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

What Is Mid-Century Modern?

If you’ve spent any time talking with other collectors, antiquers, dealers, or folks who just enjoy watching the plethora of collecting shows, you’ve been hearing an increase in the term “mid-century modern.” Loosely applied, the term can mean anything made in the middle of the last, or 20th, century, usually 1940-1960. But more aptly, the term applies to a design aesthetic which embraces the marriage between function and form — with a simplicity of style born of the artistic and cultural movement of Modernism. And because of the “modern” in “mid-century modern”, the style dates back much further than the name implies.

Modernism is more than just an artistic style; it’s a cultural movement. The movement’s origins go far back as the 1880s, to Germany before the first World War. Despite, or perhaps because of, the prevailing conservatism, there was an increased interest in what the Germans considered the very American notion of usefulness — or, as Dennis Crockett phrased it in his book, German Post-Expressionism: The Art of the Great Disorder 1918-1924, the “predilection for functional work.”

This philosophy, called Neues Bauen or New Objectivity, was first or most notably employed in addressing the German housing crisis of the time. The physical design application of New Objectivity resulted in design innovations in architecture, in which the commercial need for cost-effective housing was met with a radically simplified yet dynamic functionalism, offering simplicity, health, and beauty for the occupants. This solidified the notion that mass-production was indeed reconcilable with individual artistic spirit — it meant affordability — and it was something the famous Bauhaus would build upon when it was founded by Walter Gropius in 1919.

Widely acknowledged as the the first academy for design in the world, the Bauhaus manifesto includes the declaration “to create a new unity of crafts, art and technology.” It was here students and artists would focus on the craftsmanship and the manufacture of works in a collaborative setting, “to produce a work that is not limited to its purely aesthetic meaning, but supports and even influences the transformation of social reality and thus shapes a new society.” And at this time, the transformation desired was a modern one of simplicity and functionality. (For more on the Bauhaus movement and the artists themselves, I highly recommend a book I’ve been reading The Bauhaus Group: Six Masters of Modernism, by Nicholas Fox Weber. It’s fascinating!) Here is where mid-century modern truly begins.

Because the Bauhaus produced more than a mere decorative style, because it pushed the values and needs of a modern world, the school, the artists, and the works created would inspire many others throughout the (mainly Western) world. Spurred on by urban living and the rapid development of plastics and other materials, mid-century modernism became quite popular.

Some of the most known — and collected names — in what we now call mid-century modern, were influenced by the Bauhaus and the movement. They include Americans Ray and Charles Eames (who made fabulous toys too!); Brits Robin Day and his wife Lucienne, and Ernest Race; the Japanese designer and sculptor Isamu Noguchi; and Scandinavians Børge Mogensen, Arne Jacobsen, Finn Juhl (PDF), and Hans Wegner. (Because of the latter design giants, mid-century modern overlaps with, and is often confused for, Scandinavian or Danish design. Here the date of creation and manufacture help make the final decision.)

Here’s a photo of mid-century modern designers George Nelson, Edward Wormley, Eero Saainen (who died not long after this photo was taken), Harry Bertoia, Charles Eames, and Jens Risom for an article in Playboy, July 1961.

Furniture wasn’t the only thing affected by mid-century modernist design. Other functional household objects, such as clocks, radios, and lamps (this was the start of lava lamps!) were made — and are heavily collected today.

Housewares, kitchenalia, and decorative items also got the mid-century modern treatment. You’ll see lots of geometric yet sleek pottery and glassware with embossed patterns and lines of the mid-century mod design. While there still were the more traditional shapes and forms, some with more elaborate and fancy painted designs, made during this time too (Hey, not everyone hops on the trends!), the mid-century modern look is most readily identified by its design simplicity. The decorations seem to better fit the form and function of the piece. Look for pieces in solid colors with embossed designs which seem to flow along the lines of the piece rather than appear applied to it. And remember, one of the primary influences of the movement was purposefulness; meaning the design is wed to an item of purpose and function. When it comes to pieces of decorative turquoise California pottery, for example, there’s less usefulness and practicality than there is with a chair, lamp, or piece of refrigerator glass… However, the style is often represented in these pieces more decorative than functional items and collectors do like them.

Mid-century modern as a category of collecting dates from the 1930s through the mid-1960s. Because of the dates involved, mid-century modern overlaps, influences, and to some degree encapsulates designs from the Atomic Era, Space Age and Googie design, California Modernism, etc. These innovative and popular designs of the 20th century not only pioneered modern furniture and industrial design, but are now the iconic pieces we think of when we think of these decades.

Truly defining or identifying mid-century modern pieces may be difficult; but like Justice Potter said of pornography, you’ll know it when you see it.

Image Credits: (In order images appear.) Photo of Keck & Keck home, via; photos of the Bauhaus Haus am Horn kitchen, 1923, and containers designed by Theodor Bogler for the kitchen and the Josef Albers set of four stacking tables (1927), via; designers photo from Playboy, via; and photo of vintage mid-century modern Westinghouse beige pottery refrigerator-ware pitcher, via.

A Cool Way To Display Your Matchbook Collection

Yesterday, I wrote about collecting vintage matchbooks at Collectors Quest, but I couldn’t find these photos; so here I am, adding a Post Script, of sorts. While matchbooks, with their small size, seem like a manageable collection, let me assure you they can literally pile up.  Placing matchbooks in jars seems kind of lazy and a possibly unsafe way to display your matchbook collection. Organizing matchbooks in binders might work if you have the time and discipline — but it still relegates your collection to sitting unseen on shelves. But this idea, spotted at a flea market, seems rather ingenious!

Here matchbooks are slid inside the hollow plastic parts of a plastic poster frame. (These are the cheap frames you can find at Wal-Mart; the kind you just slide apart. Since you only want the plastic frame parts, just get the frames with the cardboard backs.) Since the matchbooks are about as thin as the poster with the cardboard backing, the plastic holds them in place and on display.

I would suggest that the plastic “rods” be set or hung inside a curio cabinet — that way, the antique and vintage matchbooks can be protected behind glass.  The plastic frame parts are very easily cut.

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.

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!

 

Button, Button, Who’s Got The Button?

If you collect vintage fashions, you tend to end up with a lot of heartbreakers — not only items which won’t fit, but garments which are in such poor shape, all you can do is salvage pieces of fabric, buttons and other trims. And if you collect vintage sewing items and notions, you typically end up with a lot of vintage buttons too. You can certainly collect buttons. But if you’re looking for another way to enjoy them, get creative!

Dream Merchants II has taken old fabric-covered buttons and combined them with beads to make a one of a kind bracelet!

The buttons and beads are woven onto heavy duty beading wire, with the last button going through a loop at the end to fasten it. (She also takes custom orders, if you are all thumbs working with suck little bits and bobs.)

ThatOldBlueHouse2 takes old buttons and adds them to charm bracelets for extra charm, color and texture.

Vintage buttons can even be given the spotlight and be placed in settings, like the jewels they are. This green one is from 2fillesdunord.

At CountryCoveCreations, old buttons are used to create pins or brooches — like this colorful mod one where the retro buttons are layered on a retro plastic belt buckle.

All great ideas to preserve something from vintage fashions, a special occasion dress, or even a favorite shirt that no longer fits.

Traveling Abroad Antiquing? Some Help Requested

A reader of Inherited Values is in the beginning stages of planing an antiquing trip abroad and has asked me about travel insurance. Since I’ve, unfortunately, not yet left the country for this sort of thing, and never even considered what happens if you get ill overseas (I shudder to think of it now!), I thought I’d ask here and see if any of you savvy antiquing travelers have any advice on the subject. Obviously, some of this depends upon what health or medical coverage you have in general, and where you are going, but I think what she really wants to know is, is it a big gamble to go without it?

She specifically asked about travel health insurance, saying she thinks she has covered all the other angles — but please feel free to add tips about traveling and antiquing, such as packing and shipping things back, etc.

Charming, Yes; Charmin, No. (Identifying & Valuing Vintage Prints Of Children)

I’ve been running into a lot of new collectors of vintage and antique things at Listia; I kind of feel like I’m becoming a resident expert, both it terms of being able to help folks and because of the amount of time I spend at Listia. *wink* I don’t normally take the time to give detailed responses, let document (blog), all the requests but this time there was great merit in doing so…

This is the question from Sherry:

Hi my name is Sherry and I saw a comment that ya posted on another auction about ya writing about antiques and collectibles online. I have been in search of someone to talk to about some pictures I have that were left here years back. My nephew was living with me as well as his girl friend. When they broke-up she left plenty behind. My nephew thought I had burnt all that was left. He freaked out and said there were photo’s that cost a lot of money, because they were some of the Charmin Toilet Paper Girls.

By the style clothing that are being worn in the photo’s I can only assume they are from the 50’s – 60’s maybe older. I do not recall commercials from back then, so I have no idea if these are even worth anything. Is there away ya might be able to help me figure these photo’s out? Thank You in advance.

I was pretty sure what Sherry had were prints, but since she had called them photos I was glad she had sent me some scans (some of which I’ve included here).

What Sherry has are vintage promotional prints from Northern Paper Mills aka Northern Tissue. The series of prints was called American Beauties, illustrated by Frances Hook. (You can see her signature printed on the little girl’s shoulder that doesn’t have the kitten on the scan above.) Hook is most known now for her religious works, but her career began in commercial illustration for various advertisements as well as illustrations to supplement magazine stories. Her American Beauties begin to appear in the Northern Tissue advertisements in 1958 as the original Northern Girls. On March 23, 1959, the first rolls of tissue featuring the girls were shipped from the mill and tissue sales skyrocketed —

And prompting the corporate response to sell the prints.

The first American Beauty prints were available as a set of four: one baby girl and three little girls.

Not long after, the company released Northern Towel’s All American Boys, a set of three prints of little boys.

Not much later, Northern asked Hook “if she would take our little “American Beauty” girls and cast them into some fresh new poses” — for both the toilet tissue packaging as well as an additional print set (also four prints).

That would bring the total of American Beauty girl prints to eight. As far as I know, the All-American Boys series remained at three prints. Which brings the overall total of the Northern prints by Hook to eleven. All prints were available in multiple sizes: 11″ by 14″, 8″ by 10″, and 5″ by 7″.

You know I don’t like to discuss monetary values, but this is another opportunity to discuss some collecting basics…

Generally speaking, the larger the quantity of art prints (and anything else) made, the less the value they have. According to Georgia-Pacific, who now owns the Northern brand, “Offers for prints of the girls and Northern Towel’s All American Boys break records with 30 million sets of prints being sold by 1966.” Which means there were and still are a large number of these prints out in circulation.

However, as these pieces are advertising collectibles, they do have some cross-collecting appeal. Again, these prints are a bit less desirable as they were mass produced — as well as more likely to be saved — which means more of them are available.

Like most collectibles, these prints come and go in popularity; which means the prices go up & down. Because they are desired primarily for the nostalgia (“I had those prints in my bedroom!”) or a sense of nostalgia (“I love those vintage baby prints!”), their ability to match decor or gender of child for a specific room, the size of the prints (available wall space), and/or for the appeal of individual images themselves (one may look just like their son or grandson, etc.), prices can vary quite a bit for each print.

And, of course, condition of the print itself matters; not only in terms of tears, creases, spots, etc., but in terms of the color of the prints, such as fading of the colors or tanning of the paper itself which weakens the contrast of colors (and usually the strength of the paper itself). Those prints with spots and damages on the faces especially will likely have no interest (no value). However, someone, on Lista or elsewhere where you have no seller fees, might want these imperfect prints for altered art or collage projects.

Depending upon the condition of the paper, etc., right now they could be worth anywhere from $1 to $9 a piece in today’s market. How do I get that value range? Based on the information discussed above and years of dealing in collectibles — and by getting a “snapshot” of the market by using eBay. I looked at current sales of these prints as well as recent past (closed) auction sales values, searching for Northern American Beauty prints by Frances Hook, and variations on those words. I also checked searches for Charmin print — as a great number of folks mistakenly think these prints were put out by Charmin toilet tissue.

You can check eBay for current and very recently closed auction sales prices too — anytime, for anything. You can also use Price Miner. Checking periodically does take time, but that’s the best way to see if there’s an increase in demand or a decrease in offerings of these prints — both of which will mean higher prices. If and when that happens, you might want to list them for sale. The prices may rise again; a few years ago, I sold individual prints for $10 to $29 each.  You just need nostalgia and or the appeal of sweet charming children to sweep back into home decorating again.

Additional image credits: Vintage Northern Girls Tissue ad via Jon Williamson; American Beauty Portraits Folder via undoneclothing; All American Boys prints photo via jwenck; Northern Paper Mills ephemera abut the prints via With A Grateful Prayer

Vintage Tip For Organizing Photographs & Ephemera

This is a vintage snapshot or photograph storage tip from Edward O’Connor of Mineola, NY, I found published in Household Help, Fifth Series of Hints & Time Savers for the Home (offered by New York’s Picture Newspaper and published by News Syndicate Co., Inc., 1966).

The tip reads:

Before storing snapshots, classify them according to the year in which the pictures were taken. The put them in individual envelopes with the year written on the upper right hand corner and file in suitable container.

At first read, the tip seems quite quaint; not all of us recall the days of bringing home multiple packets of photographs from the film processor. But even in today’s digital age, we do sometimes have more prints than photo frames, right? Plus, we collectors know that once you bring home your garage sale, flea market, thrift store, and antique mall finds, there are piles of vintage photographic images, antique postcards and other bits of old and odd ephemera that we must deal with…

I’ve written about this problem of storing ephemera before — and sadly, there’s been little sharing of what you all do. So maybe I’m not the only one struggling with organization?

While O’Connor’s tip may seem faulty in terms of sorting or organizing by year, certainly it’s a starting place — and the basic idea can be extrapolated into other categories or themes that suit you and your collection(s) best. Just remember, you absolutely want to interpret O’Connor’s envelopes and “suitable container” to mean proper archival photo storage items and/or decent archival quality papers, sleeves & containers in general. But hey, this is a start.

And we all have to start somewhere.

Using Antique Images & Vintage Graphics To Make Things Without Ruining Your Collectibles

If you’re like me and enjoy collecting and have a creative streak, you’ve probably faced the issue of balancing your delight in making things with your collector’s desire to keep the integrity of your antiques and vintage items. While this clash of interests often presents a quandary for all artsy folk who collect, my primary problem persists in the area of vintage graphics.

Kindness Of Strangers Altered Art Piece By Deanna Dahlsad

I love to make collages, make special scrapbook pages, and in general practice the paper altered arts —  but I’m extremely uncomfortable destroying antique books, vintage magazines and other old piece of ephemera. If a book or magazine is so damaged that it’s of no real value; fine, I can render the rest of it useful and beautiful once again with a paper project. But if the work is sound, no matter how filled with lovely images it is, I just can’t do harm. …Yet another part of my soul aches to use what’s right there, in reach. However, this digital age now puts an end to the majority of our concerns via the gift of the scanner.

In most cases, even the most delicate antique books and papers can be safely scanned. Not only does this offer collectors a virtual copy of the works, but, when scanned at a proper size (300 dpi or larger), this gives you a printable file. In just a few minutes you’ve preserved a copy of the image and created one you can now print (as many copies as you’d like) for use in collages, altered art paper projects, scrapbooking, and other projects.

What other projects, you ask? Well, now, thanks to all sorts of printers, gadgets, programs, and papers, you can transform your digital image files into patterns for cross stitch, needlepoint, and other needlework patterns; iron-on transfer papers to images to use on t-shirts, quilt squares, pillows and other fabric projects; LCD projector or DLP projector, opaque projector, and even slide projectors (though the lights often burn out before your project is done, resulting in problems lining up the image again) allow the image to be projected onto walls, canvas, etc. for painting murals and other larger decorating or art pieces — really, the possibilities are only limited by your imagination!

Once you get started, it’s hard to stop! And that’s why you can even buy files with vintage and antique images to download online; Etsy is a great place to look (I’ve just started selling some of my own there). And right now, you can enter Marty’s contest to win 150 pages of antique images from a 1914 New York Department Store catalog too. (Contest ends July 15, 2011.)

If you’re unsure where to start, there’s an online course you can take. While it focuses on paper art collage principals, it will help you get used to a lot of the basics. And there are places like Zazzle which do all the work, placing your images onto everything from posters, apparel and mugs, to greeting cards, iPod cases, and skateboards. You can make stuff just for you and your friends and family (at discounted prices) as well as sell stuff with your images to others. (I do it! This is my Zazzle shops with friends.)

The only note of caution I have is that if you decide to sell anything, you should know your intellectual property or copyright laws; items created for personal use fine.

So start flipping through your antique books, your vintage magazines, your postcards and other paper collectibles, with a creative eye… Who knows what images you can now safely use? It’s like having your cake and eating it too!

Image Credits: My own altered art piece made from antique and vintage images, used in my art collaborative project, Kindness Of Strangers, at Etsy & Zazzle.

Advice On Starting A Book Collection

Not everyone has to have a wonderfully fully registered private library with first editions in a specially designed humidity controlled room.

That’s my favorite bit of advice from Advice to New Book Collectors from Other Book Collectors (which continues in part two) over at Private Library.

(Some Of) My Sagging Bookshelves

Maybe I love that comment so much because it took me so long to realize that I was a book collector. Sometimes bucking bookshelves aren’t enough of a sign. …To yourself. Not when you think there are “real collectors” with “real collections” out there.

Which is a problem a lot of collectors have; like having economic troubles and always saying that others have it worse, we collectors always figure someone does it better, has a better collection… So we belittle our own, or are intimidated out of even starting a collection.

That’s sad.

But with the help of the complied advice from other book collectors at Private Library, you shouldn’t be intimidated — you should be inspired! Go learn how to get started in book collecting and set your own bookshelves to sagging. *wink*

The author also has a nifty guide to questions that booksellers wish new collectors of books would ask, which includes lots of resources.

See also: My Best Book Collecting Guides.

DIY China Jewelry Display

I have very mixed feelings about modifying or changing antique and vintage things, but when I saw this project converting plates (and a candlestick) into a jewelry holder I thought it would be a wonderful way to salvage china pieces, bring them out of the boxes and shadows and back to life.

I’ve seen this done before, but all the tiers were plates, and it became a nice tidbit tray for serving cookies, etc. Having the tea cup saucer on top makes for an excellent lip for hanging wire earrings!

Wouldn’t this be a fabulous way to share an antique, but incomplete, family heirloom china set? It would make it easier to share the family china with each one of your children!

Dating Old Newspaper Clippings (And Some Telephone Number History)

As an ephemera collector, I find lots of old clippings inside my vintage magazines, retro catalogs, and even in my antique books. While the acidic old paper may be a threat to already fragile old paper, I am delighted by what I find. It’s somehow comforting to know that we humans have always clipped and tucked away little bits and bobs in publications, either to save them as related materials or as a bookmark in a pinch.

The trouble is trying to discover the age of the clipping itself, because, then as now, we humans don’t exactly tuck only ephemera from the same year as the publication itself.

Now for some, the year of the clipping is irrelevant; but I am an admitted obsessive, remember? So it matters to me.

When I found these old bits of paper in a recently purchased vintage copy of Watkins Household Hints, I wanted to post them to my vintage home ec site, Things Your Grandmother Knew — but I wanted to properly document them as accurately as possible. While the date on the old handwritten partial tip on whitening clothes would be nearly impossible to know, I felt compelled to do better with the newspaper clippings.

Neither vintage newspaper clipping has any masthead or anything to indicate the newspaper name or location, but I figured I could at least get a date or time period for them.

The first one, the larger one with the list of household tips, was easy. There was the complete short story of the resignation of Marvin L. McLain. No, I’m no expert on US assistant secretaries of agriculture; but Google helped nail that date to October 27, 1960. (Give or take a day, I suppose.)

The other clipping however…

The only clue I had to help me with this clipped and saved tip on brightening furniture was the ad on the back. An advertisement with an unusual phone number.

Now I’m familiar with telephone numbers with letters in them; prior to 1958, phone numbers used exchange name dialing or letter prefixes. (And, in fact, it wasn’t until sometime in the mid-1980s that exchange name dialing gave way to all-number calling or ANC.) However, the phone number in this ad, “1597-J,” doesn’t have a letter prefix, it has a letter suffix.

This I was not familiar with.

I knew it was a phone number, not some blind box number; the ad reads “Phone 1597-J.” Was it possible this was just a more fashionable way to write a phone number? It certainly wasn’t a pragmatic or effective way because the exchange would need to be dialed or given to the phone operator first. It just didn’t seem to make sense.

I tried to do some online research, but I didn’t find much to help me. I knew I was putting the wrong words or terms into search engines and data bases. Knowing I was at a wall, I decided to look up the “J” and see where it might least me…

According to the The Telephone EXchange searchable database, the letter — if a telephone exchange, belonged to San Diego. So I contacted the San Diego History Center. While I waited for a response, I also contacted the Library Of Congress, telephone book collector Gwillim Law, and Ammon Shea, author of The Phone Book: The Curious History of the Book That Everyone Uses But No One Reads.

Not content to just sit back and wait for returned calls and emails, I turned to the only other clue I had: the name of the person can business mentioned in the old ad: Arnold Kholmetz, Auctioneer and Realtor. That turned up some old articles in the Milwaukee Journal – Sentinel Archives. This made sense because the first clipping seemed to be from a Wisconsin newspaper and the old household tips book itself was purchased in that state.

So, naturally, I then did what any true obsessive does and called the Journal Sentinel to speak to their archivist. Sadly, Mr. King hadn’t any idea himself regarding the phone number, but he suggested a few other places to try.

The first was AT&T, which does have a telephone history page, has no means of connecting you to anyone but customer service. (I’m not sure you’d call it “irony”: it was simply pure frustration to have their operator inform you that they outside of customer service they only have a list of names and extensions, no departments, etc.) I did manage to get to the voice mail of “Investor Relations” but no one has returned my call and I don’t expect anyone ever will. Note to collectors and historians: Don’t bother contacting AT&T; not by phone anyway.

The second place Mr. King suggested was the Milwaukee Public Library; they couldn’t help me, but stated I was welcome to come in and look through all their old phone books to see if I could find the research I needed.

Well, I wasn’t going to do that — at least not right now; but I wasn’t going to give up either. Like a dog with a bone, and fueled with the rationalization of helping other collectors by writing a great “how to” article, I wasn’t ready to give up.  I could call the Watertown Public Library (because that’s where those old Journal Sentinel archive clippings said Mr. Kohlmetz was from) or I could try to research the partial radio show listings showing there at left of the clipping…

But then Jane Kenealy, Archivist at the San Diego History Center, called me back.

I explained to her that I no longer believed I had an old San Diego phone number, but did she have any idea what the “J” could be at the end of a phone number?

She said she didn’t know, but went to get the 1931 San Diego City Directory — the first city directory which listed phone numbers. I listened to her as she read numbers that ended in “J” and a few other letters, but it was clear, she said, that these letters were suffixes; that they were not exchanges because each page or section of the listings began with the exchange, then listed the phone numbers. We were both puzzled…

“All the phone numbers which end in letters end in either a ‘J,’ ‘M,’ ‘R,’ or ‘W’… But no place in the book is there an explanation…” said Kenealy with the excitement of a researcher enjoying her clues. “Let me go look for another book and I’ll call you back.”

Somewhere in the back of my brain those four letters meant something; I just couldn’t access it. Not yet. So I searched for “telephone J M R W” and found this:

A Restored Notchless Dial Plate with the letters J M R W in red, which are explained at that site as follows:

J M R W were suffixes used on the station numbers on certain manual (non-dial) common battery exchanges that had 10000 line switchboards with 4 subscribers on each line. In metropolitan areas where there was a mixture of dial and manual telephones because the transformation from manual to dial service was in progress and still had not been completed, the DIAL phones were provided with dials with these letters so they could call the MANUAL subscribers who did not yet have dial telephones. The conversion from manual to dial often extended over several years. Washington, DC for example started this conversion with its first dial exchange which was cut into service on May 3, 1930. But this conversion did not complete until the last manual exchange was converted to automatic dial operation on April 23, 1949 – some 19 years later. Chicago started its conversion in the early 20s, but it did not complete until 1957.

Upon seeing that vintage telephone dial plate, and this Western Electric Candlestick Telephone, I not only remembered the old party lines but knew that I just should have picked up my modern cell phone and called my parents about this old phone number; they likely would have known all of this and saved me a lot of work.

And then my cell phone rang and Ms. Kenealy was excitedly telling me that the “J” was referencing a party line. She had found this bit of telephone number history:

line numbers could be one to four digits long; multi-party lines had a letter tacked onto each station on parties sharing the line. All parties on the same line shared the same numericals however. 2-party lines differentiated each other with W & J 4-party lines used J, M, R, W

I felt embarrassed that I’d sent her on such a long wild goose chase, but Ms. Kenealy was more than kind — she was excited. “Thank you for helping me find out something I didn’t know! I’ve never had the excuse to look this up,” she said. And then we ended up talking a bit about how this party line information hadn’t been published in any of the directories or phone books because people then “just knew what it was.” Which, leads to a larger issue of why history and indeed collecting with an obsessive streak are so important — including our documentation of it all these years later.

And that brings us back to the date of this old newspaper clipping…

I did contact the Watertown Public Library, but they had no records regarding the end of party lines.  But for me, this is where the research ends.

I’m satisfied at this point narrowing it down to somewhere between the 1930s and the early 1950s… Likely the mid 40’s, based on all the little clues, such as dates on the newspaper clippings (and ads without such patyline references), the fact that the clipping mentions using silk (and after WWII, nylon was more in vogue and use than silk).

It’s not pinpoint accuracy, but I think I’ve accomplished helping other collectors learn how to date the clippings they have, assisted in documenting a part of history — and been reminded that one’s own parents are still an excellent resource, no matter what kind of help you need.

A Tip On Dating Your Vintage Television Set

In the September 22, 1954 issue of People Today magazine (which has some additionally fascinating television history), a clue for those who collect vintage TV sets. According to this snippet from the vintage magazine’s “The Goldmine”,” this bit of news on TV set changes:

Many manufacturers are locating control knobs at the top or high on the side of new models. They found that viewers don’t like bending over to reach low-level knobs.

This may not only help you date your vintage television set, but is also proof of the laziness of Americans — and the need for the ultimate invention of the remote control. *wink*

A Guide To Collecting Vintage Fashions & Lingerie

Four collectors of vintage fashions and lingerie share their tips on what to look for when collecting vintage fashions.

The experts are:

Vintage lingerie collector Layla L’obatti, who is the designer behind Between The Sheets Lingerie.

Theda Bara of Theda Bara’s Vintage Lingerie, a shop that specializes in selling vintage lingerie from the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. (She also has a blog, Theda Bara Vintage.)

Wink of Tiddleywink Vintage, a shop which contains mostly clothing focused on the late ’40s through early ’60s, but also dabbles in the occasional later-era clothing. (She also blogs at Shoes and Pie.)

The conversation is led by Slip of a Girl, a self-described “lingerie nut,” who runs, A Slip Of A Girl, a blog devoted to all things lingerie, especially vintage lingerie.

Slip: Collecting means different things to different people… Not only does everyone have a unique reason for collecting, a different aesthetic, and, therefore, a collection specialized to their own tastes, but when it comes to vintage garments, many of us also wear what we collect — or, in cases of the talented, like Layla, use the pieces as inspiration for our fashion designs.

In fact, many of us do not even call ourselves “collectors” — we’re just vintage fashion lovers!

Layla: What you are looking for in vintage clothing depends on your purpose. If you are a crafter or designer who loves to take inspiration from sewing techniques, vintage pieces are a wealth of knowledge… But if you’re a model, photographer, or vintage lover who wishes to wear these pieces, you’re looking for wearable conditions.

Slip: In any case, you’re going to want to know it’s authentic vintage; so, let’s start there.

Theda: When shopping for vintage lingerie, make sure it is genuinely vintage by following some of these tips:

Fabrics. Rayon satins and silks where mainly used before 1941; after-wards, the use of nylon and nylon blends became very popular.

Registered Number (RN). Starting in 1959 and still currently in use. If your garment has no RN number, it most likely is made before 1959.

Care of garment labels. In 1971, the FTC required that textile manufacturers list the garment care instructions on labels. The labels must have washing, drying, bleaching, ironing, and/or dry cleaning instructions. If your garment has care instructions it is most likely created after 1971.

Placement of the label. Most labels will be on the side seam. During the 80’s, they started placing the labels on the inside of the neckline.

Union label. Union labels are often datable by union history. Among the many different unions, ILGWU, the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, was one of the most prevalent and powerful, and the first major union to have mostly women members. Here’s an excellent guide to union labels, with photos of the labels.

Layla: Look for labels. When there’s a label, a label tells you where and very often when a piece is from. Be careful of fraudulent vintage with labels that look too new — unless it’s new old stock, but even then if its “designer” be careful.

However, if you are in the Midwest don’t be surprised by the prevalence of designer labels! Often times these pieces stay hidden in thrift shops and second hand stores in the Midwest, whereas on the west and east coasts these stores are a lot more picked through and finding these pieces at reasonable prices is rare.

Wink: Of course, not everything has a label, so…

Study. If you’re willing to spend the money regardless of the era, that’s fine. But if you’re going to be embarrassed when you show off your “bombshell vintage 40s/50s” swimsuit to your gal pals and one whispers to you that it’s actually more likely from the late ’60s, you have only yourself (and a mistaken or unscrupulous vendor) to blame.

Read. While this can fall under the category of Study, it can be a lot more fun! I have a large stash of vintage magazines that I love to reference, for the period photography, the articles, and the ads. You can learn not only what fashions were in style precisely when, but also how to set your hair, what nail polish colors were popular, and amusing dating tips! Which Hollywood star was dating who? How can you use up leftover luncheon loaf? How can you wash your gloves to get them sparkling white? Some tips are still relevant, and some are just fun to look at from a modern perspective.

Slip: Let’s talk about some of the flaws to look for…

Layla: Look for New Old Stock (NOS). These are pieces that for some reason were not sold, or hid in the back of a store or closet, and are in unused and unworn condition.

Slip: These often have paper sales tags still attached. But if there are no tags, if the item is not in the original sales package, what flaws should you be looking for? Which ones can be fixed?

Layla: I’d say that if you are buying for inspiration then the flaws are part of the detail; they show you how a piece has worn and how durable certain details are in the wear and tear of life. (Good to know when figuring out what will wear &/or age well.)

If you are buying to wear, show, exhibit then know that rips in fabric or lace are not easily repaired without revealing the patchwork.

If it were denim or tweed you could use iron on interfacing to keep the tear from opening more and, in some cases, this can completely hide behind the fabric (like the time I accidentally merrowed a hole in my finished term garment at the Fashion Institute of Technology… horror, then solution!) But this technique would not work on a sheer or lightweight fabric as well because the interfacing could be seen.

Lace can be hand stitched into place, but thread color, lighting, and quality of stitching could stand out — so the success of this technique depends on your ability to find a matching color, stitch properly so that it blends in, and the integrity of the remaining fabric you are reapplying the lace to.

If the fabric is shredded and fibers worn away too much the thread will not hold for long, and it will really not be suitable for wearing.

Popped seams can be mended from the inside pretty easily, but again if you are looking to “blend” the fix with the original piece you’ll need to have the proper machinery and thread; but these would be the easiest to fix barring major fabric ripping around the affected area.

Slip: This is why so many vintage fashion collectors also collect vintage sewing notions, thread, bits of lace etc. *wink* What else should we be looking for?

Layla: This is a good time to mention that when buying online you can never know things such as smell, flaws, discoloration, even odors such as smoke from the seller’s home. Make sure to look at seller’s ratings, the price, and ask for additional information or images if you are not sure.

Slip: And what things should we be looking for and asking about?

Silk and cotton are natural fibers and so they are more susceptible to absorbing our natural odors; you would be surprised how much you sweat while you sleep! That sweat and shedding of skin cells accumulates heavily in these two natural fibers, so worn items are very difficult to recover to like new condition.

Dry cleaning can help but also jeopardizes the integrity of the garment, as natural fibers deteriorate quickly when these methods of cleaning are employed. (If you do need to clean something take it to a cleaner you trust and who uses “green” cleaning methods, these tend to be less harsh and stringent on the fibers.)

Slip: You don’t have to watch Mad Men to know that people used to do a lot of smoking in the past; so look items over for cigarette burns and holes. Oh, the number of vintage chiffon gowns and peignoirs which have been ruined by pinkie-tip sized holes with charred edges! Look carefully in the voluminous folds and use your fingers to feel for blemishes.

If there’s a flaw or two, and this is for your own personal use, I recommend using appliques &/or dying the garment to disguise them. If you are intending to resell vintage or invest in the garment, do not do this; pass on the item. If you are a crafty person who likes to save such things and sell them, clearly state how the vintage garment has been upcycled.

Layla: Vintage furs are generally quite valuable; people would rather buy vintage fur than new fur (my personal feelings on this are quite mixed).

If you do decide to buy a vintage fur piece, peel back the fur to see the condition of the skin beneath. This is really important because real fur dries, and when it is compromised it will deteriorate quickly and begin to shed.

Another issue is mold and smell, but this you should avoid in all purchases — it’s more work than it is worth.

Slip: Now for the matter of fit…

Wink: Size. This seems obvious, but I became a reseller in part because I had a closet full of beautiful vintage that was too big, and that I realized I’d never “get around” to having taken in!

(Secret: I still have at least two dresses that I will make fit, one way or another. Someday.)

Layla: A skirt can be shortened, a jacket fitted, and small issues repaired; however…

If you are looking to wear bias pieces the fit cannot be altered easily; this is very difficult to do without creating puckering and killing a garments original drape and beauty. I would actually highly discourage trying to alter a piece on the bias.

I would also discourage fitting any shapewear, girdle, brassiere, or corset pieces — again the seaming can be complicated and the surface detail can be distorted when taking seams in. Unless you are a seamstress and are not concerned about the original integrity of the piece, then I’d say leave it be.

Slip: Any parting thoughts?

Theda: Vintage lingerie is something that is desired by many women today. Today’s lingerie can’t hold a candle to the soft and subtle materials of the eras gone by. Try to find soft nylon satins and rayon in your local store — they aren’t there!

Wink: Look for flattering cuts. “Just because it zips, doesn’t mean it fits.” Know your figure, and know what works for you. Women have come in all shapes and sizes for all time, and you can find “your” best look within any era. Really!

Layla: Trust your instinct, buy what you think is beautiful! In giving these pieces a second life you will be bringing back a little piece of history!

Slip: I couldn’t agree more!

Thanks to all for participating!

This post is © Slip of a Girl.

Image Credits (in order of appearance):

Vintage peach silk full slip dress, circa 1920s, from Theda Bara Vintage.

Vintage Union Label, 1955-1963, from poprocksnsodapopvintage; via the Union Label History Guide.

Vintage blue and white swimsuit by Robby Len Swimfashions, circa 1960’s, from TiddleyWink Vintage.

Vintage nightgown and bed jacket from the vintage lingerie collector Layla L’obatti, the designer behind Between The Sheets Lingerie.

Close-up of delicate chiffon and stitching on Between The Sheets lingerie to illustrate fine details in stitches and delicate fabrics, courtesy of designer Layla L’obatti.

Upcycled hand-dyed pink vintage Vanity Fair nylon full-slip via Theda Bara Vintage.

Vintage princess pink silk party dress from the 1950’s via TiddleyWink Vintage.

How eBay Is Helping Collectors Get What They Want For The Holidays

In this economy, finding the perfect gift may be easier than affording it; but eBay has good news for those who collect antiques and vintage collectibles — and those who buy antiques and vintage collectibles as holiday gifts.

Ebay now has two new announcements to help making afford gifts more possible.

The first is eBay Group Gifts (Beta). This new program allows you, your friends, your family, &/or your coworkers, to “chip-in” on gifts. To set up a Group Gift, all you need is an eBay and PayPal account -– then anyone with a credit card can chip in. You can even use FaceBook to coordinate the group gift.

If group purchases aren’t your thing (or at least not for every gift), eBay now offers Bill Me Later through PayPal — which, if used between now and November 30, 2010, will get you n$10 back on your first Bill Me Later purchase on eBay.

You can even combine the two, participating in Group Gift and using Bill Me Later for your part of the gift payment!

Learning From Vintage Ephemera About The Condition Of Collectibles

I know folks like to think I rationalize my compulsion for vintage booklets and magazines, but I think there’s gold in them-there old pages!

Today’s example comes from 367 Prize Winning Household Hints From The Armour Radio Show Hint Hunt, circa 1940s, a booklet from the daily CBS radio show. Included in this vintage booklet are some tips on books, magazines and phonograph records which might just be of use to the collector.

The advice regarding magazines is “to have each member of the family initial the cover of a magazine as they finish reading it so you will know when the magazine may be discarded.”

This, my fellow ephemera collectors, might explain the seemingly random multiple initials on vintage magazine covers.

Now for you book collectors; the tip for preventing “library mold” is to sprinkle oil of lavender, sparingly, throughout the book case.

While I doubt the scent would last very long, if persons practiced such things, it might account for oil spots on vintage book covers and pages.

The last tip is regarding records: “Warped phonograph records can be straightened for playing by placing the records on any flat surface in a warm room and weighing them down with heavy books.”

Given the temperature it takes to melt vinyl records — and that this advice was given in the 40s, when records certainly weren’t made of that flimsy vinyl of the 70′ or 80s, I imagine that everyone in the house sat around in their undies sweating while mom or dad un-warped the family’s records.  But that’s just me romanticizing the past *wink*

DIY Display For Vintage Buttons, Ribbons & Other Sewing Notions Collections

At Design Sponge, Haylie Waring shows us how to make sewing notions displays. Waring’s examples use ribbons and buttons, but this project could also be done with beads, lace, fabric swatches, etc. — as well as jewelry, shoe clips, pinbacks, and other bits and bobs.

Beautiful to look at and, as Waring says, this offers practical organization too:

Due to the lack of space in my studio, I am constantly forgetting what notions I have packed away in my organizer containers that I keep hidden in a storage closet, or up on my highest shelf. When you don’t know what is in those containers, it is hard to know where to begin, and I am often tempted to just go out and buy more supplies. This DIY project is the solution to that problem, and it seconds as art work on my work-space walls.

…Also, I like to tag each board with a number that will match up with the storage container where you keep your coordinating back-stock, so things are easily located.

Included in the step-by-step project instructions are two of her original 8×10 design templates.

How to Go Yard Sale Shopping Like The Pros

As an online seller of vintage collectibles, I hit a lot of garage and yard sales. And when I say a lot, I mean A LOT. They are really the main way I find inventory, and over time I’ve developed a great system to maximize my results, and to minimize my time and effort. I thought a post about it might be helpful to those collectors out there who avoid garage sales thinking they are too much work for too little pay off, and for those who do go to yard sales, but don’t feel they get enough bang for their buck.

Before we start I will say this – heading out into the world hoping to find very specific items can often lead to disappointment. If you don’t enjoy “the hunt”, if you would rather have your one needed item than the experience of looking for it, I suggest that you look for it online. Someone else has already done the “real world” legwork for you, and the time spent finding your item will most likely be greatly reduced!

Ok, let’s get started…

Have a Plan

Sales here are mostly on Fridays and Saturdays, so I start looking for ads on Thursday evening. I have three trusty sources – Craig’s List, the main daily newspaper, and the weekly community newspaper, which are available online. I have a Word doc for Friday and one for Saturday, and I copy and paste any ads that look interesting into them, according to the day the sale starts.

**Tip** – Double check dates and times – some people advertise a week or two in advance, and there is nothing worse than showing up at a sale that isn’t happening until the following weekend!

Once you have your list ready, hit Mapquest. Figure out directions to each sale you want to go to, and start organizing them by area. Once you have all of their locations down, figure out the best route – where to start and where to end with as little driving as possible.

You have to pay attention to start times, end times, and how promising the sale looks, and you may have to revise your Mapquest directions a bit depending on which direction you will be going from sale to sale. This can take some time, so I try to get my route done the night before, rather than working on it at 7am over my first cup of coffee!

**Tip** – The general rule is: get there early for the most selection, get there late for the best bargains.

This may seem like a lot of work, but it really does help to narrow down where you want to go, and it saves wasted time on sale days when the only thing you need to be worrying about is shopping! (It saves gas and miles on your car, too – never a bad thing!)

What To Look For In A Garage Sale Ad

To backtrack just a little, there are certain things I look for in sale ads that deem them worthy of a visit. The words Antiques, Collectibles, Estate Sale, Tag Sale, Church Sale, Downsizing, and Moving Sale are all good ones to look for. Community Sale is another – lots of sales in a small area maximizes your driving, though a lot of sales are going to be “duds” full of baby stuff.

Which brings me to the words that turn me off of a sale – maternity, baby, children’s, and lists of new retail type items. Occasionally a vintage gem will be hidden among the Little Tykes toys and Gibson china – and when it is, you can often get it for a steal – but usually you can pretty much guarantee that they won’t have anything us vintage geeks are looking for.

I have also learned that some neighborhoods are more likely to turn up treasures than others – older neighborhoods are better than newer subdivisions, and low to mid income neighborhoods have better prices than high income neighborhoods. I have a few favorite areas that I tend to go to most often, only venturing into other areas when lured by an ad that says something like “Estate Sale – 50 years worth of collecting priced to sell!”

Of course I quite often detour off my route when I see banners for a sale on the side of the road – because you just never know! 😉

Supplies

A typical morning of shopping for me starts between 8 and 9 and ends between 1 and 2. That’s quite a few hours to be on the road, so there are certain things I try to remember to take with me when I leave the house:

– Purse & Cell Phone – I’ve forgotten both before, and it’s no fun.

– Shopping Route – Turning around to go back and get your route off the printer is no fun either.

– Box with Handles & Newspaper for Packing – Especially handy for large sales where you are buying a lot of stuff – some sellers are good about having boxes, bags and newspapers, others aren’t.

– Cash – The bane of my existence is the ATM giving me only $20s – a lot of sellers don’t have change for large bills. I tend to stop for breakfast to break a $20, then try to break the others at large sales where they seem to have enough cash to make change.

– Sunglasses, hat, sunscreen, tennis shoes, appropriate for the weather clothing – Shopping at noon on a Saturday in August can be brutal, so plan accordingly!

– Snacks & Drinks – I’m usually lazy about this one and get them on the road, but really it is cheaper/healthier to bring your own!

Haggling

Honestly I don’t really like haggling, but it is a necessary evil. I don’t usually haggle on items under $2.00, but if it is over that I will ask for a better price. I usually throw out a number and see what they say – this may not always be the best course of action, but it is what I am most comfortable with.

The other option is to ask, “Is this your best price?” or something along those lines. This opens the conversation, giving the seller a chance to name a price, and then you can negotiate from there.

If items aren’t priced, always ask for a number from the seller first. Your idea of the item’s worth and the seller’s idea could be miles apart, and the last thing you want to do is pay 10 times more than what you would have paid if you would have let the seller name their price!

Another strategy is to make a pile – gather all the stuff you want to purchase and ask for a price. If they start adding up full prices from each item, ask if you could get a little break for “buying so much”.

Some people are more than happy to haggle, others act offended, and others give you a polite “Sorry, that’s the best I can do”. It’s up to you to decide from there if you want to pay full price or not.

I have noticed that sometimes people are more open to negotiating if you have been friendly with them beforehand – a Hello and Good Morning, a bit of chit chat about the weather or the item – people warm up to you and are more receptive. Just walking up without a word, grabbing a few things and throwing out a price isn’t as effective – people still have their guard up.

Buying Tips

– Check condition – If you are in a hurry it is easy to miss little flaws!

– Dig in boxes – It’s nice when a sale is neatly laid out, but if it is all unsorted boxes just dive right in there – more times than not it will be worth it!

– Buy collections/sets – It isn’t too often that you will find a ready made collection for sale that you can buy all at once, if it is something you want, take advantage of the opportunity! You can also sometimes get a better price by making an offer on an entire lot.

– If you are looking for something specific and don’t see it, ask the seller if they have anything they haven’t brought out yet. Often sellers add new items throughout the sale, and you could miss getting what you want by not asking.

I hope this post has inspired you to give the yard sale circuit a try – it really is a fun way to spend a Saturday morning, and if you put a little effort into it you will more than likely walk away with a score you will be talking about for months to come!

The Lucky 13 Of Collecting: Antiquing Gear You Shouldn’t Leave Home Without

Most collectors already have accepted the fact that on any given day they may wind up looking for collectibles; summer brings an unexpected garage sale or flea market sign, but winter also has church rummage sales, thrift shops, and antique malls. So, Boy Scout or not, be prepared!

1. A List Of Specific Items You Seek — And, Where Appropriate, Their Measurements: How many times have your forgotten exactly which volume you are missing from that one set of books? A specific magazine issue date or issue number? The measurements of that lamp you need a shade for? The measurements for replacement dresser pulls? The maximum width a bookshelf of desk can be in order for it to fit in that space in the office? Write these things down, put the list(s) in your wallet, and you’ll be prepared when you spot a potential fit.

2. A Pencil And A Small Pad Of Paper: You never know when you’ll be given a lead (an address, a phone number, a book title), be told information (age of item, maker, etc.), etc. that you’ll want to remember. It’s much easier, and less frustrating, to write it down than to chant it to yourself over & over again on the way out — only to forget it a few minutes later when you bump into a friend, drop your car keys, get a phone call etc. This also helps you track your spending at auctions where there are no stickers and the tickets are very generalized.

If your list is on white paper, or you’ve a small pad of paper, you’ve killed two birds with one stone…

3. A White 3 x 5 notecard or small white hanky: Insert these into clear glassware and crystal to better examine prints, engravings, etc.

4. Pocket Tape Measures: Incredibly practical for measuring everything on your list, but, when needed for large pieces, the size of your trunk and car doors as well. (Those of you who have been-there-and-done-that know what I mean!) And just look at these beauties from Kyle Designs!

5. Magnifying Glass: Otherwise known as ‘the loop’, a small portable (and discrete) magnifying tool allows you to better inspect items for everything from maker marks & signatures to flaws & repairs on everything from pottery to coins, stamps to jewelry. A collector can neither have too many jeweler’s loupes or leave home without them.

6. Black Light Keychain: Make it easier to identify repairs in porcelain and paintings, date textiles and ephemera, authenticate vintage glass and painted cast iron, etc., with a take-it-everywhere Ultra-violet Mini Light.

7. Penlight And/Or Small Flashlight: Some places have poor lighting — and, as the more adventurous know, some of the best places (barns, attics, outbuildings, etc.) have very little light at all.

8. A Small Magnet: Applying a magnet is a safe way to test if the object is actually metal, such as cast iron, or just made to appear that way. (Do not store the magnet in your wallet or near your credit/debit cards as it will demagnetize the data strips! Keep it in your pocket – or other pocket.)

9. Tools: Yes, actual tools! In the vehicle, two standard screw drivers (flat and Phillips) to remove the legs from furniture pieces so they fit in the van, to remove baskets from bicycles, even draw pulls and other hardware (if the seller allows it, but isn’t prepared). And a hammer (for when things are especially rusty and the screwdriver needs a bit of help).

If you collect antique pocket watches, clocks, and other other things which may need to be more seriously studied, small screwdrivers, cutting blades, and pins may be required. (The Poor Man’s Watch Forum has an excellent page on this.)

10. An Empty Box Or Two In The Trunk: Don’t let your treasures roll around in the trunk or backseat. Having a place to secure antiques and collectibles is not only safer for them while you travel and transport them into the house, but boxed they are more certain to be carried into the house. (Also, full boxes may be your signal to stop for the day lol)

11. A Box Of Newspaper And/Or Other Packing Material In The Trunk: Even if you aren’t buying glassware or fragile figurines, wrapping your new old treasures spares you the heartache of discovering that metal sign A has scratched the painted surface of sign B.

12. Folding Shopping Carts: Even if you have your boxes, metal or canvas carts are great for collectors who haunt block rummage sales, auctions, and flea markets, allowing you to keep everything with you at all times.

13. Cash In Your Wallet. Naturally obvious, but often overlooked, many places (especially individual sellers, churches, and many thrift shoppes) will not accept debit cards or even local checks. Save yourself some heartache (or a rushed anxious trip to the ATM) and carry a few bills on you.

Did I miss something you don’t leave home without? Please, do tell!

Image Credits: Photo via The Poor Man’s Watch Forum.

Tips On Identifying 10 Vintage & Antique Chests

In many ways, magazines haven’t changed much — but that just means that a lot of the information in vintage magazines remains as valuable as it once was. Today’s example comes from the November 1957 issue of Good Housekeeping; it’s an article on “How to Recognize 10 Chests.”

The article gives tips on identifying 10 basic styles of antique and vintage bureaus by noting the specific marks in style, finish and ornamentation of each. The 10 basic styles of chests in this article are:

French Provincial chest
Captain’s military chest
French Empire chest
Hepplewhite chest
Chippendale chest
Early American chest
Victorian chest
Louis XV chest or commode
Sheraton chest
Contemporary chest (circa 1950’s, of course!)

(Click the image for a large, readable, scan.)

If you’re interested, I’ve also “digitally clipped” the following from the same issue:

A fun look at The Date Line: Facts & Fancies for the Girl in School, by Jan Landon.

A disappointing look at Jobs for Women in the FBI.