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.

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.

Wes Cowan’s Personal Antique Stereoview Collection Up For Auction

When hubby & I met Wes Cowan, one of the things we learned about him was that he was an avid collector of antique photographs. He began collecting them as a child and within 15 years, he’d amassed what was, at the time, the best collection of Frank Jay Haynes photographs & stereoviews. (Stereoviews are those cards with side-by-side photographs on them which, when placed in a viewer, appear three-dimensional; see stereoscopy.) Cowan, somewhat painfully, sold many of them to start his auction business, Cowan’s Auctions. But he didn’t quite stop collecting them either…

However, now Cowan has announced that his entire stereoview collection is going up for auction — including some by Frank Jay Haynes.

antique f jay haynes stereoviews cowans auctions

Frank J. Haynes, aka F. Jay Haynes or the Professor, was the Michigan native who started his photographic business in Moorhead, Minnesota, and is likely known by most for his work with Northern Pacific Railway and his photographs of Yellowstone.

The Cowan collection, a total of 249 lots, features many other antique images of historical value.

civil war death stereoview

antique african american slave black americana stereoviews

Along with one of the earliest known images of Buffalo Bill (holding a Creedmoor long range rifle), there are numerous Civil War era images, antique photographs of Native Americans, Black Americana slavery photos, and many other historical images.

American Indians antique photos Chief Jacob, Nez Perce, with Missionary Henry H. Spalding, Fort Lapwai, Idaho Territory

early antique buffalo bill photographs

The bidding began March 13, 2015, and closes at noon EST on Monday, March 30, 2015. You can view lots as well as bid online here.

The World’s Largest Model Railroad Gets An Airport

It took six years and $4,440,000, but now world’s largest model railroad set up has the world’s largest model airport!

Miniatur Wunderland

Called Knuffingen Airport, the model airport has 40 working aircraft that take off and land, as well as 90 vehicles which tour the grounds. The model is based on Hamburg’s airport which opened in 1911 and remains the oldest operational airport in the world. This wonderful display is part of Miniatur Wunderland, in Hamburg, Germany, and is now part of one of the most successful permanent exhibitions in Northern Germany.

Image via the story at The Daily Mail.

Fashion & Sewing Pattern History, Part Four

(You might want to catch up: Part One, Part Two, Part Three.)

By the start of the 1900s, home sewing and clothing patterns were big business. One of the last to enter the fray at the turn of this century, would become another one of the big names in sewing pattern collecting. According to Zuelia Ann Hurt in Craft Tools — Then and Now (Decorating & Craft Ideas, October 1980 issue):

Soon after 1900 a prominent fashion magazine called Vogue published a coupon for a pattern. For fifty cents, the reader received a pattern hand-cut by the designer Mrs. Payne on her dining-room table.

Vogue Spring 1916
Vogue Spring 1916

While Vogue was using its publishing power to spawn a fashion pattern business, the other sewing pattern companies did not slow down. Here are some notable moments — and collectible names — in sewing pattern history.

In 1902, James McCall’s The Queen of Fashion magazine changed its name again and became McCall’s Magazine, widening the contents of the publication to other womanly pursuits and interests.

In 1910, Butterick continued their sewing pattern industry innovation by introducing the “deltor” — the first instructions printed on a sheet included inside the pattern’s envelope.

In 1914, the Vogue pattern department officially left the magazine to become Vogue Pattern Company. (This was in no small part due to the 1909 purchase of Vogue by Condé Nast.) Vogue patterns continued to be sold by mail until 1917, when B. Altman’s department store in New York City became the first store to stock their patterns. In May of 1920, Vogue Patterns launches the Vogue Pattern Book.

McCall's Printed Patterns
McCall’s Printed Patterns

In 1920, there was another major change in the sewing pattern industry. This time it was McCall’s leading the way by moving from the perforated tissue patterns to printed ones. Eventually the others would follow suit. McCall’s would also begin working with designers like Lanvin, Mainbocher, Patou, and Schiaparelli.

An advertising salesman for fashion magazine Fashionable Dress, Joseph M. Shapiro, was shocked to find that something consisting mainly of tissue paper would cost $1. Via his connections, he found the way to produce — and profit from — a pattern which would sell for just 15 cents. The Simplicity Pattern Company was born in 1927 and Joseph’s son, James J. Shapiro, was its first president. With such a low price, Simplicity expanded quickly, including internationally.

In 1931, Vogue starts Couturier Line and introduces new large format envelopes.

In 1931, Simplicity began producing DuBarry patterns exclusively for F. W. Woolworth Company (through 1940).

Betty Grable Hollywood Pattern
Betty Grable Hollywood Pattern

In 1932, Condé Nast starts the Hollywood Pattern Company. Hollywood Patterns featured designs straight of film and usually had photos of Hollywood stars on the packaging as well. The Hollywood Pattern Company ceased pattern production a few years after the end of World War II.

Also in 1932, McCall’s would again push the envelope by, well, pushing the envelope — now full-color illustrations appeared on the covers of McCall’s pattern envelopes.

In 1933, Advance began manufacturing patterns sold exclusively at (and for) the J. C. Penney Company. Because of the J.C. Penny connection, Advance was able to secure a number of designers (including Edith Head and Anne Fogarty) as well as rights from Mattel for authentic Barbie fashion patterns. (The company was sold to Puritan Fashions in 1966.)

In 1946, Simplicity finally fully converts from perforated patterns to printed sewing patterns.

Vintage Vogue Paris Originals Pattern, Nina Ricci
Vintage Vogue Paris Originals Pattern, Nina Ricci

In 1949, Vogue added the Paris Original Models patterns from French Couturiers and was the only company authorized to duplicate these fantastic designs. Such deals with international designers would expand, including millinery designs in 1953 and International Designer Patterns in 1956.

In the 1950s, McCall’s patterns produces another designer line which included French couturier Hubert de Givenchy and Emilio Pucci.

In 1958, Vogue Patterns fully transitions from perforated to printed tissue patterns.

In the 1960s, McCall’s “New York Designers’ Collection Plus” featured designs from Pauline Trigere and Geoffrey Beene, among others.

Starting in 1960s and continuing through 1970s, Butterick produces the “Young Designer” series, featuring designs by Betsey Johnson, John Kloss, and Mary Quant.

In 1961, Butterick licensed the Vogue name and began to produce patterns under the Vogue name.

Images: Vogue Spring, 1916, via hampshire-estate-finds; vintage McCall’s printed pattern via misslacyg; Vintage Hollywood Sewing Pattern # 747 featuring Betty Grable, via ohiochestnutt; and Vogue Paris Original pattern by Nina Ricci via dalejeri.

Fashion & Sewing Pattern History, Part Two

As we left things at the end of part one, we were moving into the early 19th century and taking a closer look at how clothing pattern history closely parallels domestic sewing machine history.

In the early 19th century, sewing machines were not only impractical and complicated, but seen as threats. In 1830, for example, another French tailor, Barthelemy Thimonnier, found himself thwarted by another group of French tailors — this time, the tailors were so fearful of unemployment that they burned down Thimonnier’s garment factory. Four years later, American Walter Hunt would build a sewing machine; but he did not follow through on the patenting of his invention because he too feared his invention would cause unemployment. Early 19th century paper patterns, while apparently less economically feared than sewing machines, were so complicated and off-putting as to be considered fearful themselves.

These early 19th century patterns had all the pieces of a garment superimposed on one large sheet of paper. This meant that each piece was coded with specific lines, in different patterns (straight lines, dotted lines, scalloped lines, broken dash-like lines, and even combinations of these; sometimes all in the same color). To make matters worse, multiple garments were often on the same page! To make use of this map of crisscrossed patterned lines, one had to place a plain piece of paper beneath the paper pattern and use a tracing wheel to follow the (hopefully correct!) lines to make a separate pattern for each pattern piece. Even after all of this, the person attempting to make the garment was still not done. As these patterns were sold in a “one size fits all” sort of mentality, it was up to the seamstress or housewife to measure and grade (enlarge or reduce) each piece to fit the individual who would be wearing the garment. Make any mistakes along the way, and you would have wasted the fabric and your time. Perhaps ruined the pattern as well. No wonder these early sewing patterns weren’t wildly popular.

uncut paper patterns from Journal des Demoiselles with illustrations

(Photo of uncut paper patterns above from Journal des Demoiselles, with illustrations, via Whitaker Auction Co. These items are part of the Fall Couture & Textile Auction to be held November 1 – 2, 2013; auction estimate value of $100-$200.)

However, by the 1850s, sewing machines would go into mass production for domestic use. To say that sewing machines became popular for home use is an understatement; between 1854 and 1867 alone, inventor Elias Howe earned close to two million dollars from his sewing machine patent royalties. (Isaac Singer built the first commercially successful sewing machine, but had to pay Howe royalties on his patent starting in 1854.) Like computers and the Internet today, those who purchased sewing machines for use in the home found themselves dedicated to putting them to use. In Victorian London’s Middle-class Housewife: What She Did All Day, Yaffa Draznin writes:

The housewife with free time in the afternoon was far more likely to spend it at the family sewing machine than in making social calls. For the first time, it was possible to make a man’s shirt in just over an hour where before it would have taken 14 1/2 hours by hand; or to make herself a chemise in less than an hour instead of the 10 1/2 hour hand-sewing job. No wonder the middle-class married woman welcomes the domestic sewing machine with such enthusiasm!

…However, considering how complicated fashionable dresses for women were, it is probable that most housewives, even those who had to watch their expenditures, did not have the talent for mastering complex dress construction; they would continue to call in a dressmaker for their more elaborate clothing. Still, sewing on a machine, like the art of cooking, was a learned skill that gave the middle-class matron both pleasure and a feeling of professional competence — job satisfaction in a sphere where a sense of inadequacy was too often the norm.

No doubt this was all equally true of women in America too.

While the upper classes may have frowned upon use of the sewing machine (for everything from the potential decline in the art of hand-stitching to the encroachment upon upper-class fashion looks), and purse-string-controlling husbands may have resisted investing in arguably the the first labor-saving device for the home (why would any self-respecting husband spend money on something his mother had done for free — besides, women were incapable of operating complex machinery!), middle-class women themselves ushered in the era of the sewing machine. With a little help from Isaac Singer.

Singer’s first consumer or domestic sewing machine, the Turtle Back (named for the large container the machine came in), sold for $125 — at a time when the average household income for a year was $500. To overcome objections, Singer introduced America and the rest of the world to installment payments. The marketing combination of “small monthly payments” along with demonstrations offering free instruction with each machine proved irresistible.

Gilt and Mother-of-pearl Floral singer turtleback sewing machine

This, of course, could not go unnoticed by the ladies magazines and household manuals of the day. These publications began to include long and detailed sections on home dressmaking, covering everything from measurement taking to advice on fitting garments. And, of course, on patterns themselves. Soon, these magazines began to print dress patterns inside their pages. Such “free” patterns made for great promotions; it drew women to purchase and subscribe to the magazines and no doubt sold advertising space as well. But still, these were those complicated types of sewing patterns…

To Be Continued.

Helping Children Collect

There’s a lot of discussion, sometimes couched as a “panic,” about how there are not enough kids interested in collecting. Whether you are concerned about the collecting industry or not, there are valid reasons to get kids interested in the hobby. Collecting is a self-directed activity about passion, and in our world of (sometimes overly) scheduled activities, the self-motivated journey of collecting builds more than a collection of objects, but skill sets as well.

In my new work as a columnist at Collector Perspectives (sponsored by American Collectors Insurance, the nation’s leading provider of collector insurance), I give a list of 10 things you can do to encourage collecting among the young.

Collector Perspectives Blog Badge

A Vintage Mae West Scrapbook

Today’s scrapbooks are filled with photographs of family & friends, complimented by decorative papers and supplies purchased for the sole act of creating fantastic looking photo albums. But once upon a time, scrapbooks bore more resemblance to their name: they were books full of “scraps” of paper.

Some of these vintage scrapbooks did chronicle personal events or lifetimes, of course; but many were just compilations of neat things people found in newspapers and magazines. Some people were quite dedicated, focusing their efforts on specific themes. At least each scrapbook had its own theme. And some of the most popular themes were scrapbooks dedicated to movie stars. Like this old Mae West scrapbook.

It’s filled with carefully clipped images of the film star from various newspapers and magazines of the time. Looks like there are a few publicity photos sent to fans as well.

I know some people will balk at the seller’s price tag of $450. But when you consider how much it would cost to find and purchase enough vintage publications and the like to attempt to recreate this nearly-antique scrapbook, it seems a pretty small price to pay in comparison. Plus, even if you could manage to locate all the same scraps, would it be the same as knowing someone dedicated themselves to the selection and organization of this old book? I don’t think so.

When you think about it, scrapbooking isn’t much different than blogging is today. But as ephemeral as old paper is, there’s something more lasting about it… Perhaps because none of us knows what will become of blogs and websites in the next 80 years. Even in that unknown future, I can’t imagine someone not enjoying holding an old book like this and carefully turning the pages to see what someone created.

Image Credits: All images from empressjadeoftheuniverse.

Adventures In Cute: Child Collectors

After reviewing her book, Hello, Cutie!: Adventures in Cute Culture, I had the chance to interview the collector and author, Pamela Klaffke. In her book, she mentions that her young daughter is also a collector. Since I’m a big fan of children who collect, I wanted to speak with Pamela specifically about her daughter’s collecting.

Hello again, Pamela. Let’s talk a little bit about your daughter and what she collects.

Her name is Emma, she is 11-and-a-half and is in sixth grade. She primarily collects Blythe and Dal dolls, anime figurines, Pokémon plush toys and game cards, plus stuffed animals in general.

When and at what age did she begin collecting?

She’s been collecting since she was a toddler — first with Care Bears, then My Little Pony, and big-eyed Lil Peepers plush toys. Her interest in each collection lasted about 2-3 years and she was really focused. She would usually just buy items for her collections, rather than just a bunch of random toys.

Did you have to encourage her to collect?

It’s not something we really discussed, but being a collector myself I certainly didn’t dissuade her, except maybe when the stuffies started to edge her out of her bed! We had to start keeping them in bins. But collecting has always interested her and come quite naturally.

As a parent and a collector, I feel that the act of collecting is a great thing for children. It helps with practical things such as handling money, negotiating, making decisions, etc. While regular shopping has some of these things, collecting is different and even better than just going to a toy store. Even without the vintage aspect of learning about history, there’s far more involved… It’s not as easy because there’s more to sift through, no catalog pages to circle, etc. A child learns to value imperfect things — while perhaps learning to take better care of the things she collects (because “older” can mean “more fragile”). And I do believe that the role of collector is rather like the role of artist. What things do you think your daughter has learned or gained from collecting?

She’s definitely learned how to save money for an item she wants — she saved for four months earlier this year to pay for a special, limited edition Blythe doll. She’s also learned how to research the best price for items online and can spot a good deal. Many of the things she collects have to be ordered from Asia, so she’s become pretty savvy at ferreting out the bargains. She also combs every nook and cranny of a thrift shop in search of a genuine 1970s vintage Kenner Blythe doll. She’s heard the stories of people finding them in unlikely places and hopes one day it will happen to her!

Here’s hoping Emma finds her big score!

If you or child collect dolls, toys, and other cute things, you’ll love Pamela’s book.

Antiquing: There’s An App For That (Or, Why You Should Give iTunes & Google Play Gift Cards)

Whether you have a smartphone or a tablet, whether it’s an Apple or Android based, you can put it to work for you as a collector. Many of them are completely free; others just a few dollars. With apps like these, you’ll feel like the Harrison’s on Pawn Stars because you’ll have your own experts to consult anytime you need them! Here are a few of my favorites.

(Because I have an Android phone, I’m listing these with links to Google Play but you can find most, if not all, of them at iTunes as well. You can easily gift these apps by giving Google Play Cards and Apple iTunes Cards.)

There are scads of apps for alerting you to garage sales, including providing maps so you can easily get there. Pickers Pal has free and paid versions. (Note: Apps based on location will vary widely in results/reviews because some areas just fetch smaller results, so I say try free versions first to see if the number of results is worth it.)

The What’s It Worth? eValuator App determines the average eBay value of an article from the successfully sold items of the last few weeks; there are free and paid versions.

WorthPoint’s Price Miner has a free app, but it’s only for subscribers. To access it, use your wireless device to go to www.priceminer.com/iphone and login.

If you buy and/or sell books, Amazon’s Price Check app will show you what the book (or anything else with a barcode) is selling for at Amazon.

One of my favorite apps is from my local scrap metal guy. Not only does this sometimes help in evaluating the price to pay for metal objects, but there’s no reason I can’t pick up scrap stuff along the way, sell it to my scrap guy and use the profits to fund my antiquing. So look around and see if there are scrap metal apps like this to help you in your area.

The Antique Silver Makers Marks App is your digital catalog of makers marks for silver items. Why carry around a book when the knowledge can be in your hip pocket?

There are lots more apps that you might find useful. Just start searching! And please do tell us what apps you find useful!

14 Things This Collector Is Thankful For

Traditionally Thanksgiving involves giving thanks for family, friends, food and other blessings of a non-materialistic nature. I’ll be giving that little speech later today with family, don’t you worry about that; but this holiday I want to give special thanks from the bottom of my little collector heart.

#1 “Thanks, ancestors, for settling here.” And by ‘settled’ I mean just that, setting up permanent houses. No offense to the more nomadic peoples, but I’m a collector; I need a place to store my stuff.

#2 “Thanks to all the people who don’t throw things out.” If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t be able to find and adopt them.

#3 “Thanks, mom and dad, for instilling in me the love of collecting.” You taught me many joys of collecting… the rush of finding, the thrill of bidding victory, the coolness of displaying it all… But more than object ownership & the pursuit of it, you taught me what objects & collecting really is about.

Objects were never ‘just things’, but stories, lessons, and connections. You taught me that everything has/had a purpose. It was made to solve a problem, to express an emotion, or was in some way a part of a larger story. That story may be personal or part of the collective human story — sometimes, the story begins as one and ends as another. You didn’t just share your stories & knowledge, but did so with enthusiasm. And you encouraged us to share our own stories about what we learned, which in turn encouraged us to become lovers of learning.

These lessons in history, culture, art, form & function were all valuable — but none more valuable than the time spent with you. May I have the brains and patience to convert the passion for stuff into such gifts for my children.

#4 “Thanks, mom and dad, for teaching me how to collect.” The lessons here were many… Simple money management skills, for example, have served me well. But learning how to evaluate and establish the value of something has impacted my life the most.

Value is isn’t always what you think it is. It’s not just the price you pay for it, and it may be something no two people will ever agree upon either. Yet when it comes to monetary value, this can only be determined when people agree upon it. So if you don’t agree with the price suggested, negotiate.

Lessons in negotiations taught me, even as a child, how to walk up to anyone with confidence and talk about anything — and how, when things weren’t going my way, to walk away politely without any upset. I’d done my best, but it just wasn’t going to work out this time. Everyone should learn that lesson.

If & when you agree to a value and pay it, no matter what that amount is, you should treat that item with great care. The true value of that object is what made you want it in the first place, and, whatever price you paid, that was money you worked hard to earn. Dismissing these intrinsic values in the object does more than dishonor the object now entrusted to your care, but shows disrespect for yourself. It’s not that the guy with the bigger pile wins; but rather it’s the girl with the most integrity, who takes care of her things and show value for herself, who does.

#5 “Thanks, mom and dad, for teaching me what collecting is — and what it isn’t. Things are not more important than people, but objects can be a link to the people in our personal pasts and long-gone members in our family tree. As we hand traditions and stories down, the original objects themselves are the tangible proof of who walked and loved among us, as well as those who walked before us.

That said, no one should ever love an object so much that they are willing to sacrifice a family member or family peace over it. People first, things second.

#6 “Thanks, teachers, for instructing me how to take an interest and turn it into an obsession.” Without the research skills you taught me, I never would have known how to sate my curiosity. Nor would I have learned that research may in fact only lead to more questions, more research, and that this too is a form of joy; the delight of discovery & the thrill of yet another new adventure are awesome things.

Of course, this would not have been possible if it weren’t for those who taught me not only to read but to love reading. (My book collection, especially thanks you.)

Ditto those who taught me to write. I may have cursed dangling participles, hated your red pen, but without you, my obsession & research would have no outlet.

#7 “Thanks to my dogs for not chewing on or otherwise destroying items and boxes left on the floor when we unload the van after a trip to an auction.” It means I have some time to make room for them all.

#8 “Thanks to my cat for reminding me that the boxes have sat there too long by sitting on top of the most visible box.” It reminds me the things in the boxes need better care, so I’d better find more safe and permanent storage for them.

#9 “Thanks to the guy who invented boxes.” It would truly suck if I didn’t have strong, stackable containers to carry things home and store them in.

#10 “Thanks, museums & their staff, for housing & caring for what I cannot.” Everybody has limits — even museums. But without you, where would things, large and small, go and be preserved? Thanks for doing all that you can so that these objects and their stories will be there for others when they desire to see and learn about them.

(And you make research that much easier too.)

#11 “Thanks, again, to all the people who don’t throw things out.” It bears repeating, because without you, what would I do?!

#12 “Thanks, hubby & kids, for not just putting up with me — but for collecting with me.” I love that we all go on collecting adventures together, and that we share our finds, discoveries, and stories. I love that you listen to mine (and review games with me on occasion), of course, but it’s not every mother, every wife, who is lucky enough to be the goal of a footrace as every one rushes to tell her what they found, how they found it, and why it’s so special.

Every time we talk about our things, asking questions — and listening to the answers, I think how lucky I am to have a close family comprised of such inquisitive & interesting people. It’s a privilege to collect with you.

#13 “Thanks, makers of the Internet, for creating a new world.” Without the Internet, my collecting world would be so much smaller… Smaller in terms of finding, buying, selling, researching, and meeting other folks as obsessed as I. It’s nifty to know that there are other nuts like me — folks even nuttier than me — ‘out there somewhere’; but it’s hard to put into words just how keen it is to meet these fellow-nuts, see their glorious stuff, and learn their stories.

#14 “A special thanks to you, dear reader.” Your reading, comments, and emails are proof that I’m not alone in my obsession… The objects of our affections may differ (delightfully!), but we are all a part of the same thing. It’s a privilege to collect with you, too.

13 Thoughts On Collecting

I meet a lot of interesting collectors, who also just happen to be as interesting and unique as their collections, and I thought perhaps you’d like to get to hear their thoughts on collecting. 

What do you collect — and what is the most common reply you hear when you tell people about your collection? (Yes, blank stares and laughs are acceptable replies!)

Collin David: (From Collectors Quest.)

#1 Among other things: I primarily collect Batman stuff and action figures of all kinds. Secondary (but still scary) collections include vinyl records, art, robots, squid, DVDs and videos, trade paperback comics, Legos, gaming miniatures, trading cards, all kinds of books, scrap pieces of plastic, wood, metal and beyond, instruments. I’m actually slimming down a bit due to space concerns. And when I say ‘concerns’, I mean ‘am I going to be crushed in the night?’

Shelley Brice-Boyle: (Is also known as sweet*cherry*pops, the delightful seller behind Sweet Cherry Vintage Lingerie.)

#2 I collect and wear vintage lingerie, and totally passionate about it. I collect everything from bras, panties, slips, negligee’s and peignoir sets, anything from the 1930’s to the 1980’s. I not only sell it, I wear it, live it, dream it! When I tell people I collect vintage lingerie, they look at me with an expression of “Huh?” and “Why?”

Marty Weil: (The award-winning journalist, SEO content strategist, and editor/publisher of ephemera, a blog that explores the world of old paper.)

#3 For the most part, people have not heard of ephemera, but when I tell them it’s old paper, they perk up. There are a lot of people who collect old paper, but they don’t know it. They have drawers full of vernacular photographs or old menus or postcards. All of these things are considered ephemera, and once people realize the scope of it, they can see that it touches just about everyone.

Angela: (She owns Dorothea’s Closet, a virtual and real-world vintage clothing shop.)

#4 Satin boudoir slippers from the 50’s and older (primarily older, and I am most interested in Daniel Green pieces, but look for Oomphies as well as a few other labels). Advertisements and other paraphernalia as well. Typically people don’t even know what they are as the art of glamorous lounging is no longer practiced, sadly. I don’t collect fuzzy old lady slippers, these boudoir slippers are shoes meant to be worn indoors but meant to be seen…worn with silk and satin hostess gowns when entertaining at home.

Mary Ann Cade: (The lady featured interviewed here and here.)

#5 I collect many different kinds of things. I collecting movie and television props, and have a huge prop jewelry collection. I collect Henry VIII items and I collect things that I remember from childhood, dolls I had as a child, movies, television shows, etc., as well as silent films. Many of my things fascinate people but I do get those stares from people that question if I am eccentric or just a nut.

What two characteristics or personal traits you feel are essential to being a collector?

# 6 Mary Ann: I feel that you need to be collecting things you are interested in, not collecting items that everyone else is collecting, just to be part of a group. Dedication to collecting is important without going overboard or crazy about it. The best part of collecting something is getting the item for a bargain and not letting your heart rule your head.

(She’ll have to teach me how to do that!)

# 7 Collin: I wanted to say ‘disposable income’, but then I recalled my growing collections of feathers and dead bugs and scrap metal and wood and how gloriously free they were. I think that a collector needs to have a desire to hunt – not even acquire, just the excitement of discovery of something rare or unusual within a set theme.

A second characteristic would have to be the ability to organize and stay organized, because collecting takes up space. Being able to understand and monitor that space is essential to a successful collection.

(OK, I’m going to have to debate him on this one day; “organization” is not one of the strong-suits ’round here…)

# 8 Shelley: I feel you are a collector if you are very passionate about something. You see it, you get butterflies in your tummy. You see it, you have to have it. You see it, it’s your’s. You see it, and you want more and more of it.

(That’s more like me — let’s just hope Shelley & I won’t ever be vying for the same bit of vintage lingerie!)

# 9 Marty: It’s funny that you ask… I’ve actually done some research on this subject, and I wrote an article called the Highly Effective Habits of Collectors. The seven traits I identified, based on interview with dozens and dozens of collectors, were patience, persistence, scholarship, understanding, preserveration, Internet savvy, and fraternity with other collectors.

Did you ever get an item for your collection so cheaply that you felt like a thief? Ever stumble into such a great find that your fingers shook when you picked it up?

# 10 Angela: Bright lipstick red satin wedges with black deco piping and braided buttons on the vamp, 40s, in mint condition as well (and my size!). I had been hunting them for years but only found them on high end sites at prices out of my range. These I spotted at a antique fair in the streets of a local neighborhood and the woman selling them looked at me as I picked them up and said, “Those are so pretty, but you know they’re not vintage.” Pretty? Absolutely. Not vintage? Only if you don’t consider something vintage unless its 75 years old!! It’s likely the flawless condition that threw her off. But lucky me! They were TEN dollars!

As a collector, what is one thing you cannot live without? (Not the objects/items themselves, but other things related to collecting, such as ‘space’, ‘acid free paper’, ‘eBay’ etc.)

#11 Marty: The Internet.

#12 Shelley: Estate sales and clothing racks.

#13 Collin: I’d like to think that I’m entering a place where I don’t ‘need’ anything. In my current state, I do need space like crazy. If I had to stop collecting? It would be a really bad shell-shock, but I think I’d live and throw myself immediately into something else. Like a freeway.

Talking Records & Record Collection With Tom Casetta

Listen Up!

For over a decade now, when I’ve had a question about records, bands, music history, or just want to discover something cool to listen to, I contact Tom Casetta. This is a continuation of my interview with my music guru.

Tom, you mention the “whole packaging” aspect of vinyl; let’s talk about records as objects… I remember in 7th grade, my art teacher having us design record albums. The lesson was more than the fab art, but the concept of the package. Back then, albums were like books, with each track a chapter in the story; now with MP3s etc, more than a bit of that is lost in terms of the artist telling the story. Yeah, we all tried our own hand at making our own stories with mixed tapes too. (Which ties in quite a bit with the “new” concepts of curation and playlists.) But there is something about the whole package from the artist — even if that includes Management & Marketing. lol

Can you share an example of why certain objects in collection cannot be replaced, i.e.why a digital audio file cannot replace a record album?

Frank Zappa Mothers Of Invention Freak Out Album Cover

Sure, take Freak Out by The Mothers of Invention for example. Frank Zappa thanks a number of people in the liner notes as influences and it is like a map to understanding the music of Zappa and, for me personally, it opened and blurred all these doors or genre. I was exposed to all these 20th Century composers, jazz and folk people… The record album was also two sides. And that is lost if you aren’t playing the LPs. That two-part thing acted like a chapter of sorts. It really makes certain records what they are. The killer opening track on side two doesn’t have that same effect when heard right after the last song on side one without the pause to flip the record.

You have (at least) a whopping 8,000 records — I guess that’s why you have a radio show! Can you tell me the story of your radio show? Was it inspired by your collection — or just a way to rationalize it?

I am currently doing a weekly radio program on the Internet radio station G-Town Radio called Listen Up!. Each week, I guide you through a labyrinth of music shining a beacon on the unsung, should-be-sung, and will-be-sung recordings that clutter the maze’s dusty corridors. The station is based in a Philadelphia neighborhood called Germantown and it offers diverse programming originating from this community in Philadelphia that can be shared through the wide range of the Internet.

The Listen Up! show in some ways does rationalize my record collection as it serves as the library for much of the source material of the show. I love sharing these recordings with the public and exposing them to music perhaps they may not have heard of before. I want to share that excitement, infusing my personality into the show. It’s pretty much you, the listener, hanging out in my music library for two hours.

As a DJ, how liberating is today’s digital world?

I don’t see it that much different. I still approach my shows the same way as before.

Does the digital age come with a cost do you think?

The loss of the record shop as a means to find and discover music is probably the key loss, but there is always a need for gatekeepers to help steer one through the clutter. I also think not being able to see ones music collection on display is sad as those and the books on your book shelves say volumes about who you are to me. If I go to someone’s home and don’t see any books and/or music anywhere. I ask myself, what do you do? What do you talk about? What makes you you?

Country Rustic Display Frame

Strips of wood from an old weathered lattice, twine, and clothespins are used to make this picture frame to display photographs.

Of course, this could be used to display a collection of postcards or other ephemera too. I would heartily advocate placing the photos or ephemera in protective plastic sleeves first.

Why Do You Collect?

Recently, a North Sydney (New South Wales, Australia) publication, Northside magazine, asked a “few locals” why they collect the things they do.

Academic and psychologist Mark McKinley, thinks that collectors are actually “supreme consumers”. While being called a “consumer”, supreme or otherwise, in the USA is often akin to an insult (even if my 2008 interview with economics professor Marina Bianchi ought to have cleared that up), I believe McKinley means it in a good way:

“While many persons see shopping as a chore; something to be endured, many collectors are just the opposite,” he says.

“Spending the weekend combing garage sales, antique stores and ‘marts’ provides an escape into another world that is both exciting and pleasurable – it gets the adrenalin flowing when a ‘find’ is made.”

That certainly resonates with me.

Sonia Sattout & Her Box Collection; Photo by Yie Sandison

Another person, Sonia Sattout, who also sells antiques and vintage collectibles online, said, “Some collectors are quite normal, in that their lives have routines like work, home and so on, and they fit their collecting around those activities. Other collectors prioritise everything in their lives a distant second, after their passion or obsession for collecting whatever it is they collect.” Which is rather a nice way of saying that collectors are unique — but we’re not all hoarders.

Sattout also said she thinks there are four different types of collectors:

* the aesthetic collector, who responds to the way something looks
* the obsessive, who is always looking for something they haven’t got
* the canny investor
* most commonly, the nostalgic collector for whom what they collect is a powerful memory.

While there are probably as many reasons to collect as there are collectors, I think Sattout’s list is probably a pretty good start in terms of general categories them.

But maybe I’m a bit biased because she collects boxes as I do. *wink*

Why do you collect? And is there something you’d add or change about the four categories?

Collecting Is Like… Comfort Food

I just love this story of a college student who de-stresses from her college exams by going to antique stores.

I saw a young girl with long, brown hair sitting in a corner with a small teddy bear she had found in the store.

I saw myself in that little girl.

My father collected antiques and collectibles and would always bring my mother and I along on his trips to various antique stores.

For most of my childhood and some of my young adult life, I would spend more time than I would have liked sitting in the corner of big barns on the East Coast filled with antiques.

As a young girl, I couldn’t stand antique stores. Whenever my parents would wake me up to tell me we were going “antiquing,” I would beg them to let me stay at home.

It’s funny how something that I couldn’t stand growing up could now be such a comfort to me.

However aimlessly her shopping trip began, it struck just the right sense of comfort to calm her down enough for her studies. And how much better for her health than indulging in comfort food. *wink*

Here’s a photo of Margaret Baum, the college student, and Spartan Daily features editor, herself.

The Top Three Online Content Curation Sites For Collectors

Most collectors are aware that they are curating their collections — or at least they should be! But now, there’s online curation, or more specifically, online content curation.

Unlike blogging or writing on the web (called “content creation”), content curation is the process of sorting through the created content on the web and presenting it to others.  In the most simple terms, it’s rather like being the editor of your own magazine, picking the stories, images, and information you’d like to keep and/or share with others (unless you want to keep it private). Almost all curation sites include standard social networking features (being able to follow members and/or subscribe to curated collections) as well as allow you to connect and even sign-up easily via Facebook and Twitter.

While a lot of attention has been made of using digital curation for businesses and bloggers, collectors of antiques and vintage items will enjoy this as well. It’s a great way to organize information on what you collect, save links to resources, show off what you and your collecting friends have posted of your collections online, do some window shopping… Maybe drop a few hints… *wink*

Here are my favorite three sites for content curation for collectors of antiques & vintage collectibles:

The most well-known content curation site is Pinterest. While Pinterest is not the first of these content curation sites (far from it!), it has managed to capture a lot of media attention and an incredibly high number of users.

Pinterest is primarily image based, which works well for showing off pretty things, such as collectibles and DIY project ideas, but it isn’t necessarily suited well for articles and “how to”s. In fact, many Pinterest members go out of their way not to properly credit what’s shared, like Tumblr folks. This can be quite annoying for both those who have created content as well as those who want the information behind the photograph. Also, such little text also makes searching a bit more difficult.

However, Pinterest is rather easy to use, and allows for a rather unlimited number of collections or “pin boards” and probably has people you know there, making interacting easy. The site currently has you join a wait list rather than begin immediately. Typically, you only wait a day or two, even less if a friend invites you; but it does put a damper on one’s enthusiasm.

If your intent is to drive traffic to your own website, Pinterest leaves a bit to be desired as most people there for the pretty pictures — and once they’ve seen them on Pinterest, they aren’t as inclined to find out more. Pinterest does not show you any statistics on how many people have seen your pins or pinboards.

(This is me at Pinterest.)

Scoop.It has a great name which invokes what you are doing: You “scoop” content off the Internet and create pages which resemble little newspapers or magazines.

Since Scoop.It is focused on articles, you get to include far more text with your “scoop,” yet not give away the whole article, which just makes for better Internet friends. You also can add an image to your “scoop”, which is a nice visual when the article you are using doesn’t have one. And Scoop.It also has a suggestion option which allows you to suggest a link for another member to scoop onto their own topic. If your suggestion is used, you get a little link crediting you. This is a nice community feature that allows you to connect with other members and participate in topics past your own.

At the free level, you may have up to five collections, called “Topics.” Because you only have five free collections, you should think ahead of time and decide just what collections you want to focus on curating. If you collect a lot things, or do a lot of research, you probably want to go make each topic a bit broader,  rather than being too specific on each one. Or you can pay to upgrade your service, which includes not only a larger number of topics but the option to use your own domain name. Unlike many other content curation sites, Scoop.It does not have a main page on which you can just watch the action of what other members are doing, so you’ll have to rely on the site’s search function to see what other topics you’ll want to subscribe to. And Scoop.It does not allow for you to have private topics.

Scoop.It is designed to push folks out to the original content sources, so even though finding topics and scoops is a bit more difficult, there is some traffic to be found here. Scoop.It‘s stats take some getting used to; paid members apparently get more information on stats and analytics than free users.

(This is me at Scoop.It.)

Now we get to my favorite content curation site: Snip.It. Like it sounds, you curate by “snipping” content from the web, making your own digital scrapbooks out of the articles and images others have produced — while giving the creators proper credit and encouraging folks to go visit the content creators website, blog, gallery, etc.

Why is Snip.It my favorite? Because it primarily focuses on article curation in ways that suit me best. Along with being able to have a rather unlimited number of collections (including private ones for research I don’t want to share yet), Snip.It highlights or features great collections on the site, making it easier to find collections to subscribe to and collectors to follow.

On the main page, the most recent “snips” from featured collections are shown, with the most recent at the top. And there are also specific categories (such as “Arts & Culture” and “History”) which contain featured collections, also with the most recent “snips” at the top.  Since featured collections are selected by the folks working for Snip.It, real people are differentiating good curation from spammers who join and just want to promote junk. Because of this way of showcasing good snipped content and good snippers, I’ve been able to find a number of great resources for reading, researching — and maybe even collecting, who knows? *wink*

This is the site I’ve also had the most conversations with other members, via comments. I like that.

Snip.It is created with readers and snippers in mind, and drives people to the curated content. Even though I’ve been participating in Snip.It the least amount of time, I’ve seen the most about of traffic to my sites from it.  Snip.It does offer stats on how often your collections are viewed; additional, more in depth, stats will be available soon.

(This is me at Snip.It.)

Whichever online curation site you choose, I’m sure you’ll quickly find yourself enjoying it — just don’t spend so much time online that you forget to go to garage sales, flea markets and auctions! *wink*

Have you found any good content curation sites? Please do share in the comments!

 

Vintage Camera & Photography Ephemera Garland

Whether or not you an add another camera to your collection, you may want to consider this Vintage Camera Garland from Christine of Flapper Girl:

This garland celebrates the beauty of vintage cameras with a Wardette, Starflash, Brownie Hawkeye, a handful of retro lightfilter boxes, and two photos documenting what fun can be had with a camera in tow!

All components of this garland were hand-cut by me. The vintage cameras and lightfilters depicted in this garland are from my personal collection, and were photographed and edited by me.

Garland measures approx. 48″ long.

I love how everything looks like prints drying on the wires in a darkroom.

Flappergirl offers other paper garlands, in varying themes, in her Etsy shop — and I find them very inspiring:

These garland designs are the result of my endless fascination with, research into, and love of their subjects. Countless hours are spent collecting and assembling the perfect elements for each piece.

Each garland design is uniquely considered, elegant, and beautiful. Everything is hand-cut, hand-folded, and hand-glued. My passion and dedication is evident in their small, unexpected details and craftsmanship, making them unique and delicate treasures.