information about her collection — even more than she shares at her blog. For quick retro WW bites, follow Mimi on Twitter @RetroMimi — “Sometimes its easier to swallow in small doses!”
Guess what? We are featuring another installment of FotoHunt this Thursday at 3 p.m. EST
Not familiar with the game?
FotoHunt is a photographic scavenger hunt through our galleries on LIFE.com. We will post a description of an image we are looking for; then, your mission is to find that photograph on our site and send it our way. What’s in it for you? A prize, of course… We don’t want to say too much just yet. You’ll have to play Thursday afternoon to find out. Can’t wait for the games to begin!