Following The Signals To Authentic Vintage McCoy Pottery

Over the weekend I found another yellow-glazed vintage pottery cookie jar: a figural traffic light cookie jar.

There’s no maker’s mark; just the number “351” and “U.S.A.” embossed on the bottom. However, research proves that this vintage pottery traffic light cookie jar was made by McCoy, and has not been reproduced — or, to be more precise, faked.

As I wrote, one way to tell that your McCoy pottery piece is authentic is to find a the correct embossed maker’s mark. In this case, while the McCoy mark seems to be missing from this traffic light cookie jar, it’s not a bad sign — so to speak. *wink* McCoy sometimes only used the U.S.A. embossed mark along with the style number, usually along with a paper label, as the vintage pottery pieces were marketed to different businesses.

While I was not previously familiar with this figural cookie jar, it seemed to “say” 1970s to me. In fact, it reminded me of Sesame Street — I guess because stop and go lights are often near street signs. *wink* Turns out, my hunch was correct; the cookie jar debuted in 1974 and was made for another ten years or so.

Collecting Coffee Makers

I have an unplanned collection of coffee makers. I even have a couple which are old enough to be considered vintage.

The pot I use most often is the French press. I’ve got three of them now. One is the well-known Bodum brand. The others are brands I don’t remember any more, one was no-name. The one I take with me when I visit or travel is the smallest French press. It’s great because I can make coffee as long as I can boil water. No need for filters or a stove element to percolate the coffee through the machine.

That brings me to the percolators in my collection. The one I like best is Corningware. It has those blue flowers on a white pot. I found it at a thrift store and miraculously it was not only clean but had all the parts too. I’ve only used it once, so far. It’s a large pot and I don’t need to make that amount of coffee on a standard coffee-drinking kind of day. I like to watch the percolator pots, especially those with the clear knob on top so you can see the coffee get thrown up to the top of the pot each time.

I also have an espresso percolating pot. I had a second one but it got broken up for parts when my Mother needed the rubber ring for one of her espresso pots. It seems to always be that rubber ring inside of them that wears out first. Actually, unless something pretty dire happens I doubt much could cause the failure of those metal espresso coffee makers.

I don’t have a ceramic drip cone filter and pot. That would be a nice addition. But, it wouldn’t be simple for taking on the road. You would have to have filters and worry about it getting chipped or cracked. I do have my old Melitta cone filter and drip pot. I even still have the lid for the pot. They are made in a different plastic from that which is around now. They feel really solid and it takes a lot of effort to find any bend in them. I prefer not to bend them. I hope the set will last until I’m a very old lady and beyond.

Collecting Frankoma & Some Mysterious Vintage Pottery (Can You Help?)

An interview about collecting Frankoma and other vintage decorative pottery with Molly Ives Brower, aka The Vintage Reader.

Collectible Frankoma Pottery Pieces

How and why did you start collecting Frankoma pottery? Was it, at first, just part of decorating the house?

When I was in high school I started going to the Tulsa Flea Market with my mother every few weeks. By the time I was in college we were going every time I was home on a Saturday morning. Most of the booths seemed to have at least one piece of Frankoma; I think every bride in Oklahoma from the 1950s through the 70s must have gotten Frankoma for her wedding, and much of it, especially the dinnerware, was in colors I didn’t particularly care for–muted greens and browns and golds. It was so common that I never paid much attention to it.

Then one Saturday I was looking for a birthday present for my sister, and found a little round vase in a beautiful clear greenish-blue, with a black base. I was surprised when I turned it over and found out it was Frankoma. The mark was different, for one thing, and the clay was lighter than the dark red that I was used to seeing. The dealer I bought it from didn’t know the significance of that, and neither did I. Then I started looking more carefully at similar pieces and talking to other dealers, who taught me all about the differences in the clay and the marks and the glazes. I even developed a fondness for the older green and gold glazes. (I still don’t like the browns, though.)

The summer after I graduated from college (1988), I started buying more pieces at the flea market, usually from one particular dealer who was extremely knowledgeable and enthusiastic about pottery from Oklahoma and Arkansas. He sold me some other pieces from the region–Cherokee and Niloak and Tamac. I don’t think I would have developed such an interest in collecting if the dealers at the Tulsa Flea Market hadn’t been so friendly and willing to share their knowledge with a young collector.

How many pieces of Frankoma do you have?

I really don’t know. Between my own collecting and people giving me stuff, I’ve probably got more than 100 pieces. I’ve sold some through the years, and wish I hadn’t.

What do you focus on when collecting pottery?

Mainly, I just buy things I like to look at. With Frankoma, I like the local and personal aspect. I have one of their salt-and-pepper sets in the shape of the First National Bank building in Tulsa (they gave them away at the opening of the bank in the early 1950s) and several of their “Christmas cards”–each year Frankoma made a small dish that the Frank family gave to their friends, inscribed with the year and a message. I’ve quit actively collecting it for the most part, but every once in a while I’ll find something really neat at a garage sale or estate sale. I don’t collect their dinnerware or large pieces at all–I like the small, unusual stuff.

With other pottery, I look mainly at glazes and shapes. I still like deep greens and blues, and for some reason I also gravitate toward orange pottery, although I don’t usually like orange.

I also like modern artists who are inspired by the past. In Western New York there’s a lot of Arts & Crafts influence (especially around East Aurora, where the Roycroft campus is), and when I lived in Buffalo, I loved looking at the local artists’ work. I couldn’t afford much of it, but I have a couple of nice tiles. 🙂

I have a whole collection of green art pottery that is obviously from the same place, but it’s not marked, and I’ve never been able to figure out what it is. My first piece came from my regular Frankoma dealer–it got chipped in transit to the flea market and he gave it to me, but then I started finding it all over the place. I’ve found this pottery everywhere I’ve lived, and I’ve even seen a piece on the cover of a book, but I still don’t have any idea where it came from or who made it. Maybe some other reader could identify it?!

Let’s give it a go!

This photo is of my mystery pottery–a large urn and three small pitchers. They all look hand-formed, and there are some faint coil marks on the urn. The clay is dark red. I’ve found several pieces of it that sellers have tagged as Frankoma, but it’s not Frankoma–I would love it if someone could help identify it!

Vintage Clay Pottery Pieces That Need Identification

Any pottery collectors or experts out there? Share your info in the comments!

Molly will be back here at Inherited Values soon; meanwhile, she can be followed at Twitter: @VintageReader.

PS The print included in the “mystery pottery” photo is a hand-tinted engraving, Le Lapin, by Allen Ye Printmaker of Oswego, NY.

All photos the property of Molly Ives Brower.

Collecting Cookbooks, Magazines & Ephemera While Losing Weight: An Interview With Retro Mimi

When I stumbled upon Mimi and her Retro Weight Watchers Experiment, I couldn’t take my eyes away…

I wanted to; but I couldn’t. *wink*

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!”

Looking For Help Dating Your Vintage Pillsbury Collectibles?

I was looking for information to properly date this vintage Pillsbury cookbook so I could accurately list it on eBay and I found this fabulous guide to Pillsbury cookbooks and advertising pieces — I just had to share it!

Vintage Glass Chef S&Ps

There are a lot of vintage shaker sets with chef designs, but I’ve never seen these clear glass ones with the chef’s face printed on them in black.

Cute little salt and peppers — I wonder if they might even have been from a restaurant?

As they were for sale in an antique shop (and I wasn’t going to buy them), I didn’t handle them; but I’m pretty sure the tops were plastic.

If you know anything about these charmers, please let us know by leaving a comment.

Collecting Children’s Spoons

While interviewing the charming and delightful artisan behind I Sew Cute and As Luck Would Have It, I naturally had to ask her if she was a collector too…

Someone told me that if you have three of anything, then you have a collection. If that’s true, then I have dozens of collections!

I guess if there’s one thing I collect — by seeking it out & keeping track of the items I already have, it would be my collection of vintage and antique children’s spoons.

Some of the pieces I have are from my own childhood & the collection just grew over the years. I love that they’re a warm fuzzy reminder of the joy of childhood, as well as being functional for every day use. My kids use them, so they don’t just sit in a drawer getting dusty. I keep them in a jelly jar right in the kitchen where we can grab one in a pinch.

When did you start collecting them – or admit to yourself you were collecting them?

During my college years I started really seeking out new old spoons. I’m still a big kid at heart & don’t have fine china. We have Warner Brother’s Fiesta ware that I pull out for really special occasions & holidays. Good thing I married a guy who’s young at heart too!

You said you track them… How so?

I have a list in a moleskine sketchbook which I keep in my bag, just in case I stumble upon some at a flea market or online.

How many do you have in total?

Gosh, I’ve never counted them! Ballpark guesstimate? Around 20-25 and growing, of course.

Are they silver, or “just” metal?

I believe most of the larger ones are just silver plate or stainless steel, but a few of the wee baby spoons I have are silver.

Do you look for certain makers, characters? What makes you add a spoon to your collection — what must a spoon do to charm you?

I am not concerned at all about the manufacturers. If a spoon has a fun, whimsical, cartoony character and is in relatively decent condition, I’m going to pull out the list. The most recent ones I added were a Donald Duck and a Mickey Mouse found in a vintage shop on Etsy.

Aside from the “Can I afford this?” do you pay any attention to the monetary value of spoons?

No, I’m not collecting them because of their monetary value.

Do you have a favorite spoon?

My Snoopy and SpaghettiOs spoons are my two favorites because I’ve had them since I was a child — and I still remember how special I felt to have them. I knew someone bought them for me because they loved me. Kind of silly or sappy isn’t it? But it’s how I felt and still feel when I look at those two spoons!

It doesn’t sound silly at all — and I think “sappy” is one of the best reasons to collect.

You can keep up with June the spoon collector at her blogs: I Sew Cute and As Luck Would Have It.

From Bull Cook To Bull Crap With George Leonard Herter

At an estate sale on Friday I grabbed this book, thinking it would have some interesting recipes and tips for my vintage home ec blog. It was $5, which I’ll admit is a bit more than I typically pay for a book I know nothing about… Oddly, there was no table of contents to assist me in my evaluation, but the title was intriguing: Bull Cook and Authentic Historical Recipes and Practices.

Turns out, it was a fabulous find!

Bull Cook and Authentic Historical Recipes and Practices, by George Leonard Herter and Berthe E. Herter, is the first of a number of books by Geoerge Leonard Herter (some available as modern reprints). In fact, Bull Cook and Authentic Historical Recipes and Practices itself would later have three volumes; something I discovered via a trip later that day to a local antique mall, where all three volumes could be found (even later editions, in golden boards; each at $19.95).

While I haven’t tested any of the recipes (and there’s more than a few I will probably never ever try!), I can personally attest to the incredible array of topics covered in this vintage book.

Along with recipes for corning liquid, Norwegian Fried Ham, and Fish Tongues Scandinavian, Herter gives you the real history of the Martini, informs you which foods the Virgin Mary was fond of (creamed spinach), instructs you on how to dress a turtle and broil tiger’s feet, and tells you what you must know in case of a hydrogen bomb attack. It’s rather as the author promises right on the first page:

I will start with meats, fish, eggs, soups and sauces, sandwiches, vegetables, the art of French frying, desserts, how to dress game, how to properly sharpen a knife, how to make wines and beer, how to make French soap and also what to do in case of hydrogen or cobalt bomb attack, keeping as much in alphabetical order as possible.

But what makes this book so engaging — or, as Paul Collins calls it in The New York Times, “one of the greatest oddball masterpieces in this or any other language” — is its author. Collins describes George Leonard Herter as “a  surly sage, gun-toting Minnesotan and All-American crank” –which translates easily enough to “old coot,” a breed I am particularly fond of.

Herter was the heir to Herter’s, Inc., an outdoor sporting goods business founded in 1893 located in Waseca, Minnesota. (The company closed decades ago; but the brand lives on via Cabela’s — and hunters and sportsmen are avoid collectors of vintage Herter’s items.)

It’s not quite clear if Herter’s authorship was simply a genius marketing move, or if he just had more he was desperate to say — even after writing thousands of product descriptions and essays for the company’s catalogs, like this 1974 “How to Buy an Outdoor Knife” essay, whi to promote Herter’s Improved Bowie Knife:

An outdoor knife must be made for service–not show. Your life may depend on it. Real outdoor people realize that so-called sportsmen or outdoor knives have long been made for sale, not for use. The movies and television show their characters wearing fancy sheath knives. Knife makers advertised them and drugstore outdoorsmen bought them. [insert a picture that looks something like a Marble Woodcraft or an old Western fixed blade here] Nothing marks a man to be a tenderfoot more than these showy useless knives.

Ahh, classic Herter.

But whatever the case, savvy marketing or the need to “talk,” Herter was prolific and opinionated in his writings.

Most of Herter’s books were, at least in title, based upon the sporting goods business and the outdoorsman’s life — even with a few giant steps into the domestic world.  However, his book How To Live With A Bitch is not — I repeat NOT, about a female hunting dog. (If you cannot find a copy listed among Herter’s works at eBay, check Amazon for this elusive gem.)

So, what begins with a $5 bargain (for a hardcover copy of a 1961 third printing), leads to more fascinating fun than I can barely stand — but wait! There’s more!

I found this book on Friday morning at an estate sale, spotted the three volumes at an antique mall later that afternoon,  and then I even managed to snatch another copy (1963, sixth printing) for $6 at an auction on Saturday! This makes me very hopeful that more Herter books will fall into my hands — and I’m thrilled to do more of the collector’s kind of hunting.

Further reading:

A review of Bull Cook and Authentic Historical Recipes and Practices, by George Leonard Herter and Berthe E. Herter at Neglected Books.

Reminiscing about Herter’s at Topix.

Image credits:

Photo of George Herter, by Peter Marcus (1966) via the NY Times article by Paul Collins.

Vintage photo of Herter’s Inc. via Waseca Alums.

More from the Antiquips: Bringing Things Home

Pick: That was such a fun auction we went to the other night! Lots of variety, friendly crowd, and it moved along quickly too. My favorite thing was the treasure we got, almost a piece of your family heritage!

Grin: I started my inspection of the items going up for auction at the far end of the hall, and had found several pieces that were of interest. When I finally got to the second last table, there were the three items from the old Gridley Dairy that my grandfather had worked at during the (first) Great Depression.

Pick: You showed me the paper sign, amber-colored milk bottle and the mini-milk can and I could tell you were excited by them. You turned the can around to show the company’s name and location and even the date of “1935.” I asked if your grandpa would have worked there then and you exclaimed “Yes.”

Grin: Over the years, I have bought a couple of bottles with Gridley on them and some paper advertising in the form of recipe books. Nothing expensive, nor rare or too exciting. They are in our Depression-era farm and advertising collection, resting on our antique oak ice box.

Pick: This was a large auction and had numerous items for sale. But we were relieved to see those items brought up front early for bidding. The paper sign was first and I asked if I should bid for it.

Grin: When bidding started, I contemplated trying to get the sign, but the price soon escalated past what I considered to be reasonable. Paper is pretty delicate and not easily displayed when not framed.

Pick: When the runner held up the can and the bottle, I was “at the ready” to bid, asking you how high I should go. They were offering “choice of the two”, meaning we could get one or the other for the bid-price. The bidding was pretty active with three of us in early, then down to two. Our price came and went and I still bid a few more times, but alas, we realized we could not get the can. But to our surprise, the bidder took the bottle and they re-opened bidding. We got it for half what our top bid would have been.

Grin: Part of my interest in this milk can was its size. It can easily be displayed inside the house and not stuck in the garden or on the driveway where some of our other milk cans have been placed. I am not sure what the contents of this can might have been but have a suspicion that it was used In a commercial setting. It have been used to deliver heavy-cream to a bakery or restaurant.

Pick: Well, you know how we love to send things back home! That is the ultimate recycling. We have shipped collectibles back to their original owners quite a few times and that just tickles us. Remember the Ruby Farms thermometer?

Grin: That one went back to the granddaughter of the original owner. And how often do we send advertising items found on our travels back to the city of their origination? Many times!

These are going to collectors that have an interest in preserving part of their town’s history.

Pick: Another thing we sold that brought fond memories to a buyer was the calendar from the dairy near Madison, Wisconsin. The winner kindly shared with us that he had worked that very farm in the 1960s, alongside his favorite cousin.

Grin: Didn’t you just tell me about another treasure that you sent back home?

Pick: Oh, you mean the ashtray. It was from the Golden Zither Restaurant in Milwaukee. The winner was so happy to get it. He got engaged to his wife in that very restaurant many years back. They are close to their 40th anniversary and he is planning to give it to her as part of their gift. Oh, how romantic!

Grin: We’ll have to share other ‘recyling’ stories down the road. I just read about a nearby auction…

(Cookie) Cuttin’ It Up With Tom & Jerry

Seventy years ago — long before Itchy & Scratchy appeared on the Krusty the Clown Show on The Simpsons — there was Tom & Jerry.

The series of animated theatrical shorts was created for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer by Hanna and Barbera. William Hanna and Joseph Barbera ultimately wrote and directed one hundred and fourteen Tom and Jerry cartoons (and earned seven Academy Awards for Best Short Subject, Cartoons) for the MGM cartoon studio in Hollywood between 1940 and 1959, when the animation unit was closed. Tom & Jerry would live on, however, with different animators and studios before returning home to Hanna & Barbera.

The incredible popularity of the never-ending cat and mouse games between Tom the cat and Jerry the mouse produced these red plastic cookie cutters by Lowe.

Along with the heads of Tom and Jerry, I also have Barney Bear, Droopy Dog, and a full body cookie cutter of Jerry.

These particular cookie cutters, , marked with a copyright date of 1956, are made of a sheer red hard plastic — but the series was also available in green.

The Curious Case of Fiesta Go Alongs

First, there’s that curious name: Fiesta “go alongs.”

(Or is it “go with”? I’ve seen that tag used in eBay item descriptions.) What, exactly, does either phrase mean?

Classic Go Along: Hankscraft Egg Cooker
The long-acknowledged Fiesta experts, Bob & Sharon Huxford, describe go alongs in their book,  Collector’s Encyclopedia of Fiesta (10th ed. 2005). Simply, these collectibles were “…made by other manufacturers to ‘go along’ with Fiesta dinnerware.”
Mexican + Dishes Design Tablecloth

Okay, that’s straight-forward enough. One memorable Homer Laughlin-commissioned go-along item is the 1930-40’s Hankscraft Pottery Egg Cooker set. It used Fiesta-inspired colors on the cooker itself & for the accompanying four egg cups.

Hankscraft Egg Cup on Mexican Tablecloth

(Can you imagine eating a soft-boiled egg in a “radiation red” egg cup?! Not me; I use my set for display only!)

Second, besides the HLC-endorsed items, there’s also a bunch of unofficial Fiesta go-alongs.

Items with the “look of go alongs” include those that incorporate:
  • Fiesta-like bright colors
  • Fiesta-like dish designs
  • Similar rings/stripes & colors
  • Mexican motif or decal
  • Dancing lady motif or decal
  • Kitchen Craft motif or decal
Small Table Runner with Dishes + Fruit
The types of things that most often use Fiesta-influenced designs, markings, or decals include:
  • Dishes, glasses, & flatware
  • Linens & tablecloths
  • Tin or metal items (i.e., breadbox, napkin holder)
Meyercord Home Decorating Decals: '30s Dishes

Of course, there are also items that few people — except an eBay seller! — would automatically call a ‘Fiesta go along.’ Dedicated Fiesta collectors won’t let that deter them, however. Who cares if something is not truly a go-along when it ‘s too cute or compelling not to buy for your Fiesta collection

?

Butterscotch Bakelite Chick Napkin Ring

Like the totally unexpected “Fiesta vanity tray” recently listed by eBay seller petunia777.  (Photo used courtesy of seller.) It’s a “…beautiful handcrafted mosaic tray pieced together using tiles & shards from ONLY vintage Fiestaware from the Homer Laughlin Co. in ONLY the original six colors: Radioactive Red, Cobalt Blue, Turquoise, Old Ivory, Fiesta Yellow and Light Green!”

Handcrafted Vintage Fiesta Mosaic Tray

I totally agree with petunia777 who said: “I think of this piece as a unique Fiesta Go-Along!” The fact that the tray only uses pieces from the original six colors is inspired. Sure, the dishes were broken, but they’re the right colors for “Fiesta originalists” (if that’s even a word), like me. Yes, I love Fiesta dishes best. But go alongs — collectibles defined by the ‘eye of the beholder’ — have added a great deal of whimsy & fun to my collection. [Photos above taken by me, except for the Fiesta Mosaic Tray which is from eBay seller petunia777.]

Those Wonderful Coffee Making Machines

If you ask yourself why you actually like coffee do you have a reason? Sometimes I think it isn’t the coffee that I really like so much as the social side of coffee drinking and coffee making. Starting with the beans and how you grind them, then to the type of coffee maker or the process you use to make coffee and then ending with the classic: cream, milk, sugar, sweetener…?  Even the way you serve the coffee, do you prefer a mug or do you use something fancier like a teacup?

Where do you drink your coffee? Typically, I drink my coffee alone in a crowd of people who don’t know me. I like it that way. Sometimes I make coffee at home when I work in front of the computer. I also feel alone and yet in a crowd of people there too. Coffee is a part of going out. How many times are you out somewhere and end up going out for a coffee? You could just come home and make it yourself. But, there is something kind of special about being out for coffee. Something kind of grown up, cosmopolitan, elegant and sophisticated about sitting with a coffee in a cafe or even over lunch.

I have a small collection of coffee makers. The process of making coffee is as interesting and sometimes elegant too. My favourite is the Bodum French Press, for practical reasons. With the press I don’t need coffee filters, just the beans themselves, to make a cup of coffee. I can take the press with me and make coffee any where that I can boil water. It is very handy when I go babysitting for the weekend at my sister’s house.  My French Press pot is a bit small though. Fine for a regular sized mug. But, when I’m at home working on the computer I like a big, deep mug of coffee. A mug so huge as to appear bottomless, as close to it as any mug could ever be. So, for making coffee at those times, I use a portable cone filter which I hold over the mug, pouring the boiling water over the beans. I doubt this makes full use of the beans. They have less brewing time. So it seems a bit of a shame to make coffee this way. But, it does work.

I have an old percolator (Corning) which I picked up at the thrift store. It must have been used very seldom as it looks pristine. I have only used it a few times in th years I have had the pot. It is fun to hear the coffee brew in the percolator. You get more coffee smell this way too I have noticed. My other pot is a cone filter too but it comes with it’s own pot, lid and scoop. The pot itself is glass but the rest of it is all my favourite shade of red. A Melitta pot which I bought when I was 16 and had my first apartment, living away from my family.

Flickr: Coffee Maker Museum

Flickr: The Coffee Machine Collector

Ning: The Vintage Coffee Maker

Jitterbuzz: Coffee Paraphernalia

Vintage Coffee Grinders

Talk About Coffee

A to Z Coffee Makers – Reviews.

Coffee Sage – Blog about coffee, beans and news.

Transcend Coffee – Committed to fresh roasted beans.

Jim Seven – James Hoffman’s coffee blog.

Brewed Coffee – For caffeine addicts only.

On Coffee Makers

Royal Coffee Maker – When you want something really deluxe!

It’s A Pickle!

My mom found this old pickle cookie cutter and gave it to me for Christmas this year — though first, in the confusion of gift opening, my middle child got it, opened it, and was very confused. (I guess she was the pickle in the middle? lol)

My mom found the cookie cutter out antiquing and knew it would be the perfect gift for me. Not only I am crazy about cookie cutters (and old stuff in general), but it’s a pickle! Pickles are a pretty big thing in our family…

I suppose it starts with the German tradition of hiding a glass pickle ornament on the Christmas tree. It’s such a big deal, that when a young person moves out to live on their own (or at least not with their parents), they are given a glass pickle ornament to hang on their own tree, so that they may continue the tradition.

But then there was the year that my uncle made my sister open like half a dozen wrapped boxes (each empty but wrapped box nested inside the other, like those Russian dolls) just to get to the smallest, final box, open it and find a pickle with a bite taken out of it. Boy, was my six year old sister ticked! And boy did my uncle and I laugh! Ah, good times *sigh*

And then there’s the expression on every one of my kids’ faces the first time they had a pickle — especially when they had insisted they’d like it and struggled not to prove mom was right about the warnings *wink*

Anyway, the pickle is just good fun. So what’s not to love about an antique pickle cookie cutter?

I suspect this old tin cookie cutter to be German in origin — not just because it’s a pickle, but because the Germans have a long history of making cookie cutters. (So maybe my obsession with collecting cookie cutters is a genetic thing?) And I’m guessing it’s at least 100 years old.

Anyway, I love that this antique tin cookie cutter of a pickle has the fluted edge, which gives the pickle cookies authentic spines.

Now, the question is, when I make pickle cookies, should I salt the tops a bit? I’ve at least got to take a bite out of one, and wrap it up in all those boxes for my sister’s next birthday *wink*

Kitchen Design Continues To Evolve With The Charm Of Yesteryear (Sometimes With A Twist!)

My parents (of No Egrets Antiques — also found at both iCollect247 and eBay) were just featured in an article on kitchen design in The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel!

The article, Making Kitchens Special by Jan Uebelherr, featured my parents’ unique kitchen island — an antique woodworker’s work bench. Here’s the part about them:

‘Sold,’ to the couple with kitchen smarts

Dean and Valerie Ferber know a thing or two about shopping around. The previous owners of the Ferbers’ cottage-style home in Hales Corners had an antique bread table. It gave the antique-loving Ferbers an idea. They hunted flea markets, antique shops, estate sales. At one antiques mall, they spotted the perfect piece: a woodworker’s bench. But at $1,100, it was too pricey.

Then, on the way to another store, they stopped at an auction and found a bench covered with paint and equipped with two vises. Where others might have seen a mess, the Ferbers saw potential. But first they had to win it.

Bidding started near the price of that first bench they’d seen, but there were no takers. The price dropped to $500, then $250, then $100. Finally, Dean Ferber raised his auction paddle. The auctioneer asked for $125, and a man in front held up his hand. Dean Ferber bid $150 – and the 1880s work bench was theirs.

“And all Wifey could say was ‘How are we going to load that thing?'”

With some help, they got it into their van and were off.

My parents had to clean & restore the old workbench — but as you can see, it was totally worth it!

It’s beautiful and functional — and loaded with memories…

Most holidays and celebrations, our family members can be found gathered around the new kitchen island from the old workbench serving as a buffet table.

My daughter used to love to play with the pots and pans stored on racks beneath it. (In my mind’s eye, I still see her chubby toddler legs sticking out from beneath the table — but I mercifully don’t hear the clanging.)

My son still likes to play with his toy cars on it, rolling the cars down the “ramped” sides of the trough (where the silver tray is seen in the photo) trying to push them up fast enough to jump the ramp at the other side — without getting busted. (Challenging indeed!)

This is no longer an old junky piece — or even a piece of furniture; it’s a member of the family.

The First Fiesta I Ever Bought

My family moved to Las Cruces, New Mexico from Tulsa, Oklahoma in the mid-1960s. It was a shock on many levels.

We now lived on a street ending at the desert — sand & rocks, not grass & trees!

Had to drink huge glasses of iced tea after first eating surprisingly hot Mexican food!

Also, some people thought us Okies spoke with an accent! 8-D

Part of my vintage Fiesta collection

However, that move turned out to be very good in many respects. New Mexico offered beautiful vistas, friendly people, & delightful architecture. AND, I discovered what would become my lifetime collection: vintage Fiesta dishes.

Fiesta is all about color & circles

One day, a new school friend introduced me to a charming antique mall. Since the holidays were close, I started looking for potential Christmas gifts. Nothing really grabbed my attention until I saw some colorful dishes. They came in a wide range of hues & had concentric circles on most surfaces.

I was particularly drawn to a bright blue & orange salt & pepper set. Well, I figured they weren’t an actual set because of the different colors. But the rounded shapes looked exactly alike. I was looking over the dealer’s packed-with-dishes table more than a few minutes before someone asked if I needed help.

“Yes I do, thanks,” I told the older woman. “Can you tell me anything about this salt & pepper pair?”

“Of course,” she replied right away, “that’s Fiesta.”

Love seeing Fiesta for sale!

I must have looked confused at that answer, so she pointed to more colorful dishes on another table. “Like those plates,” she said.

Wandering over to look at those dishes, I asked another question, “What exactly are ‘fiesta’ dishes? Are they used for Mexican holidays or something?”

“Oh no!” she laughed. “Come here & let me show you,” taking me by the hand to a third table. She picked up a plate that looked like it was the same rich blue as one of the dishes I’d looked at earlier. Then she turned it over to show the script mark underneath.

Fiesta dishes set on tablecloth for lunch

“Ah, now I get it,” I said. “Fiesta is the name of those dishes.” That helpful dealer, whose name I’ve completely forgotten now, pointed out other Fiesta she was selling. But I still liked the colors & shape of the salt & pepper set, so that’s what I bought, intending it as a gift for my mother.

It was after we moved to New Mexico that Mother’s preference for bright colors really became apparent. Maybe it was the rich Southwest design influence? All I know for sure is that she truly liked the cobalt & red (Fiesta for ‘orange’), S&P I gave her. And she later painted all the kitchen cabinets bright orange.

Charming tomato S&P displayed with Fiesta

I inherited that salt & pepper after my mother died. I also have a much older, deep orange-red S&P set — pottery adorably shaped like tomatoes — that she originally got from her mother.

Stacks of Fiesta displayed with vintage platter

Years later, when I finally had my own place, I seriously started collecting Fiesta. (And I mean seriously!) Now, when I move & have to pack up all those boxes of dishes, my father always jokes that I probably have enough Fiesta to serve dinner for 60 people. “No,” I reply, “I’m sure I only have service for 35!”

And it all started with that salt & pepper….

(Speaking of which, I recently moved & have not yet unpacked my boxes of Fiesta. And for some reason, I don’t have any photos of that original S&P, sorry! All photos used here are mine.)

Crazy For Vintage Aluminum Cookie Cutters

You’re likely going to think I’m insane with the number of cookie cutter posts I’m about to make — and by that, I mean posts about vintage cookie cutters, not posts that are all the same lol.

(I’ll try to spread the posts out a bit, so it doesn’t look like “the cookie cutter site,” but having taken out so many of my old cookie cutters and photographed them, I’m too excited; like rolled-out cookie dough, I can’t just let them just sit there!)

Only another collector of cookie cutters could understand the need to make so many posts about cookie cutters!

My cookie cutter collection began with my childhood memories of making cookies with my mother and grandmother. The aluminum cookie cutters were common back when grandma purchased them brand new. And they remained relatively common enough so that they were not only readily available at rummage sales and thrift shops, but inexpensive too. So I got in the habit of snatching up baggies of them, no matter if the whole bag was a bunch of duplicates. (Which happens quite a lot, much to my husband’s amusement/annoyance lol)

I began with the vintage aluminum self-handled cookie cutters in that “tin” color, but quickly ended up with the vintage copper colored aluminum cookie cutters too.

Since I began my collecting in Wisconsin where many aluminum manufacturing companies (Mirro, Standard Aluminum Co., etc.) were located, it’s been very easy to get my cookie cutters. Most of the ones shown here are circa 1940s; though many of these cookie cutter designs have been made for decades.

Though for all my vintage aluminum cookie cutter collecting, I do not have as many complete sets as I would like. Even with the common sets. For example, the set of four suits or “bridge set” still eludes me. Everyone saved that heart for Valentine’s Day; but few seemed to have saved the club, spade, and diamond as well.

But “not having yet” is simply the fun that keeps collectors hunting for more. So I can’t say I’m at all disappointed to keep looking!

So now, the question is, Laura, which one of these vintage gingerbread cookie cutters is like the one you remember?

Vintage Gay Fad Florals

A pretty pair of vintage glassware spotted at the thrift store. I believe the sweet pink flowers with unusual black leaves and stems was hand-painted onto clear glass creamer and handled sugar bowl at Fran Taylor’s Gay Fad Studios (located first in Detroit, Michigan, later in Lancaster, Ohio). Neither glass piece was marked, so I don’t know where the glass ‘blanks’ were from.

Had I deeper pockets, I would have bought them and really started a Gay Fad collection. (I have three pieces now; I do love the floral pieces and fruit designs — but there’s a lot to choose from!) Or maybe a pink and black glassware collection. (I have a few random single glasses with pink and black designs.) But you need to be more in the black to really start new collections, even at thrift store prices. *sigh*

Can You Catch The Vintage Gingerbread Man Cookie Jar?

Since I already have a topless vintage cookie jar (I use it to hold my vintage rolling pins and store it, along with other vintage kitchen collectibles, above my kitchen cupboards), I couldn’t justify purchasing this cookie jar without a lid when I spotted it Saturday at a thrift store — no matter how the bold blue or the charming old gingerbread cookie man beckoned…

I sure had second thoughts when I saw that the back of this vintage pottery cookie jar had Mrs. Gingerbread Cookie.

But if I bought it, I’d need more old rolling pins or something to put in it… Where would it end?! (I did briefly pick it up, just to look for maker marks; there weren’t any.)

If this cookie jar interests you, contact me and I’ll see if I can catch him — even if he is The Gingerbread Man.

Appreciating Vintage Glass Punch Bowl Sets

I know some collectors will find this inherently evil, but I like to use my collectibles. In fact, one of my favorite things about the holidays is using my vintage glassware.

One of our family traditions is to stay home with the kids on New Year’s Eve and have a party. A geeky party, filled with nerdy retro boardgames, vintage vinyl playing on the record player, and party food, of course. Most commonly our party snacks consist of cheese, sausage, crackers and whatever holiday cookies we have left over. And then there’s my punch — simple mix of orange juice and white soda — served in my vintage Anchor Hocking punch bowl set.

vintage-holiday-punch-setThis vintage milk glass set, a punch bowl with its misleading red and green proclamation of egg nog and cups falsely declaring individual spiked Tom & Jerry servings, is something special that marks the occasion — and hopefully adds to the memories.

I know that using such glassware has it’s risks. Every glassware does, and vintage pieces would be even more difficult to replace. But I treat the vintage glass set well.

I carefully wash and dry each piece by hand — caressing it clean, anticipating the fun of using it. I carefully fill the punch bowl and serve the punch into each vintage milk glass cup, and as I place them into hands that eagerly await them I, like all mothers, remind even those with large strong man-hands to be careful with our special old friends. When all is done, I caress clean each piece in the vintage holiday punch bowl set again, slowly saying thank you and goodbye… Then I place the set carefully up above the kitchen cabinets, where it awaits next year’s use.

The set is visible above the cabinets — should someone want to crane their necks to look — but I find that’s not enough adoration and attention for such cool vintage pieces.

Plus, my vintage punch bowl set is much more likely to find a home after my passing if each of the kids have memories of its use. In that way, using vintage glassware actually increases the odds of its survival. *wink*

Cookie Cutters

cookiecuttersI used to have cookie cutters that belonged to my Grandmother. I remember a gingerbread man. It was aluminum, a dull silver colour. The shape was filled in, not like the modern ones that are open on top. The old gingerbread man was wearing a pointy hat. That’s about all I can really, clearly remember about him any more.

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen that cookie cutter. Too much moving, too many boxes lost or damaged. Lost due to things like the water heater bursting and flooding the basement. Mice nibbling at boxes which were then thrown out as useless. Or, boxes just being forgotten in some corner of one basement or another. It’s sad to lose things that way. It bothers me more than any other way of losing things. As if the things lost that way were never important enough to remember.

But, I have the hope that my lost things will be found someday and become someone’s great find, treasured all over again, though they won’t know the history. They won’t know that cookie cutter once belonged to my Grandmother. They won’t know my Grandmother, my Mother, my brother and sisters and I made gingerbread people many times with that old cookie cutter in the kitchen of the house I remember best from my growing up days. I wish I could tell whoever finds that cookie cutter the history behind it. Tell them about how my Grandmother was once nicknamed Pepper and how she liked to plant potatoes in the garden to aggravate my Grandfather. I’d like to tell them about how she fought breast cancer for years until she had to show/ teach us all how to die quietly, with pride and courage. I miss her. I really wish we had that cookie cutter still. There is some hope it will turn up in a box not opened during years of moving from place to place. More likely it is gone, to be found by someone who will wonder about that cookie cutter and other things that may be in the box they find in some corner of the basement of the house they move into.

It would be nice to tell them about that cookie cutter. To let them know it’s not just another old cookie cutter. But, it doesn’t work that way with lost treasures. The story becomes a secret known only to those who lost it. Those who find it can only wonder or imagine what the history behind it might be. Maybe, when they imagine the story they will get some of it right. That would be nice.

I have other new cookie cutters. A small collection of them. This Christmas I tried making gingerbread men again. I made the batter from a recipe online. But, when I tried to cut out the cookies the batter was too runny and sticky. It could not hold the shape. So no gingerbread men again this year. I will find a better recipe next year. Ideally, I’d like to get matching cookie cutters for gingerbread men and women and another for a gingerbread house cookie shape. Those would be the pinnacle of my collection.

Note: The aluminum gingerbread man in this article, from HubPages: Collecting Vintage Cookie Cutters, looks like my Grandmother’s old one. It might be the very same kind that she had. Also, we had a Christmas tree and that bunny from this collection too. Ours was badly dented in the middle though.

Resources:

The Cookie Cutter Collector’s Club – Based in the US. The 2010 convention will be in California, in June.

Cookie Cutter Search – From the Cookie Cutter Collector’s Club.

There are cookie cutter collectors displaying their cookie cutters in photos on Flickr: Cookie Cutters.

After you look at that group, see how the cookies were decorated on Flickr: Cookie Cutter Cookies.

Brand Name Cooking – Has posted a good article about collecting cookie cutters.

New Life For Old Forks

It’s not always easy for me to accept altering antique and vintage items, but sometimes it’s a matter of salvaging things the best you can, breathing new life into them so that they are appreciated once again. When I spotted these vintage fork easels, I had to say I thought it was a beautiful way to display a collection of photographs, ephemera, small art works, etc.

display-old-photos-with-vintage-fork-easels

And given the number of unappreciated and neglected old silverware pieces (individual pieces and entire sets), it’s a great way to recycle not only the materials, but the appreciation and usefulness of old flatware.

vintage-fork-easels-displying-vintage-photographs

As a collector, I would suggest protecting photographs, especially antique and vintage photographs, by sliding them inside those little plastic sleeves first. And displaying little photographs this way not only saves the hassle of finding the right frame size, but allows you to rotate your favorite photographs so that they all get attention. What a lovely display! Even if the stems aren’t ornately decorated, the gleaming silver is elegant.

The seller/creator, WHIMSYlove at Etsy, also suggests using the vintage fork easels to hold individual recipe cards while baking. Clever!

vintage-fork-easel-holding-recipe-card

I’m not sure how easy this is to do — even if you’re the Amazing Kreskin, and you’re used to bending spoons, I imagine the tines are quite a bit more resistant. But thankfully, WHIMSYlove makes them for us *wink*

vintage-fork-easels