When my parents were working on this latest estate sale, the found this miniature copper diver’s helmet. Attached to it was a note stating it was from a Rolex watch store display. Ever curious, err, obsessive I had to investigate. (Plus, I do so love a great watch.)
It turns out, Rolex did use small metal divers’ helmets in displaying their waterproof watches, including the Submariner the very first wristwatch for divers (1953); the Deep Sea Special, which was attached to the outside of the bathyscaphe the Trieste during its historic dive (1960); and the Sea-Dweller, Compagnie Maritime d’Expertises (COMEX) watches (1963). This is what the metal diver helmet looked like with its original Rolex dealer display stand.
I’ve no idea how many Rolex stores there are now, let alone how many there were in 1970 when this display piece was used… I’d dare say, in the hundreds. Which makes the helmet, even without the sea-green turquoise display stand relatively rare.
However, as Rolex’s divine diving watches debuted before 1970 when this diver helmet display appeared, there were earlier display stands using a nautical theme, if not the “At One With The Sea” slogan. Here are a few of them:
Rolex diving watches also got some promotion out of popular films. Sean Connery wore a Submariner “Big Crown” in 1962’s Dr. No, for example.
Further confusion is added by the fact that watch collectors refer to the 1974 Rolex Sea-Dweller as the “Great White.” It’s debut certainly was good timing for the movie. But the “Great White” nickname comes from the fact that this version of the Sea-Dweller is in all “white” steel.
So just what watch did Richard Dreyfuss’ Matt Hooper wear in Jaws?
Equally obsessive collectors, with far more watch knowlege than I, did the research. It was published in the February 2010 issue of WatchTime. The conclusion? Dreyfuss wore an Alsta Nautoscaph. …Though, as the article states, that still leaves lots of room for questions. As for me, I’ve spent enough time submerged in all this watch talk.
If you are interested in the Rolex diving helmet display piece, the Milwaukee estate sale begins today, July 27, 2015, at noon. Details here.
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.
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.
Sophie began her fashion design work as a young girl making clothing for her dolls and grew into an adult who hired as a stylist for Saks. She was hired by none other than Adam Gimbel, whose grandfather was the founder Gimbels. (Kind of ironic, hey?) In 1929, at the age of 31, she was lead fashion designer and manager of the Salon Moderne of Saks Fifth Avenue; by 1931, she would marry Adam Gimbel. Her designs, originally sold under the “Sophie Gimbel” label were so fabulous, she became recognized as an innovator in New Look fashion. By the 1940s, the label was changed to “Sophie of Saks”, and, on September 29, 1947, Sophie would become the first American fashion designer to grace the cover of Time magazine. (Elsa Schiaparelli was the first fashion designer in the world to be on the cover of Time in 1934.) So by the time this news article I’m going to share was published, Sophie was firmly established as a leading force of mid-century American fashion.
The article was in the Montreal Gazette, June 17, 1950, and was about a Sophie fashion show which had been held the day prior at Saks Fifth Avenue. She had designed not only doll clothing for Wanda but a series of matching doll and children’s fashions!
The costumes, which were presented simultaneously on dolls and little girls, are available in children’s sizes three to six and seven to fourteen. They include a pink organdy party frock, a gray flannel jumper suit, a plaid cotton dress, and a blue reefer coat.
I suspect this Sophie’s Original’s For Saks doll outfit may be one of these ensembles, despite being sold as a set for composition dolls. (Wanda Walker and her doll companions were rather pudgy in the tummy in order to accomodate the walker mechanics.)
Here’s an ad from Christmas 1950 promoting some other fashions made for the Wanda Walker doll (by Advance Doll & Toy Corporation and/or Walkalon; that’s a long story I’m covering in the doll articles!): “Organdy hat and dress in pink, yellow, or blue are designed by S.F.A.’s own Sophie!”
This is quite possibly one of those Sophie’s Originals for Saks dresses mentioned in the ad, which was made for, and shown here on, a Wanda Walker doll.
Of course, Sophie continued to design high fashion for adult human females long after this (including creating the red coat and dress Lady Bird wore to LBJ’s 1965 inauguration); but it is more than fitting to include Sophie’s fashion costumes for dolls in her story. After all, Sophie Gimbel began her design work making clothing for her own dolls.
Billie the Brownie was a character that Schuster’s Department Store introduced in 1927 to promote their annual Christmas Parade in downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I spotted this large plastic version of Billie (likely used in a story display) at DJ’s Antiques (also on Facebook). He was there last week, but you’ll have to contact the shop to see if he’s still there. The number is (414) 282-0447. (And tell them Val & Dean’s daughter from Fargo sent ya!)
I got excited when I found a Flickr photo from a guy who reports the same Charlotte, N.C., studio as the source of his photo — hey, somebody else sat on the same spot as the girl in my photo! Unfortunately, after a little research, I found that it wasn’t such a coincidence.
Dating a photo takes a whole lot of research: what year is that car? When was that toy under the Christmas Tree first made? What movie is on that marquee in the back? When was that brand name used? There’s a whole bunch of history bundled up in every photo, even if it is just a brand of shoes or a style of eyeglasses. So, this stamp on the back of a photo is enough for me to narrow down the origin of the photo to a timespan of a couple years.
Department stores used to be far more than the acres of products they are today. Your mom could take you down to Woolworth’s, buy you lunch, get your hems lowered (you’ve grown, you know) by the in-house tailor, take you for a haircut, and get your photo taken, all without leaving the building. This hasn’t entirely gone away: the J.C. Penney out at the mall — an expatriate from Downtown during the seventies — lost its restaurant in the early eighties, but it has brought along its hair salon and photo studio into the 21st Century.
Stanley Hoke and Needham Holden were the proprietors of Dunbar-Stanley Studios, and in the 1940s or early 1950s, according to an interview in the Victoria (TX) Advocate in 1960, the two men were driving between appointments and saw a sign that offered watermelon at the amazing deal of 1/2-cent…until they read the small type below the price: “per pound”. Holden thought that marketing ploy would work in their line of business, and began advertising baby photos priced like chuck roast: they’ll photograph your kid, at the cost of one penny per pound of the child’s weight.
Dunbar-Stanley Studios had the advantage of being the exclusive photography studio of the J.C. Penney department store franchise. Although some stores may have been large enough to support a full-time photo studio, the smaller stores made appointments with Dunbar-Stanley to send out a photographer for a few days at a time, several times a year.
Their photography studio business first was just called “Penny-a-Pound Portraits”, as the stamp on the Flickr-user’s photo showed, but changed its name to Pixy Pin-Ups sometime around 1953. In the 1960 article, however, they say the business outgrew the penny-a-pound model and, rather than increasing their per-pound rate, just charged a cheap flat rate.
Charging per pound of chubby baby didn’t die out, though: Pixy Pin-Ups — later shortened to just “Pixy” — used the penny-a-pound gimmick until the late 1970s.
Hoke and Holden didn’t just come up with a funny pricing model: their entire business was tightly controlled to make baby photogaphy as effective as possible. The 1960 article says they only employ “…young and unmarried women, many of whom are recruited from airline hostess schools”, and their training went beyond just clicking a shutter. Training included child psychology, and by the end of their training, whether literally or figuratively, the employees are “required to dismantle and reassemble the camera with her eyes closed.” A 1966 “Help Wanted: Female” listing from Eugene, Oregon, listed requirements as “Single and over 18; High school graduate; Have good character references.” The ad outlines the benefits as well: salary during training, a company car with all expenses paid, and after 3 years a free trip to Europe to employees with ‘satisfactory service’. This army of young ladies, high-tech camera in hand, cruised the backroads of America from J.C. Penney to J.C. Penney, trying to get kids to smile.
The penny-a-pound was their loss-leader: for that price, mom got one 5×7 portrait. The rest came as part of a higher-priced package, which is probably why I only have a 5×7 in this pile of photos. Fifty cents in the 1950s would be almost $5 today, a reasonable price for a photo sitting, but the young ladies pulled away from service with the airlines were also trained to upsell to the higher-priced sets, in hopes of getting a $10 sale out of each kid’s parents. J.C. Penney actually made the sale, sharing a portion of the profit with Dunbar-Stanley Studios, and all the film was shipped off to North Carolina for processing. That’s why there’s people out there confused that their baby photo is stamped with a studio a thousand miles away from where they were raised. The ‘Pixy’ name remained well into the 1990s, but the current J.C. Penney portrait studios aren’t run by Dunbar-Stanley anymore: the current business is based out of Eden Prairie, MN, and goes by the name “JCPenney Portraits” — although at least one still goes by the Pixy name.
Valentine’s Day wouldn’t be Valentine’s Day without the proverbial box of chocolates! These two boxes are pretty examples of sweet antique advertising ephemera.
The first box marked “Overhauser’s of Spokane” features a Victorian lady with a large hat. There’s a holly and berries sticker on the box that shows this box of candy from the Overhauser Candy Company (Spokane, Washington) was likely given for Christmas — but it’s still a romantic gift, right?
The second antique candy box also features a fancy Victorian lady wearing a large hat — with roses that match the other roses on the paper. This box bears a red and gold foil seal that reads “De Luxe Chocolates, Little Falls, Minn.” Remarkably, the original fancy embossed papers are still inside!
As a collector of vintage retail store items, I was thrilled to spot Gimbels in episodes of The Goldbergs on ABC. The show is set in the 1980s in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, which is about 10 miles north of downtown Philadelphia. Which means the Gimbels store is the Pittsburgh location, not Milwaukee. But it was still such a thrill that I had to take a screenshot when the store was shown in the second episode, when mom Beverly takes Adam to get back-to-school clothes.
I screamed aloud when I saw the name on the fitting room wall!
Then Gimbels was featured again in episode 10, entitled Shopping. So I had to take a few more…
A lovely vintage advertising piece for Radiant Roast Coffee (Fairway Fine Foods, St. Paul, Minnesota, Fargo, North Dakota). This framed piece, likely used in stores, features three images of the coffee making process: Blending, Grinding, and Vacuum Packing. Spotted at Antiques On Broadway.
Like many people, my first jobs were in retail. It was work I actually loved; but retail doesn’t pay enough to support a family, so I left it & got a college degree. Years later, I still consider myself to be a “retail brat” — and so I collect vintage retail store items. Like most collectors, I tend to focus on the names that mean something to me. For me, these are the department stores of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
A recent score was a Schuster Stamp Book. This vintage ephemera piece from the Ed. Schuster & Co. department store, founded by German immigrant Edward Schuster in 1884, may not look like much. But as an early department store chain in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, it is near to my heart.
I myself never worked at or even shopped at a Schuster’s store. Schuster’s merged with another Milwaukee department store, Gimbels, two years before I was born. In effect, that act in 1962 was a Gimbels buyout of Schusters — and the resulting joint “Gimbels Schusters” name was very short-lived indeed. I never quite worked for Gimbels either; however, I did work at the Southridge Mall Gimbels location just after it became a Marshall Field’s store (at the prestigious Estee Lauder counter) which, in but a blink of a glamorous eyelash, quickly became an H.C. Pranges and, just a few more years later, Younkers stores. But even though I have no real personal memories of Schuster’s, I have the shared collective memories of the store.
Growing up, every adult referenced the both Schuster’s (and Gimbels). It wasn’t just that they referred to buildings and locations once occupied by these earlier retailers (you know, in that way people habitually call new companies and buildings by the former names and occupants), but their advertising campaigns were iconic. For example, anyone my parents’ age or older still feels that special holiday magic at the mere mention of Billie the Brownie.
Billie the Brownie was a Christmas character that Schuster’s Department Store introduced in 1927 to promote their annual Christmas Parade in downtown Milwaukee. Billie, Santa’s favorite elf, went on to delight children in radio shows, motivate parents, and, of course, sell products via ads — until 1955, when a Billie the Brownie doll failed to sell in Milwaukee stores. Billie’s last radio show aired on Christmas Eve 1955. But he continues to live on in the hearts of many a Milwaukee Baby Boomer today! (FYI, in his final broadcast, Billie makes reference to “Sandman”, and according to this site, Billie, true to his German roots, went on to live another life in East Germany the following year.)
But enough about Billie. As charming as he is, he does not appear in my vintage Schuster’s stamp book.
What does appear in the pages of this old book is far more fascinating to me. But before we get into that, it would be helpful for you to know a little bit more about Schuster’s history. Especially in terms of store, trade, or trading stamps which were used as a rewards or loyalty program.
For those of you who think that S&H Green Stamps (aka Green Shield Stamps) were the first trading stamps, it may surprise you to know that the S & H (Sperry & Hutchinson) stamps began in 1896 — five years after Schuster’s stamps. In fact, Ed. Schuster & Co., Inc., is credited with founding trade stamps in the Unites States. The program, which began in 1891, ran for 68 years (until 1959, just before merger talks with Gimbles).
Now for the fascinating part.
Stamped rather sloppily inside the the front cover it reads “Valuable Schuster Stamps will be issued on Price-Fixed Merchandise if Chapter 52 is finally determined invalid.”
Not knowing anything about “Chapter 52”, I wanted to research it — but knew having some date or time period would be helpful. So it was time to try to date the old stamp booklet.
While the covers are rather fancy (a deep red or burgundy, with black & white flourishes, in a matte finish), the paper pages on the inside are quite tanned, old & brittle — as in “cheap paper.” Each page of the book as rectangles for the stamps to be placed, surrounding a center illustrated advertisement for Schuster products. On the back, there is a stock code, “I-39”, which leads me to believe it dates to 1939. While there are no Schuster’s stamps inside (bummer), there are clumsily-placed Easter Seals (for Christmas, 1940) which seem to be the work of a child. The date of those stamps make me more inclined to believe that this booklet dates to 1939 – 1940; but who can tell? I mean, a child could have found this old stamp booklet in the same junk drawer as the old seals and put them together in 1960 — or even later.
So what’s an obsessive collector to do?
Stumbling about the Internet, I was delighted to discover that there was a book about the department store! Of course, it has to share billing with Gimbles, but… Well, at least a book exists! Schuster’s and Gimbels: Milwaukee’s Beloved Department Stores is by Paul Geenen — and since the book has a website, I reached out to the author, telling him, “I have no idea what this ‘Chapter 52’ is… I know a bit of the early history of Schuster’s and stamps (which is why I was so thrilled to have found this!), but I have no idea what this ‘Chapter 52’ is or when it occurred.” Could he, would he, help?
Mr. Geenen replied:
I found a very similar coupon book at the Milwaukee Historical Society when I was doing the research for my book, Deanna. You have one of the few around.
I believe that the book you have was issued and filled with stamps during WWII, when there was strict price fixing. Stores were not allowed to raise prices and were restricted in using the word” sale” when they advertised.
I don’t know what Chapter 52 is for sure, but by the language it appears that Chapter 52 was the fixed price legislation. So what they were saying is that Schusters stamps would be issued if the item was not on the price fixed list.
Issuing the stamps was like putting an item on sale and during the war putting an item on sale was discouraged as it would encourage people to hoard.
How exciting to know what I have is rather rare! And now, thanks to Mr. Geenen, I have more pieces to the story!
I haven’t quite closed the book on this bit of Schuster’s history. But I’ve put a (metaphoric) pin in the Schuster’s Stamp Savings Story for now. …A collector is never quite finished.
It may or may not amaze you, given how savvy you are about TV show deals, etc., but I personally find the American Pickers branding that down-plays Fritz and his store to be, well, a bit of a downer. However unintentional the confusion is regarding the business relationship between Mike & Frank, it certainly is debatable; especially as Danielle constantly refers to Wolf & Fritz as her bosses.
Perhaps the show should make a stop at Frank Fritz’s shop now and then. Even just to drop something off. Even if they do, I might just have to make a road trip there myself. *wink*
Last week Wifey and I were hanging out at our local antique mall when a woman came in wanting to sell a Tupperware full of bits and baubles. Among the jewelry and silverware was a small jewelry-sized baggie full of tokens. Although I’m no help when it comes to jewelry, Wifey was glad I was around to evaluate the tokens. As you may have noticed, money and money-like things are one of the things I collect. The baggie held some generic arcade tokens, a nice Sioux City transit token that went into my collection, a few southeast Asia Playboy Club tokens went into Wifey’s collection, but the rest were a variety of trade tokens.
Today, some retailers have gotten all high-tech by distributing deals by texts and the internet, but even paper coupons are barely more than a hundred years old. Coca-Cola is considered the creator of the modern coupon, offering free drinks in hopes of hooking a lifelong customer, and once it proved effective for Coke other products followed suit.
Soap, of all types and uses, was a commonplace product that was just growing in demand in the early 20th century — regular washing and bathing was an uncommon experience until Victorian times — and each new entry into the market needed to elbow its way into people’s kitchens and washrooms. The reason people still watch ‘soap operas’ hails back to one of the most successful soap marketing methods, making Procter and Gamble one of the more successful television production companies today. Coupons for free products, like Coca-Cola’s successful plan, became one of the soap industry’s more successful efforts to get their products into the hands of customers.
The soap coupon tokens I have are also rooted in an earlier type of token: the trade token. Trade tokens were issued by a business, municipality, organization, or other group as a sort of fiat currency. Regular customers could earn a trade token through repeat patronage, or as an encouragement to shop at an institution. They were often marked with the business’ name, and a value in money or product. These were truly tokens, not just coupons, made of metal and sized to be similar to other currencies of the time. People carried them around in their changepurse and used them as currency when applicable. Quite often they were good for fifty or twenty-five cents — a couple dollars in today’s money — at a general store or specialty shop, but you can easily compare a saloon providing trade tokens good for one drink to Coca-Cola’s coupon plan. Trade tokens lasted through the end of the nineteenth century, but slowly faded out at the beginning of the twentieth century.
Coupon tokens did survive in some corners well into the twentieth century, particularly if you remember Sambo’s coffee tokens or Country Kitchen coins. Those soap companies, who offered all sorts of freebies and offers in many different forms, found the greatest value in making coin-shaped coupon tokens. One benefit the soap companies found was that the metal tokens could be easily included in the packages of soaps, which often lived in wet places, without running the risk of damage that a paper coupon might encounter. The tokens also found their way into customers’ hands via mail, and their portability and resilience made them easily pocketable and carried about.
The Palmolive company and James S Kirk Co were the biggest producers of these coupon tokens, mostly during the 1920s. The tokens were often called “coupon checks”, because they had an actual monetary value to the retailer that accepted the coin. Retailers were welcome to accept the tokens if they chose, and could get a banner to show off their participation, but a review of old newspaper ads showed that the attempt to redeem tokens was so common that retailers who didn’t participate said so in their ads, to avoid having to refuse the tokens in the checkout line.
These coupon tokens were mostly aluminum, and some bronze, and they came in a variety of shapes and formats. Some were circles, like their money counterparts, but soap tokens could also be square, rectangle, octagonal, or oblong ovals. Most were on the large side, an inch or more in diameter, and many even had a hole in the middle. The wide variety of shapes and sizes makes for a collection as varied and interesting as any foreign coin collection, and the tokens are surprisingly common. This makes soap coupon tokens a cheap introduction into the art of exonumia, from an antique and unique perspective, without breaking the bank.
One of the most fascinating areas of collecting antique and vintage photographs are those images showing the interior of shops and retails stores — like these real photo postcards, circa 1907.
Notice the well-dressed help and the tin tiles on the walls; the fine array of items, such as china in the display cases, the baby buggies and strollers… Oh, the things you could see with the actual antique postcard in your hand and a magnifying glass!
In this next image, there are plenty of guns, tools, keys, and hardware — along with spinning wheels, a few stray things, such as coffee pots and lanterns. On the walls there are other intriguing photographs… Lots of lovely ladies — including one with two horses! Perhaps a circus act? Among all the beauties, what appears to be the bottom half a wrestler or other male athlete.
For those of us who remember film photography, you’ll enjoy seeing these vintage photos of shops long out of the picture.
First, this photograph of this drive-up film developing stand called the Shutter Shak. (Or perhaps it’s the Shutter Shack? It’s hard to tell from the angle.) This stand-alone building has the shape of a camera, complete with dials and flashbulb on top, and rivals the details of any kitschy roadside attraction! I have no idea where this shop was located; please post a comment if you know more about it.
This next photo is of a camera and supply shop called The Darkroom, with it’s storefront window looking like a camera lens. According to Fine Arts LA:
The Darkroom (5364 Wilshire Blvd.) was once the photographic supply store of choice with a 9-foot tall camera storefront. Built in the early ’30s, it is now the home of El Toro Cantina.
Digital cameras have nearly Photoshopped these places from our main streets — but they live on on photographs.
So you and your family are driving down the road, on your way to some vacation destination spot, and suddenly a giant dog appears — I mean a huge building designed to look like a dog. A classic roadside attraction offering ice cream, coffee, sandwiches, and, of course, hot dogs. It didn’t matter if you were hungry or not, you’d just have to stop!
Photos via Old Chum (presumably Walter Manning of the Old Faithful Shop). If anyone knows more about these kitschy classic roadside wonders of yesteryear, please leave a comment and let us know!