Ways To Display Monochromatic Collections In Your Home

Spotted this at Country Living:

Here’s how we recommend keeping the arrangement interesting:

• Group similarly shaped items (fluted vases, trophy-like urns) together, but stagger heights and mix various creamy shades.

• A few wild-card components, such as shells, architectural remnants, and tarnished silver vessels, prevent a monochromatic collection from becoming monotonous. Just keep them all muted, so they don’t hog the spotlight.

Photo by Bjorn Wallander.

Curator of Your Own Museum: Part Two

art-vintage-photos-collection-deanna-dahlsadPerhaps the one area in which you are least likely to feel “like a museum” or a curator is that, at least in the beginning, you may not have defined your collection.

Museums have a plan which includes the definition of their collection, generally before their first purchase is made. In part they do this for funding as they have to answer to a board of directors, benefactor, or other funding source — often they do before they get or expand a location.

You might not think so, but in many ways you and your private museum have many luxuries that ‘real museums’ don’t have. Some of the larger museums may ‘win’ in the bigger budget department, but you don’t have the same accountability — unless it’s to get the spouse to agree to that floor-to-ceiling shelving unit for those Smurfs. You may attend an auction with the intentions of acquiring a specific piece and it the price goes too high, you are still allowed to spend your allotted amount at the auction on something else. This may not be so for a museum which has been given (granted) funds for one specific item. You may have to ask or include your spouse in decisions regarding purchases, but this is relatively little compared to grant proposals and accounting for every penny in your budget.

However, you can learn from museum curators.

One of the first things curators do is to define the purpose of the collection.

What is it they are trying to preserve?

Why is this important? To whom?

What is scope of the collection?

Is there a specific time period, artist, movement etc which has a natural contained set of parameters, or must they create a somewhat artificial yet natural cut-off point?

They not only ask themselves these questions, but they answer them. This becomes their Mission Statement, outlining the philosophy of the collection as well as identifying specific pieces which are ‘must haves’, and the objectives of the museum. (The Smithsonian website had an excellent section on this; you can view it here.)

Thinking in terms of what your collection means, its scope etc. is challenging. It often requires that we put into words what we do not consciously think about. For most of us, our collections weren’t planned. It started with just one impulsive Smurf purchase, and before you knew it you found yourself buying new shelving just to house them all. But answer the questions; this is where the really interesting stuff lies.

Why do you collect these things? What does it represent? Is there a central piece? What does each piece mean, and what does it mean as a collection, a whole?

At first, some of these questions may seem silly. How can you seriously discuss preserving the integrity of Smurfs, circa 1980? Or write down “why Smurfs are important to me” in 100 words or less?

But once you start to answer these questions, you are on your way to a definition. With definition comes purpose. Now you can begin to articulate what you are looking for to form, organize and complete your collection.

This article was previously published at CollectorsQuest (October, 23, 2006); it is being shown here as an example of my work, per contract with CQ.

Getting A Leg Up in the 1930s

Last week we were in Wisconsin helping the in-laws get set up for their next estate sale.   Among all the breweriana, old cars, and used tools where a large number of old photos and photo albums.

When you go through photo albums, you never know what might catch your eye  — and in this case, several photos of this young lady struck a chord with us:

Dorothy Hess

Being one-legged wasn’t the only thing:  to be a young — late teens or early twenties — and a woman, and missing a leg, would seem to be a unique combination.   Was it an accident?  Or was she born this way?

As we pored through the albums, we saw several of her, alone and with family, and the question of how she lost her leg lingered.   But, I thought:  surely, a young woman losing a leg would be newsworthy, so I turned to the online newspaper archives I have subscriptions to.

To our surprise, not only did I find the reason for her missing leg, but it turns out young Dorothy was a nationwide sensation, bestowed with 15 minutes of fame a decade earlier.Dorothy Hess Walks For First Time In MonthsThat is 11-year-old Dorothy Hess in 1938:  this picture ran in newspapers all across the United States.   Dorothy’s leg was amputated the previous spring due to a bone infection.  She took quickly to her crutches, but her loss attracted the sympathy of one of her neighbors.

George Kiebler, president of Milwaukee district council of the U. A. W., lived just up the street from the Hess household.  A plan soon came together.

Newspapers report that “someone” close to Dorothy knew of “a man who procured an artificial leg as a premium for 46,000 cigar coupons.”  For many years — and until very recently —  collecting bands, cards, or labels from tobacco products could yet you prizes by picking an item from the tobacco company catalog and mailing the ‘currency’ in.   But, an artificial leg?   It’s a stretch, but, well, it was the 1930s, and with WWI battlefield injuries still relatively fresh in people’s memories, I suppose a wooden leg might be something you could redeem cigar bands for.

Whether or not the 46,000 cigar coupon wooden leg redemption was true, Kiebler and the Hess family put the plan into action.   Using his position in the UAW to Dorothy’s advantage, Kiebler asked union-members across the entire United States to cut the union labels from their packs of cigarettes and mail them to Dorothy, so that she would have enough by Christmas to procure an 11-year-old sized prosthetic leg of her very own.

And, those coupons started rolling in:  auto workers cut the union labels from their cigarette packs, and the postman brought them by the sackload every day, dropping them off at Dorothy’s house:

Dorothy Hess With Tobacco Coupons

The caption says that, as of October 1938, Dorothy had 43,900 coupons — just 2,100 short of the goal, according to the apocryphal story of the tobacco-currency artificial leg that started the quest.

However: whether 43,000, or 46,000, or 100,000 — the little pieces of paper in Dorothy’s hands would not be able to purchase an artificial leg, nor anything else.

Much to the surprise of the UAW leader, collecting the union labels from the tobacco packages wasn’t the currency needed to purchase anything from a tobacco catalog.

Upon finding out that they were collecting the wrong coupons, word went out quickly to begin collecting the correct tobacco labels to mail them as quickly as possible, in hopes of getting Dorothy a leg for Christmas.

By mid-December, the new influx of the correct tobacco coupons had amassed over 20,000 of the little slips of paper, which were redeemed for cash from the tobacco company.  Using the money, the UAW was able to buy Dorothy her first artificial leg, which was delivered December 19th, just in time for Christmas.

The second photo above, of Dorothy and her brother, was taken that morning.  Newspapers reported that Dorothy said it was “better than getting a new doll”, and that she was “going to practice walking very hard so {she} can throw away {her} crutches soon.”

The photos of older Dorothy, however, don’t seem to indicate she was able to go without crutches very long.  We hope that the 11-year-old-sized prosthetic leg gave her the opportunity to walk for at least a few years, but it would seem that as she grew out of the leg she didn’t replace it, returning to crutches by her late teen years.

It just goes to show you never know what you might find at an estate sale — everything might have a story, even on that connects union workers and cigarette companies to a young girl’s wooden leg.   The estate sale with Dorothy’s photos starts next Tuesday, November 1st.

Collecting Halloween: The History of Halloween Postcards & Costumes

Like all collectors, collectors of Halloween items are busy collecting all year ‘round. Unlike most collectors, however, Halloween collectors find discussion and articles about their category of collecting mainly relegated to the month of October only. Here’s is one such article. *wink*

The two most popular categories of vintage and antique Halloween collectibles are postcards and costumes.

The most popular Halloween postcards are from the Golden Age of postcards, which began in the USA with the Private Mailing Card Act of 1898 and lasted until about 1918. While many of these postcards were designed and published in the USA by names such John O. Winsch, International Art Publishing Company, and Raphael Tuck & Sons; the cards themselves were printed in Germany. Superior lithographic techniques combined with inexpensive wages made Germany the place for printing up until WWI. (German printing never quite recovered after the war.)

halloween-bewitching-vintage-postcardThe number one reason for collecting antique Halloween or Hallowe’en postcards are for the graphics, of course. There are plenty of jack o’lanterns, black cats, and witches — from comical to scary. As with postcard collecting in general, the hold-to-light postcards and those with fringed borders are among the most rare and sought after. But another area that is quite popular with collectors are the romantic Halloween cards.

Many of these romantic postcards offer the traditional Halloween fare of witches and cats. Sometimes there are simply ladies with icons or symbols of witchcraft, such as cauldrons, clocks, mirrors, and potions. But with these cards it is the messages which are most charm-ing. While some of these old postcards offer sweet sentiments and courtship rituals, others go a step further into the magic of love. Quite obviously directed at young and/or single women, these antique Halloween postcards have a parlor game fortune telling aspect or offer bewitching true love spells.

Halloween costumes are nearly as old as Halloween postcards, however most true antique Halloween costumes were made to be scary — and made to be worn by adults at rather wild carnival-type events featuring drinking and other rowdy behaviors. It wasn’t until the Victorian era that American’s toned the holiday down and focused it mainly on children.

vintage-antique-halloween-costumesThese early costumes were handmade, rather more like simple theatrical costumes than the pop culture icon costumes we think of today. Some were actually just festive garments featuring holiday colors and decorations.

However, by the late 1930s, with The Great Depression having put many theatres and other live performance events out of business, professional costume companies began to try to save their business by mass-producing Halloween costumes for children. The most famous of these companies, and most popular names in Halloween costumes among collectors, were A.S. Fishbach and Ben Cooper.

Fishbach was the first to secure major licensing rights — and with Walt Disney Company yet. But Cooper Inc. quickly assumed control of Fishbach, and by 1937 was producing Donald Duck, Snow White, and other Disney character costumes under the name Fishbach’s Spotlight brand. By 1942, Fishbach and Cooper would merge and the Fishbach name would be but a footnote in Halloween costume history. The Golden Age of Television would usher in the near death of homemade costumes, and Ben Cooper would capitalize on this by being one of the first to not only license popular TV and film characters but to get costumes on the shelves quickly. This cemented the company’s place as one of the biggest Halloween costume companies.

vintage-ghosts-with-signs-1960sThe homemade Halloween costumes are more rare; however, those commercial made costumes are often those which inspire more nostalgia and so can be quite pricey. In either case, if you can’t afford to collect vintage or antique Halloween costumes (or simply don’t have the space to display them all), many collectors opt for photographs featuring people in Halloween costumes. These can be far less expensive and take up a lot less room. Plus, there’s a lot of personality in these old snapshots — no two ghosts are quite alike!

Halloween collectors (like collectors of other holiday items) often find shopping for their collectibles is rather limited to the holiday season itself. Like shopping for contemporary holiday merchandise, antique shops (online and off) make a special effort to list and display holiday wares during holiday time. The good news is that you can find sales right after the holiday has passed, just like in most retail shops. And Halloween items for sale “out of season” may be lower priced as well. So if you’re reading this after the holiday, take heart — you can still find great Halloween collectibles, and possibly at a better price too.

Image credits: Bewitching Halloween postcard; vintage homemade Halloween costumes; vintage Halloween photo.

Doll Prehistory

Dolls have been around nearly as long as humans have been on this earth. Small human-shaped figurines carved of mammoth ivory dating back to 28,000 and 35,000 years ago were found in Germany. And many believe dolls go back even further in our prehistory too; but, as these even older dolls were likely made of wood and fur, they have long since decayed and therefore no longer exist to be found.

antique-egyption-rag-dollSince those very early days of doll-kind, other ancient dolls have been discovered made of wood, clay, ivory, marble, stone, bone, leather, cloth, wax, and even papyrus. Not all early dolls were overly simple pieces either. In fact, jointed dolls of clay existed in ancient Egypt, and a fragment of an alabaster doll with movable arms was found in ancient Babylon. That means articulated dolls date back to thousands of years before the birth of Jesus Christ and the start of our current, Gregorian, calendar system!

While we see dolls with movable limbs as having been created to delight children, many archaeologists say that such jointed dolls were charms, created simply to make noise — noise designed to keep bad things away. Truth be told, there is a lot of debate among professionals as to whether these early prehistoric and ancient dolls were first and primarily made for religious reasons, or if they were the playthings of children.

In ancient Egypt, for example, there are many dolls found. Dolls were so popular, that there’s archaeological evidence of an ancient Egyptian doll factory!

paddledollAmong the oldest, dating to 3000–2000 BC, are the flat wooden dolls with strands of hair made of sun-baked clay strung on flax thread. These ancient Egyptian dolls seem to emphasize the female form, especially the hips. The wide hips of these dolls have earned them the name “paddle dolls”. The more exaggerated female shape of these “paddle dolls” leads the experts to believe they are fertility dolls, much like the Venus of Willendorf, and not toys.

While we can thank the Egyptians and their elaborate burial rituals for preserving so many of these ancient dolls, the very fact that dolls were included in burial chambers and tombs has lead many to believe that dolls had more to do with religious ideas of death and afterlife than with the life of a child. However, since a number of dolls have survived simply due to the arid environment deftly preserving them, we have other evidence of dolls in Egypt.

When it comes ancient Egyptian dolls, clay dolls seem to have been the most common. For living along the Nile meant everyone had access to the two basic ingredients in sun-baked clay dolls: clay and the sun. Therefore, as strange as it may seem to us, wooden dolls and rag dolls made of cloth (often stuffed with papyrus as well as textile scraps) were more costly than clay and not so available for everyone. But while those dolls may have been more expensive (and, by today’s thinking, more coveted), clay dolls seem to have been very popular among children. No matter what level of society they lived in. That’s probably because the children themselves could make and “bake” their very own clay doll designs. Not unlike what many children do today with modeling clay.

When and how dolls truly became the playthings of childhood is very open to debate. In some cultures, old and new, dolls are made for use in religious ceremonies; however, once the ceremony is over, the ceremonial dolls are “retired” and given to children as playthings.

In ancient Greece and Rome, the lines between dolls for religious ritual and childhood pastime appear to have a very different trek — and an exceptionally poignant connection.

bone-doll-with-articulated-limbsDating back to at least 200 BC, many dolls in Greece and Rome had jointed limbs that moved, and some even had removeable clothing too. Then, as now, doll clothing was as fashionable and up-to-date as what young ladies and women of the day were wearing. (It’s difficult to imagine that such clothing would be purely for religious reasons.) We know this from the number of young girls buried with dolls. Most dolls found in the tombs of children were very simple creations made of terracotta, rags, wood, or bone. However, some of the more unique dolls, designed to look as lifelike as possible, were made of ivory or wax.

There also are the stories and images from ancient Greece which depict little girls playing with dolls. And, in fact, the ancient Greek word “kore”, which literally means “little girl”, was also applied to dolls. This takes on an even more powerful meaning when a young Greco-Roman girl came of age.

As a Greco-Roman girl approached marital age, she would dedicate her doll to a goddess. This doll dedication was a gift presentation given to the goddess in hopes of receiving the blessing of fertility during marriage. When she became a woman, she would literally put away her childish things!

While the archaeological record may seem confusing in terms of the true origins and purpose of dolls in human history, it is not difficult to imagine that children would be fascinated by miniature versions of people. No matter what the original purpose of dolls, children would want to play with them.

Image Credits (in order of appearance): Egyptian rag doll, paddle doll, and ancient Grecian bone doll with articulated limbs.

Curator of Your Own Museum: Part One

some-of-my-collection-deanna-dahlsadPerhaps you resist the notion that as a collector you have your own museum. Maybe you (still) imagine that a museum must be significantly historical or be meaningful to society at large. But let me tell you, if other folks believed that their collection had no value, then we would be without the Burlingame Museum of Pez Memorabilia, the Museum of Bad Art, the Cockroach Hall of Fame Museum, and the Lunchbox Museum. (The latter is recognized by the Smithsonian, yet!) Yet these and many other ‘strange little museums’ have hundreds of visitors (or more) each year. Even if the number of visitors who would make a pilgrimage &/or pay to see your collection is a very small one, your collection does have merit and meaning.

Do you still think your collection is undesirable and uninteresting? Then ask yourself this: Do you have people bidding against you at auctions?

Yeah, I thought so. *wink*

See, your collection is interesting. You have a collection, you have a museum; that’s pretty clear-cut to me.

As with any museum, there is a curator: You. You are responsible for shaping and preserving the collection.

You may not have thought of yourself as a curator before, so let’s look at what one is.

The U.S. Department of Labor says, “Curators direct the acquisition, storage, and exhibition of collections, including negotiating and authorizing the purchase, sale, exchange, or loan of collections. They are also responsible for authenticating, evaluating, and categorizing the specimens in a collection. Curators oversee and help conduct the institution’s research projects and related educational programs. Today, an increasing part of a curator’s duties involves fundraising and promotion, which may include the writing and reviewing of grant proposals, journal articles, and publicity materials, as well as attendance at meetings, conventions, and civic events.”

This boils down to three rather natural steps for most collectors.

Step One: Acquisition
This is rather simple; it’s the collecting part. In the process of adding pieces to your collection you automatically authenticate and evaluate items to see what pieces are worth your investment. Like any museum, you have a budget which prevents you from having it all. Sometimes you get lucky; you can afford it, so you buy it. Sometimes though, you want it, want it bad, but it’s too expensive. So then you have to save funds as you watch and wait for another like it — or you may may get more creative. You might arrange a trade for other items in your collection, take out a loan (even if it is just from your spouse), or make payments over time. ‘Real museums’ do this too, only they call it negotiating an exchange, finding a benefactor, or fundraising.

Step Two: Storage and Display
Like any other museum curator you worry about how to best show off your collection. Not only should the items be shown to their best advantage, but done so in a way which does not harm them. Depending upon your particular collection this may be as simple as keeping them out of reach of small children or as challenging as shielding the items from the environment at large. Protecting items may mean higher shelves; protective cases, sleeves, or framing; or even storing them out of sight so that they live to see another decade. Sometimes even the best curators at the largest museums will have to pass on a piece simply because they do not have the room or the ability to properly store the item.

Step Three: Exhibition and Education
The more committed you are to your collection, the more knowledge you gain. The more passionate you are about your collection, the more you want to share both your knowledge and your collection. Through this you become an expert. You don’t have to be collecting something for 25 years in order to be an expert. Maybe your collection is a very unique set of items. (It need not be due to the rarity of the items themselves, but in their context to one another.) Or maybe your collection is so specific & limited that it requires you to be an expert in some small niche area. But one way or another, collecting eventually leads to the collector, the curator, becoming an expert.

As an expert you may be asked to share your collection in a more public venue. It may be a casual exhibit at a Scout meeting or local library, or a more prestigious event at an art gallery or state historical society. Now you are “loaning your acquisitions.” It might be that you are asked to write a paper for your collecting newsletter, share photos of your collection in an author’s book, speak at a local collectibles show, or help evaluate items in an estate. Now you are a curator “promoting” the collection.

Of course, being out in the public means you are also more visible to others, making acquisitions even easier. And the circle continues…

See? You’ve been acting as a curator of your own museum for quite some time now.

This article was previously published at CollectorsQuest (October, 16, 2006); it is being shown here as an example of my work, per contract with CQ.

Repairing Broken Or Missing Hangers On Vintage Chalkware Plaques Or Plaster Wall Art

When most people hear “chalkware” or “plaster” they think of those funny animal pieces and rip-offs of comic characters — the cheap prizes hawked by carnival barkers. Even at the circus and those old country fairs there were more delicate home decor pieces to be found. Some, like my harlequin Great Dane dog statue are really lovely. But there’s more than statues in the world of plaster & chalkware. Among the most popular chalkware collecting areas are the pieces by Miller Studios, like white poodle heads plaques. There are so many styles, you can literally plaster the walls!

miller-studios-vintage-plaster-poodles

Since chalkware and plaster of Paris items are fragile, no matter what their age, many pieces were damaged and thrown away. Surviving items may have chips and/or paint problems. Some collectors will make repairs, especially quick touch ups with paint, but I prefer the charm of a ‘flawed’ piece.

vintage-chalkware-plaques-pink-and-black-dancers

However, if the old wire hangers or staples on their backs have been broken (or completely lost), what do you do? You can’t just hammer in a replacement — you’ll shatter the chalk!

Once upon a time, there were these little picture hanger things with squares of rectangles or cloth on them… Do you remember those? The cloth was moistened, activating a glue-type adhesive. They looked rather like these on the back of these Wanda Irwin pieces. Only the ones I was thinking of had metal grommets securing the holes.

hangers-on-Wanda-Irwin-pieces

I went searching for them; but after three different stores, they must have gone the way of window shades: Practical things of the past one could only find online. You can find them online; but I was working on setting up the new antique booths and needed to fix the vintage poodle plaques now!

We have handfuls of the metal “toothed” picture hangers, but I needed a safe way to attach them to the plaster. Safe enough not to break the plaster when attached — and strong enough to make sure the plaques wouldn’t fall off the walls when hung.

First, I placed the sawtooth picture hanger on the back of the plaster plaque, where I wanted to attach it. Using a pencil, I traced the holes in the hangers. Once the hanger was taken away, I applied a rather generous dot of Liquid Nails over each of the penciled markings. Then, gently, but firmly, I pressed the metal hangers in place. Some of the adhesive oozed through the holes in the hangers — which is what I wanted. This is about securing the hangers, and therefore the future of the vintage plaster plaques; not about how neat it looks on the back.

I let the glue set over night. The next morning, I used a glue gun and applied a good layer of hot glue over the ends of the metal hangers, covering the Liquid Nails as well. I let that set for the day, and then, when I went to set up the new shop space, I carefully hung the vintage chalk plaques in place. Again, the backs may not look super (Did they ever, with those rusting staples?!), but the pieces are safely secured.

vintage-plaster-chalk-plaques-back

PS The kitschy plaster poodle plaques (from Miller Studio) and the pair of vintage plaster dancer plaques (in pink and black!) are available for purchase in our space at the new Fargo-Moorhead antique mall. If interested, feel free to contact me.

fixing-plaster-chalkware-hangers

Marilyn Monroe Still Alluring At 90

marilyn monroe blowing out candle on cakeI continually swear that I’m not going to write, again, about Marilyn; but here I am again

I may have been able to to get away with a wistful smile & a re-Tweet or two in the honor of her 90th birthday. But then I discovered of the photo show in honor of the icon’s birthday — and from there, a very important fact that I had missed for low these X years.

In 2010, a collection of Marilyn’s personal journals, poems, letters, and the like was published in Fragments: Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters by Marilyn Monroe, edited by Stanley Buchthal and Bernard Comment. (Can you even imagine having access to such intimate ephemera?!)

monroe notebook

As Lucy Bolton notes at the BBC, “This shows how the process of writing was integral to Monroe’s self care and well being. She could also be honest here, perhaps in a way that she couldn’t be elsewhere.” Including both the cruel and the kind. It’s the self-talk that fascinates me the most. Again from Bolton:

In her so-called Record notebook from around 1955 she writes that her “first desire was to be an actress” and that she is striving to work fully and sensitively, “without being ashamed of it”. Her drive to work on herself and her craft was merciless: “I can and will help myself and work on things analytically no matter how painful”, and she notes in her notebook a single line, “having a sense of myself” – as if the words ground her in some way and remind her of what she needs to keep in mind.

This is not just to be coveted for the personal diary of a celebrity aspect. This is the self-reflective artist at work.

remember there is nothing you lack – nothing to be self conscious about yourself – you have everything but the discipline and technique which you are learning and seeking on your own

And it’s the documentation of a woman’s life, which I find supremely interesting, most poignant, relateable. How many of us, sadly, can relate to these words of Monroe?

I guess I have always been deeply terrified to really be someone’s wife since I know from life one cannot love another, ever, really… starting tomorrow I will take care of myself for that’s all I really have and as I see it now have ever had

This is the stuff you miss when you swear off your collecting, your obsession. Oh, but how easy it is to be pulled back in! Another book on the wishlist. No; scratch that. I think I’ll buy myself a birthday gift early. I’m convinced it’s what Marilyn would want me to do.

Things That Go To Make Up A Life

In What Is Left Behind, photographer Norm Diamond takes a look at what most collectors see at estate sales: the cycle of life. And then he photographs the objects. Among the artfully preserved poignant moments, a bride’s wedding dress and photo (as well as her wedding night lingerie), and a burial receipt for a young mother and her baby who had died in an automobile accident…

norm diamond brides dress and photo

vintage wedding night lingerie by norm diamond

burial receipt photograph norm diamond

Diamond is now retired, but he previously worked with very ill people as an interventional radiologist. In an interview at Slate, Diamond admits his career likely affected him and this series:

I didn’t realize it until I had retired, but I think when you deal with people who are sick and dying all the time, your outlook on life is different than people who aren’t subjected to that. You don’t tend to be a glass-is-half-full person; you see some of the poignancy of life and some of the sad, tragic things that occur and that maybe part of where I’m coming from.

Diamond photographs some of the objects there at the estate sales; others he purchases and takes home to photograph. Either way, it’s a very moving series which reminds me yet again of that perfect line in Genesis’s Home By The Sea:

Images of sorrow, pictures of delight
things that go to make up a life

You can purchase copies of Diamond’s photographs here.

Amazing Authentic Elvis Items Up For Auction!

The upcoming Auction At Graceland includes a special section of early Elvis merchandising memorabilia from various owners and includes rare items from the collection of Darlene Parker Tafua, daughter of Ed and Leilani Parker. (Ed Parker was a martial artist who ran the Kenpo Karate Studio in Pasadena, California; Parker trained Elvis Presley along with other stunt men and celebrities.)

rare 1970 promotional photo been signed by Elvis

Among the standout Elvis items are signed items — my favorite is the autographed cocktail napkin from the Thunderbird Hotel.

elvis auto on vintage Thunderbird Hotel Cocktail Napkin Vegas

And how about the original receipt for Elvis and Priscilla’s Wedding at the Aladdin Hotel in Vegas?

It was quite the shindig! More than $10,000 in charges for the chartered flight, the limos, the judge, the champagne, the fruit baskets, the security (of course), the musicians, the gloves and the floral arrangements. No expense was spared by Elvis for his blushing bride Priscilla and their guests, who assumed two suites and 21 rooms at the Aladdin. The bill was sent to the William Morris Agency in Beverly Hills and this copy to Colonel Parker at MGM Studios. We know this because of the included (and formerly paper-clipped) note concerning possibly being double-charged for the private jet flight. It is written in pencil and reads: “Jim: – Is this in order to pay – How about the plane chg [charge]? Remember pmt [payment] to Lear Jet in amt [amount] of 1774.50 – Please call me Pattie.” Accompanied by a letter of authenticity from Graceland Authenticated. Each page measures approximately 10 by 6 1/2 inches (25.4 x 16.51 cm).

vintage receipt for elvis wedding vegas aladdin ephemera

But perhaps my absolute favorite is the jacket Elvis Presley wore in Viva Las Vegas in that dance scene with Ann-Margret. Hot!

Elvis Presley Jacket from the Viva Las Vegas Dance Scene with Ann-Margret

elvis and Ann-Margret dance in Viva Las Vegas

This Elvis auction is held by Invaluable (formerly Artfact):

Elvis touched the hearts and lives of fans across the globe, and our goal for the Elvis Week 2015 Auction at Graceland was to include artifacts from across the spectrum of collecting, including items owned by Elvis, gifted by Elvis, written by Elvis, used by Elvis and created to promote the king and his career.

This Elvis auction starts at 7:00 PM CST on August 13, 2015; online bidding is available.

Help! I Was Framed – And Did Not Like It

DSC00221

Pick: Well, Grin, nice find! Those old promotional booklets from WESTVACO Printing and Publishing should be popular. Entitled “Westvaco Inspirations for Printers”, they have a lot of neat advertising pictures, ready to frame! The paper is much more solid than magazine “tear sheets”, they are nice quality pages. The pages are marked with the specialty type of paper used, pretty cool! Let’s pull some out and look for frames!

DSC00236Grin: What? Are you crazy? These will be much better as a whole booklet. Lovers of  “Advertising from the Golden Age”, the 1920s and 30s, will be delighted to have these in their collection.

Pick: But check out some of those ads. The artists are top-of-the-line and even the articles, like the one on Will Bradley, is framable! And pictures by Robert Cheveux, Cavarrubias, Will Hollingsworth, Maxfield Parish, these are incredible.

Grin: I just do not have the heart to tear these up. Although, I do agree that the page showing the Erte’ ad for nylon stockings is awesome. I can see it in a period frame, perhaps in a bathroom or on a vanity.

DSC00225Pick: So I am swaying you, huh? That’s hard to believe since you have that stubborn Austrian gene from your dad.

Grin: Stubborn? My dad and I argued all the time over who was most stubborn and I believe I won (meaning HE was more bull-headed.)
In any case, no, I am not convinced.

Pick: Well, if not separated, what will you do with them? Coffee table books have lost popularity (at least since Kramer had his pop-up book.)

Grin: Well, we have a daughter who loves ephemera and her husband is a “font-lover”, so perhaps they’d like to check them out before we decide what to do.

DSC00233Pick: Well, how would it be if you listed just one of them on-line. Maybe you’ll get some information on their value or what type of buyer might be inclined to purchase these.

Grin: That sounds perfect for Etsy. It just might work. For once, we have reached a pleasant compromise. Dad would be proud!

[Editor’s Note: Westvaco, originally the Piedmont Pulp and Paper Company and then The West Virginia Pulp and Paper Company, became MeadWestvaco when it merged with The Mead Corporation in January, 2002. You can find the first listing of these Westvaco. publications here!]

I Go Dotty Over A Vintage Mid-Century Modern Brass Metal Lipstick Tube & Case

Who wouldn’t go dotty over this fabulous Mid-Century modern lipstick tube with polka-dots!

vintage metal brass lipstick case tube vanity collectible

The golden dots in the ivory enamel or paint expose the gold-tone metal beneath it. (Both the vintage lipstick tube and case are all metal, likely brass.) Remnants of the old lipstick remain inside — but you know these old tubes can be refilled, right?

vintage polkadot lipstick tube case

But what’s really driving me dotty is not knowing who made this beauty as there’s no label or marking for brand or maker.

mid-century modern polkadot lipstick tube case (1)

The fluted bottom is like many of the vintage and retro Yardley lipstick cases, but the top on this case is much rounder and more domed than the on those in the London Look or Slicker collections…

vintage yardley mod slickers metal lipstick tube

Perhaps this is an early design from the 1950s or early 1960s by Yardley?

Britemode also made a dotty lipstick case (and matching compact), but the Britemode’s base is not fluted nor is the top as tall or rounded.

vintage Britemode metal lipstick compact set

And older Britemode lipstick case has a fluted tube bottom; but not a domed top. Plus, it appears the Britemode lipstick tubes are stamped and embossed on the bottom.

vintage Britemode cosmetic set lipstick case

stamped bottom of vintage Britemode metal lippy

And so I remain stumped.

If you can identify the maker, let me know!

This vintage polkadot metal lipstick tube and case measures approximately 2 3/4 inches tall, from bottom of fluted base to round dome top. And it is 3/4 of an inch in diameter on bottom (widest part).

vintage vanity metail brass lipstick case

The Joy and Tribulation of The Antique Dealer

No Egrets Antiques
No Egrets Antiques

No Egrets Antiques has just completed our third antique show of this new year. Our first was held in West Bend, WI in January. Cold, but the snow kept away and turn-out was very high! As always, the N. L. Promotions’ events are well attended and offer top-quality vendors.

The second was in Wausau, WI on a very cold winter weekend. At this time of year Wausau is snow ski country and the sport is for the hardy outdoor types.  But we were set up inside the D.C. Everett High School and the droves of customers provided our booth with constant action for two full days. They came to buy! This show and our St. Norbert’s Show were put on by AR Promotions and Audre’ and Ray really do things right.

This last endeavor was a flip of what we had expected. Weather was kind to us, but buyers were not. The venue was at St. Norbert Collage in DePere, WI, and the gym was filled with many of the same dealers that were in Wausau.  We were very pleased to see the crowds pour thru on both Saturday and Sunday. But!!  After talking with many of our friendly competing dealers, the consensus was that the visitors left their purses and wallets at home. Still a good show, but not up to our expectations.

And so goes the life of an antique dealer. Wait until our next show. We’ll bring better antiques or maybe lower end items.  Better glass, or depression glass? Probably not, it is not selling up to its potential.  Victorian period? No, we need to bring more Mid Century Modern. Sports items? Always hot. Jewelry always sells so do post cards. Yippee! Post cards and jewelry. And probably some delightful prints and paintings for home decorating This is also a great show for outdoor items for your yard decor and also heavy-metal for your man-cave. That’s what we will bring to our next event.

Our next show will be in Elkhorn, WI, (another N.L. event) and it’s always a super show for both collectors and decorators and sellers, with Inherited Values and No Egrets in booths next to each other – Row two # 216.

See you soon.

 

Miniature Bibles On Greeting Cards

Did you know you can get a patent for a Bible? Not a copyright, but a patent? If so, why did it take until the 1940s? These were some of the questions I had when I discovered this vintage Christmas card with a miniature Bible on it.

christmasbiblecard

The small Bible, measuring 1 by 1 1/2 inches, is tied onto the card with a ribbon. Untie the ribbon, slide it out of the card, and you have a miniature Bible. According to press at the time, the miniature Bible contains 220 pages of the New Testament plus the 23d Psalm.

Made by the Sorin Bible & Card Co. of Cincinnati, Ohio, the back of the card carries the following information:

Copyright 1943 — Patent No. 136006
The use of a miniature Bible and Prayer book on a greeting card is prohibited unless by permission.

In performing searches, I’ve found various other greeting card themes with the little Bible, including this very patriotic one.

As far as I was able to ascertain, the patent lasted about three years… If anyone can add to the story, please share!

Dolls Connect Generations: 11 Tips For Taking Care Of Your Collectible Dolls

I Bet There Were A Lot Of Handmedown Dolls In This Family!
I Bet There Were A Lot Of Handmedown Dolls In This Family!

Unlike other toys which may come and go in popularity, dolls continue to connect generations.

Little girls have long played with dolls, emulating their mothers. Meanwhile, little boys played with model railroad sets. (Well, sometimes little boys watched Dad play with the model railroad; the boys themselves waiting until they were old enough to be allowed to play too!) But as less railroads criss-cross the country now, as technology advances creating remote control cars and new-fangled gadgets to play with, the generational connections once made via model trains and even other transportation toys has nearly faded into the past. Of course, parenting and caring for babies and children hasn’t become a thing of the past; so dolls remain popular and continue to connect generations.

It’s this continued shared love of dolls which keeps dolls at the top of “most popular” lists for antiques and collectibles year after year!

However, if you want your doll to survive so that it can be handed down to the next and even future generations, you’ll want to take precautions to preserve it.

Caring For Your Dolls

 You know those TV commercials for dental whitening products that say, “If you aren’t whitening, you’re yellowing”? Well, dolls can be seen in the same way. The deteriorating effects of aging are breaking them down, and, if you aren’t preserving, you’re just letting the damage happen — maybe even compounding the problems.

While you can’t stop the aging (of yourself or the dolls!), you can slow it down with these eleven tips for doll care.

1) Protect your dolls from light. Sunlight, especially direct sunlight, is the worst; but florescent and incandescent lighting is also damaging. Not only will bright light fade the colors of most textiles, but it can also fade and damage various doll materials, including the vinyl and other plastics. Direct and/or bright lighting can also create a lot of heat, which can also cause a lot of problems for dolls. Use lighting and/or glass with ultra-violet filters for the best protection.

2) Protect your dolls from dust, smoke, pests, pets, and other environmental contaminants. Display your dolls in a glass cabinet (with proper lighting, that can be turned off when it’s not necessary) whenever possible. Glass shelves are non-reactive and therefore are safe for displaying dolls and their costumes.

3) Safely position dolls. Crowding dolls is dangerous. Not only does reaching for one risk knocking another over — or worse yet, a domino effect! — but you risk snags, scratches, and other damages. Crowding can also result in damage your doll outfits by crushing the textile fibers. Sleep dolls, dolls with inset eyes, and bisque dolls with eyes that move must be stored face down or displayed upright. The eye mechanisms are heavy, and if the doll is laid on its back, gravity will pull the eyes back into the doll’s head and/or break the mechanism itself. Beware doll stands. While your doll may look more presentable on a stand, the stress of her own weight against the stand can cause damage to the doll. Also, the metal of the doll stand itself may react with the doll or the doll’s costume, causing staining and tears. Support the bisque heads of dolls, even when they are sitting, as vibrations from general house activities may cause the heads to topple off the doll and break.

4) Beware of acids. Dolls should not be kept in their original boxes, as the acid in the cardboard and paper can actually damage the dolls and the costumes with a slow acid burning which appears as tanning. When storing dolls, remove the doll’s clothing or place acid-free tissue between the doll and her clothing. Unless you are using archival acid-free boxes, use more acid-free paper to protect the doll and clothing from the acid in cardboard boxes. The same is true of wooden surfaces, such as shelves, as the dangerous part of regular tissue, cardboard, or other paper is the acid from wood called lignin. A few layers of acid-free paper or unbleached muslin is enough of a barrier of protection. Dolls should not be stored wearing jewelry or clothing and shoes with metal buckles, etc., as the metal can create the dreaded “green spots” on vinyl dolls, rust on textiles, snag or scratch dolls and their outfits.

5) Pad cloth dolls and costumes. Use acid-free paper or unbleached muslin to support joints and other weak areas of cloth bodied dolls in storage. Parts of doll costumes, such as full sleeves and skirts, may need to be supported while in storage or on display too. Acid-free tissue paper will also help keep the garment’s shape while preventing textiles from creasing or touching, and accelerating damage.

6) Keep your dolls and their clothing clean. Even dolls in display cases can become dirty. Dust your doll collection regularly, and inspect the dolls for signs of pests or damages. For wigs, clothing, delicate trims, etc. you may use a vacuum with a nylon stocking over the hose to act as a screen which protects such light materials from the suction action.

7) Avoid water. Avoid washing your dolls, doll wigs, and clothing, as most dust and dirt becomes very acidic when mixed with water. Wooden, composition, and paper mache dolls should never be washed as water is their enemy. Caracul, mohair, wool, and wigs made of human hair do not like to be washed or wetted either. Regular dusting alleviates the need of washing.

8) Store dolls in safe places. If you have a large number of dolls, so many that you cannot display them all, beware storing them in attics, basements, closets along outside walls, and other places with temperature extremes or swings in temperatures. Similarly, humidity is a danger. Heat degrades composition and plastics (celluloid can even explode from heat!); excessive heat or too little humidity can cause dehydration of the fibers; and high heat and humidity can make the doll’s clothing bleed and stain the doll, her accessories, and other parts of her dress. Very cold temperatures can crack or craze composition and papier mache; too much humidity encourages the growth of mold, mildew, and fungus. Repeated swings and fast changes in these environmental changes exponentially hasten the damages. Thankfully, dolls do well in the same general temperatures and humidity levels we humans are comfortable with.

9) Avoid storing dolls in plastics, like rubber bins and plastic bags. These can trap in moisture, leading to mold and mildew. Plus, plastics give off gases that can damage dolls and and doll clothing alike. If you opt for plastic storage, puncture air holes to allow for circulation which allows the gasses to escape.

10) Beware the chemical reactions of mothballs. Mothballs and moth crystals contain chemical pesticides which can have bad reactions with vinyl, metal, and even feathers. If you must use mothballs or moth crystals to store dolls and fashions, be absolutely certain they do not come in contact with the dolls or textiles.

11) Don’t forget about your dolls. Think of display and storage as temporary situations. Remember to periodically take your dolls out from where they sit, dust them off, and inspect them for signs of pests or damages. Any dolls or items having — or which are suspected of having — insects or mold or fungus should be removed and isolated from the rest of the collection to avoid contaminating the rest of the collection. Regular inspection and repositioning of your dolls also gives your dolls, their clothing, and accessories time to breath, which helps avoids other decay issues.

Whether your dolls are in an old fragile state, freshly repaired, like-new, or brand new, these tips will ensure your dolls will live to connect to the next generation.

My Dad With Polly Dolly - Click The Photo For The Full Story
My Dad With Polly Dolly – Click The Photo For The Full Story

Mapping Out Your Antiquing

Whether your antiquing trips are local or you hit the road to search far and wide, there are a number of antique networks offering maps to help you discover places to haunt & hunt.

antique shopping mapThe Minnesota Antique Network, along with sister state sites Illinois Antique Network.com, Iowa Antique Network, Missouri Antique Network, Nebraska Antique Network, & Wisconsin Antique Network (with plans for more states to follow), offers an easy means for you to map out your antiquing destinations. Along with maps, these sites offer a glimpse into the shops themselves, with photos and descriptions of items available, shop news & events, specialties, etc. This offers the collector, decorator, or avid junker the chance to create a travel or shopping plan that is most likely to appeal to your specific interests and tastes. It is especially helpful if they offer shop hours, so you can plan to get their when they are open.

Of course, some state travel sites and local antique dealer associations offer similar help, as do sites such as AntiqueMalls.com. And I Antique Online offers some shopping directories too. But this currently mostly Midwest network of antique shops by state often makes it easier to start. Plus, each of the state sites has a FaceBook Page as well, which is especially nice for connecting to antique shops in your area. (The shops that have FaceBook pages, anyway.)

Since the shops must pay for placement at these sites, it’s a good idea to always ask the antique store staff what other antique shops are nearby as well as grab the other literature found in the shops so that you won’t miss anything.

PS If you prefer antiquing apps, there’s also the Antique Week app; sadly, it’s only currently available for Apple products like iPhones and iPads. Though there are electronic versions of their Shop Guide directories to use with GPS devices such as Garmin & TOMTOM. The aforementioned antique networks organized by state are also working on mobile versions — fingers-crossed that tech comes soon!

Salvaged Antique Church Fixtures and Furnishings

This past July, a fire broke-out in the historic St. John’s Lutheran Church on the grounds of Bonanzaville in West Fargo, North Dakota. Bonanzaville, a pioneer village with 12 acres, 43 historic buildings, 400,000 artifacts, “and millions of memories” is operated by the Cass County Historical Society. The church was not only a preserved historical building, but it still served as a place for many weddings. After the fire, pieces were salvaged from the church and they, along with hundreds of other items deaccessioned from the collections, were auctioned off to raise funds for the organization — including bringing in a new-but-old church to Bonanzaville.

Hubby and I attended the auction yesterday and stood among all the others in the cold morning air. (It was so cold, objects had frost on them!) We did purchase a number of things (Stay tuned here — and here — for more details!), but we didn’t purchase anything from the church. We did, however, take lots of photos. You can view them below. (Photos of other items from this auction can be seen here, here, here, here, and here.)

How To Wash & Care For Antique China, Vintage Glass, Silverware & Other Fine Tableware

(It’s More That “Just A Tradition!”) At holiday time, we all bring out the fancy china and silverware —  the old china and silverware if we are lucky enough to have it. Age, material, and condition issues…

Source: www.ebay.com

The Return Of The Typewriter!

We love typewriters; we sell a few of them too. So naturally I noticed this news article about The Times adding the sound of typewriters back into the newsroom. But it isn’t quite what you think…

To the surprise of Times journalists, a tall speaker on a stand has been erected in the newsroom to pump out typewriter sounds, to increase energy levels and help reporters to hit deadlines. The audio begins with the gentle patter of a single typewriter and slowly builds to a crescendo, with the keys of ranks of machines hammering down as the paper’s print edition is due to go to press.

This is only a test, so who knows how it will fare?

Also mentioned in the article is news about the Hanx Writer App from none other than typewriter aficionado Tom Hanks. (You might know him best as a movie star; but he’s a typewriter nerd too!)

Tom Hanks has developed the Hanx Writer app, which simulates the sound of an old-fashioned typewriter and has gone to the top of the iTunes app store in the US. Hanks, it noted, can tell the difference between the sounds of an Olivetti, a Remington and a Royal typewriter model.

Viva la typewriter!

PS More on the Hanx Writer at Mashable.

hanx writer typewriter app

Pawn Stars Casting (An Exclusive Interview)

Of all the TV shows about antiques and collectibles, we’re still huge fans of History’s show Pawn Stars. So we were thrilled to receive a casting call announcement from the show — and turn it into an exclusive interview with the show’s Casting Director, Martin Hardy!

Pawn-Stars-Wants-You

How does the casting process work?

We are always looking for real sellers of unique, new items and encourage anyone who is interested in selling or pawning an item to contacts us through our casting email: pawnstarstvshow@leftfieldpictures.com. We get hundreds of submissions daily from potential sellers who are looking to sell their items on the show. Our casting department works very hard identifying rare and unique items that we have not shot with before but that also tell an interesting historical story.

Once we receive a great item that we feel is right for the show, we generally notify the seller to grab some more key information about it. Then we present it to the guys at the Gold &Silver Pawn shop to see if it is something that they would be interested in purchasing. Once we get the go ahead from Gold and Silver, we tell the seller their item has been approved and we schedule a date for them to come in.

Is there any compensation for being on the show? Do you pay for transportation, lodging?

Because we use real sellers of real items, we don’t provide any compensation for being on the show. Each seller has the opportunity of making a deal and being compensated for the purchase of their item.

We know that not everyone on the show sells their item; but does a person have to at least be willing to sell? Or can they just want to show off their item, get an appraisal, find out more information, (just meet the Pawn Stars!) etc.

At this time we are only able to cast sellers who are serious about selling their item. Of course they need to be comfortable with terms of the deal they reach with the shop, but we always hope they make a sale. We do not offer any appraisals for anyone who does not appear on the show with that item.

Are there any categories that you are more interested in than others?

At the moment we are really interested in anything that is rare and unique (books, autographed originals, artwork, historical documents and coins etc.)

Should a person get on the show, how much of a time commitment does it require?

Depending on the item, the filming of scenes generally last anywhere from 3-4 hours.

If you have something you think is rather rare and special — or wonder if it is, why not contact Martin and casting team? They’ll tell you if it makes the Pawn Stars grade. And we’ll all learn a little something along the way.  More information is in the casting flyer below (click to see a larger version). You can contact them at pawnstarstvshow@leftfieldpictures.com (and you can mention Inherited Values sent ya!)

Pawn Stars Casting Flyer

EBay Says “Win Big With Collectibles”

Among the steps eBay is taking to try to bring back their antiques and collectibles presence, is a new series of Collector Events:

Discover another world of shopping — with items from around the world. Exclusive selection and value on art, antiques, memorabilia, coins, stamps, and more.

Those who subscribe to receive event digests, sale and promotion alerts, etc. will be entered in contest to win a $2,500 (PayPal transfer) and other prizes. Interestingly, the information sent along in the email I received March 30 (2014) about the sweepstakes listed events that would end that day already. To me, that says the Collector Event series isn’t going as well as they’d like.

ebay collector events sweepstakes

Add to that, the fact that the eBay affiliate program is also pushing collectibles, and I think this rat senses a ship in trouble. I’m not saying that eBay’s a sinking ship; but they may have waited far too long to address an issue that collectors and dealers, buyers and sellers, have been screaming about for years now. EBay says, “Win big with collectibles” — but did eBay already lose collectors?

FYI, below are the categories that eBay has designated at “collectibles” at least in terms of their affiliate program. (The number in parenthesis is the eBay category number; see how the collectibles category is number one — it’s what eBay was built on.) And note how vintage clothing is not considered part of the collectibles categories.

EBay sweepstakes fine print:

No purchase necessary. Void in Puerto Rico and where prohibited. Sweepstakes begins at 12:00:00 AM PT on March 30, 2014, and ends 11:59:59 AM PT on April 13, 2014. Open to legal residents of the fifty (50) United States and the District of Columbia, who are 18 years of age or older, and who are physically located and reside in the United States of District of Columbia, who are registered members of www.ebay.com at the time of entry. For Official Rules, click here.