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.

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.

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.

Collecting Vintage Restaurant Menus

I never thought about collecting restaurant menus. But I do like to read them while I’m there. Too often there isn’t time before serving staff are at your table, wating for you to make a decision. So, I can see how collecting restaurant menus would get started.

I especially like old menus which have the history of the business, explanations about the restaurant name, the family who run it, and so on. It would be nice to take home the menu and have time to read it. Not to mention, the artwork.

What do you think of modern menus compared to vintage menus? Now they can be made on a computer and printed out without going to a professional printer. I think there is less artwork used. Other than the image on the front cover or top of the page, the rest are likely photographs. I’d rather have illustrations.

Of course, I’m not even counting chain restaurants as places to collect menus from. My favourite restaurants are still the individual, little places. Most of them get passed by tourists looking for the cookie-cutter restaurant chains. I prefer the little places, often family owned and run, where the locals still go for breakfast, lunch or dinner. I admit, I’m especially fond of the breakfast places. The bottomless coffee, the bacon and eggs and the slice of orange on the side. My favourite local breakfast restaurant is run by a Mother and son with one of the daughters often stepping in too.  I’ve seen all the incarnations of their menus. They aren’t vintage, but they have that feeling of being homemade and kitschy.

My question for menu collectors is: Do you ask to take them home or walk out with them under your arm and hope no one says anything?

I love reading menus. They are the shop windows of the kitchen and provide a playful sense of gambling for what might just be the best of worst meal of your life. Today I stumbled upon a rather […]

Source: The Vintage Menu Collector: 25,000 Restaurants by One Woman

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

Fiddle-Dee-Dee! Frankly, My Dear, We Do Give A Damn!

The biggest sale of Gone With the Wind memorabilia ever is set for next month, with more than 150 lots from the classic film will go under the hammer at Heritage Auctions.

The collection was assembled by Jim Tumblin, who spent 22 years working at the Universal Studios hair and make-up department. The collection began in the 1960s, when Tumblin spotted a dress while doing some research at Western Costume.

“I saw this dress on the floor and a docent told me not to bother to pick it up, because they were throwing it away,” he said.

“I asked if he would sell it to me. I had noticed there was a printed label saying Selznick International Pictures and ‘Scarlett production dress’ was written in ink.”

Tumblin got the dress for $20 — and now bidding for the dress worn by Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara will start at $60,000.

gone with the wind dress up for auction

The entire collection is estimated to go as high as $1 million.

The auction takes place Saturday, April 18, 2015, in Beverly Hills. Online bidding ends April 17th.

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

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.

Polly Dolly (Or, Of Boys & Dolls)

I don’t write about dolls here much because I write about them for Diane’s Doll Hospital. In January, I wrote this piece for their newsletter; but since it was such a personal story, they graciously gave me permission to publish it here.

In 1972, the Ms. Foundation for Women produced Free to Be… You and Me, an illustrated book and record album set. Initiated by Marlo Thomas, the mission of the Free to Be… You and Me project was to provide healthy messages refuting and rejecting gender stereotypes while encouraging the positive and empowering post-1960s ideas of gender equality, individuality, comfort with one’s identity, and tolerance. Using her celebrity clout, Marlo Thomas got a number of her celebrity friends to create, write, and perform the modern day lessons to children in song and story form. No doubt the hope was that the parents and other adults in children’s lives were listening — and learning — too.

Just two years later, in March of 1974, ABC aired the Free to Be… You and Me television special. The TV special also had the celebrity cast of singers, performers, and narrators, known as Marlo Thomas and Friends. For the special, the LP tracks were often produced with animated cartoon visuals, designed to capture the attention of children who were used to being fed a steady diet of Saturday morning cartoons. (By this time, Schoolhouse Rock! was already seeing great success with its educational animation work.) A number of the segments from this TV special were also reformatted for educational use in schools, including audio-visual materials such as filmstrips. As a result of this heavy media saturation, many adults today readily remember Free to Be… You and Me. In fact, the principles behind Free to Be… You and Me combined with the nostalgia continue to drive the foundation and push sales; the record has remained in print all this time (as well as put onto CD) and a newly remastered version of the television special was released on DVD in 2010.

Among the most memorable and iconic Free to Be… You and Me stories was William Wants A Doll, based upon Charlotte Zolotow’s children’s picture book William’s Doll (1972). The animated TV version of William Wants A Doll, performed by Alan Alda and Marlo Thomas, was about a little boy who really, really wanted a doll. But William’s desire for a baby doll wasn’t encouraged.

william wants a doll

His friends told him not to be a “sissy”. His brother said not to be a “jerk”. His father tried to distract William with more manly toys, giving his son a basketball, a baseball glove, and other sports items as gifts. But none of this deterred William. In spite of all the mocking and manipulation, he still wanted a doll.

Eventually, William’s understanding grandmother gets William a doll! The boy is elated!

william and his doll

But William’s father is concerned by the gift, and it’s up to the grandmother to explain that it’s OK. After all, William just wants to love and care for a doll — and that’s how he will learn care for his own baby “as every good father should do”.

William’s lesson of boys and dolls was given over three decades ago. Since then, many studies have been done and many articles have been written. Over and over again they indicate that dolls are perfectly fine toys for boys. But still, the social pressure of “the boy code” persists so strongly that many people today remain shocked that little boys would like to play with dolls. Or that grown men would collect dolls. Thanks heavens for all the boys and men who ignored those people and just continued to love dolls!

[Break]

I was just 10 years old when William Wants A Doll hit television and I still remember it vividly. Not just for the whiny and grating (yet somehow infections) chorus of “A doll, a doll, William wants a doll”. (It is quite catchy!) Nor for the hoards of kids who sang it, matching the whiny and grating sound with mocking and contemptuous sneers. What made William Wants A Doll so memorable then was the shock I received seeing and hearing it — I was flabbergasted that it even existed.

How could the idea of a boy loving a doll even be “a thing” — let alone a thing so big that there had to be a counter-movement against it?

Now, you might say that I was a wise and accepting kid. Or that all kids are wise and accepting, at least until someone teaches them not to be. Or maybe you think I was just naive. …It is true that I didn’t have any brothers, so what did I know of male gender roles and doll troubles? But the truth is, I knew a little boy who had a doll — or, I should say, I knew of a little boy who’d had a doll growing up. That boy was now a man. And that man was my father.

This is my father, Dean, with his doll, Polly. Actually, to the family she is known as Polly Dolly.

deanwithpollydolly

Though Polly Dolly bears no marks for maker or origin, she is likely a German-made, soft-bodied, composition doll.

We aren’t sure exactly when Polly Dolly was made; but we do know that she was really born the day she was given to my dad and he christened her “Polly Dolly”. Not that my dad remembers that day. As far back as his memory goes, there’s always been a Polly Dolly. The best he can guess is that he was given the doll when he was about three years old. Since my father was born in 1942, that would be about 1945.

It was during those years that America, like most of the world, was involved in WWII. Even if you had a lot of money (and his family didn’t), toys were quite rare due to wartime rations. Now, as an adult, my father believes that Polly Dolly was a secondhand doll, likely given to his mother by a neighbor or family friend. Not that it mattered to the three year old boy. It was a toy — and it was his, all his!

At least for the next few years.

You see, my dad has a younger sister. Being three years his junior, her arrival was around the same time as Polly Dolly’s. That’s probably not a coincidence. More than likely, news that a baby was on the way was what motivated someone to give the doll away. Here was a little boy who needed to learn how to be gentle with a real baby coming into the house; some wise and generous person know a doll was in order!

Baby sister grew. And young Dean learned to share. First, he had to learn to share the bedroom he already shared with his grandmother. And then, he had to learn to share Polly Dolly too.

One day, when my dad was about seven or eight, his mother took his little sister on a walk down the block to the park — and his sister insisted upon taking Polly Dolly along. But when mother and daughter came back from the park, little Dean discovered that his sister had left Polly Dolly there!

Being that she was so little, it was up to Dean to go back to the park and get the doll. He was furious! This was more than just some annoying thing a big brother had to do to help his little sister; this was her mistake, and she should fix it. This was inexcusable! It was one thing to walk down the block to the park and let his pals see him running errands for his sister — but it was something else to be seen carrying a doll! Remember, this was 1949-1950, or so. Boys didn’t play with dolls. Teddy bears? Sure. But a doll for a guy was different. Heck, G.I. Joe hadn’t even been invented yet! (Not to mention, as my husband and all the other men in my life remind me all the time, G.I. Joe is an “action figure”, not a “doll”). Little seven or eight year old Dean did not want to be seen carrying a doll!

But — it was his beloved Polly Dolly; he had to go get her!

No one else was going to do it; it was up to him.

So young Dean waited as long as he possibly could before he went to rescue Polly Dolly. He figured the later it was, the less of his friends there would be at the park to see him fetch the doll. I obviously wasn’t there that night, but, as a parent myself now, I know the boyhood version of my father had to have a knot in his stomach waiting as he did, worrying with every passing minute whether Polly Dolly would be there… The longer he waited, the greater the risk that someone else could take her or break her… Was the potential embarrassment worth such a risk? What a gamble it all was!

I envision my father as a boy venturing out on Operation Rescue Polly Dolly… I picture him sticking to the lengthening shadows as much as possible to hide his face — his flushing, sweating, anxious face. I imagine his joy when he spots his doll, safe and sound, at the park… Perhaps some tears spring to his eyes; one part relief, another part shame at having risked, for the sake of his boyish pride, never seeing his friend again. I see him scooping Polly Dolly up and turning quickly to make that uncomfortable run home, still trying not to be spotted by any of his friends, as his emotions twist and turn into anger at his sister once again.  And how he ends up at home, winded and spent, just glad to be able to return Polly Dolly to her proper place in his bedroom.

So you see, even at 10 years old, I didn’t need William Wants A Doll to tell me that boys can love dolls. Nor today do I need a bunch of studies or articles to tell me how boys who play with dolls grow-up to become nurturing parents and caregivers. I’ve always had my dad to show me those things.

dean with polly dolly

[Break]

As you can see, Polly Dolly has seen better days. Or, as we learned in The Velveteen Rabbit, Polly Dolly has been made Real by someone who REALLY loves her. Like the Skin Horse in the book explained, “These things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” And we all understand.

Along with the damages to her pretty face and head, Polly Dolly also has some issues with her fingers and is completely missing her toes.

polly dolly vintage composition doll

back of polly dolly's head

composition doll's hand

momma crier doll hole

And there’s a hole punched through the fabric on her soft body, exposing that she once was a mama crier doll (though my father never recalls her having made any noise; the crier was likely damaged before he ever got her).

…OK, Polly Dolly may be a bit too Real. While I completely believe in what the Skin Horse says, that “Once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always,” dear old Polly Dolly is in need of some serious repairs — if only to make sure she will be able to survive to supervise the stories about her as they are told to future generations.

polly dolly face

 I’d like to thank Diane’s Doll Hospital, again, for allowing me to post this article here. February is the month of sweethearts for me; not only for Valentine’s Day, but my daddy was born in February. So I am happy to celebrate him — and Polly Dolly — this month!

PS If you collect dolls, or just love them, you really should subscribe to the free Dolls By Diane newsletter. *smile*

Positive Things You May Have Missed At EBay

I know that many of us who regularly hunt for collectibles at eBay are likely to start with our “My EBay Page” or a bookmarked link to one of our favorite category pages, and as a result we often never visit the main page of the site. As a result, even if it’s nearly a year old already, you may have missed eBay’s new blog called eBay Stories.

Unlike most things eBay, this part of eBay proper actually manages to focus on antiques, vintage items, and history. One of their latest posts was about how a lost WWI medal was found again. What collector doesn’t like to hear about a story like that? We love happy endings like that! To keep up with other similar stories, you can bookmark the “Remarkable Listings” category of the blog. Or make just one visit and subscribe to the newsletter.

PS If you’ve heard about eBay Collections, but aren’t sure what they are or how to use them, here’s a nice tutorial.

ebay stories wwi medal

Historic First World War banjo comes back to Canada


This story just resonates on many levels. It’s about a chance discovery that included a mystery – partially solved through luck, skill and perseverance. The tale combines history writ large and humanity on an individual level.

Deanna Dahlsad‘s insight:

Why we all collect!

See on blogs.northcountrypublicradio.org

Christmas Decorating For Collectors Who Want To Show Off Their Collections

The holidays, with all their visitors, are the perfect time for showing off our collections. And what collector doesn’t want to show off their collection?! Instead of replacing your antique and vintage treasures with holiday pieces, why not deck your collections along with decking the halls? It can be as simple as mixing in some simple holiday trims.

Here’s a collection of vintage soda pop bottles topped with simple gold and silver ball ornaments. It would make a unique centerpiece on any holiday table.

festive vintage soda pop bottle collection display

Collect breweriana, not pop? Gold balls really make vintage beer glasses come alive!

festive holiday poker display

Here I used some sparking Christmas tree balls and strings of garland to decorate some vintage pottery pieces.

vintage collectibles dressed for the holidays

Even more rustic country displays can be given some holiday glitz this way. I added some silver balls and garland to this set of vintage blue Ball canning jars.

festive primitives glass canning jars

And here, that rustic autumn centerpiece gets a bit more glamorous for the holidays. Along with the ball ornaments, I added some glittery golden picks.

rustic holiday centerpiece

Antique and vintage ornaments are nice to use, of course. And the old glass ornaments are actually much cheaper than you think right now. The kitschy vintage pipecleaner and flocked plastic ornaments, like the shelf-elves, are becoming more popular now and well out-price the vintage glass pieces. In fact, the vintage glass balls and ornaments — even those painted, frosted or otherwise decorated — can be found in antique shops in my area for as little as one dollar! (Contact me at my store page if you want me to be your personal shopper and get some for you!)

However, if you don’t have any vintage ornaments left over once you’ve decorated the Christmas tree, or if you cannot find enough old ornaments to get a color theme for your grouping, you can get extra trimmings inexpensively at the dollar store. That’s where all of these balls, picks, and garland came from.

Sylvia Pope is a 70-year-old grandmother who loves Christmas

ornamentcollector

Her house in Morriston, Swansea, South Wales is home to her ever-growing collection of Christmas ornaments, which now numbers over 1800 pieces. The glittering holiday baubles come from all over the world and, because she has more than would fit on her Christmas tree, they hang from her living room ceiling for all to enjoy.

Deanna Dahlsad‘s insight:

More photos & info if you click 😉

See on fair-oaks-antiques.tumblr.com

Vintage Old Manse & Hazle Atlas Art Deco Preserves Bottle

A few months ago I stumbled into this vintage (nearly antique) glass preservatives bottle or jar. While I love the romantic (and nearly heart-shaped) paper label for Old Manse strawberry preserves (by Oelerich & Berry Company of Chicago), it was the fluid art deco lines of the bottle itself that sealed the deal in terms of purchase. Those same lines led to a real labor of love, because this bottle became quite the cleaning restoration project. (To be honest, the shinning silver with “runs” of golden along the embossed sides were beautiful — had it not been for the incredible stink, I would have left it thus!)

old preserves bottle before after

In my attempts to discover how to clean it, however, I discovered the BLM/SHA Historic Glass Bottle ID & Information Website and Bill Lindsey.

While my email conversations with Lindsey were a bit disjointed (because I was dealing with a bottle soaking in bleach & therefore had forgotten all about looking for any marks on the bottom of the glass jar — sheesh!), Lindsey did confirm my thoughts that this was an authentic art deco food bottle from the 1920s.

Lindsey also added

The lid on the bottle you have is probably not original to the bottle as it appears in the images to be a zinc “Mason’s” jar lid that would have been used on a Mason jar.

The jar itself is a “art deco” style food jar popular in the late 1910s to 1930s (maybe a bit later). It almost certainly would not be of exclusive use to any one company but one of a number of standard designs sold to any purchaser by many different glass companies.

The “5623” is a mold index code and the “8” could be related to a date but we’ve not published our article on that company yet – and I don’t have a copy – so not sure. Still dates as you estimated.

I eagerly await the article!

Meanwhile, other collectors should note that this is a Hazel Atlas piece, marked 5623 – 8, stands about 10 and 1/4 inches tall.  Personally, I’d love to know if anyone else knows anything about this vintage glass bottle or the Oelerich & Berry Company… (UPDATE: Now listed for sale!)

hazel atlas bottle 5623 8