Sunday, April 30, 2006

Bakelite - The Early Plastic

laundry sprinkler - red Bakelite with black spots

There were so many different kinds of early plastics made during the mid-20th century, but of all of them, Bakelite is certainly the most popular amongst today’s collectors.

Bakelite was used during the 1930s and 1940s to make many different products - jewelry, small appliances (irons, toasters, and the like), radios, etc. Of all these categories, Bakelite jewelry is probably one of the hottest collecting trends on today's antiques market.

One little-known fact is that Bakelite was actually considered as a material for making pennies during World War II, as copper was needed for shell casings. Eventually, the idea was discarded and steel was used to make war-time pennies.

One of the very first plastics ever made, Bakelite was originally made around 1907 by scientist Leo H. Baekeland, who partially named this material after himself. It was inexpensive to make, and turned out to be fire-resistant - hence, the use of Bakelite in small kitchen appliances and table flatwares. It was also a good insulator against electricity and heat, making it a useful product in making radios, and eventually, was used for all sorts of everyday items - billiard balls, napkin rings, poker chips, telephones, serving trays, cameras, drawer knobs, even records!

In it's earliest years, Bakelite was often seen in drab colors such as brown. Eventually, Bakelite doesn't easily fade and it was discovered that it took to bright colors so vividly, jewelry was the natural choice. It carves well, is very durable and therefore usually doesn’t usually show much wear. Because it didn’t cost much to make, it’s intense use during the Depression era allowed Bakelite jewelry to be the "new" jewelry of the masses.

Jewelers became enamored of this new-found material, and incorporated Bakelite jewelry into their inventories as an inexpensive and attractive jewelry for middle-class customers. They often carved floral designs, so popular at that time, but also included animals and sometimes even people.

One simple way to test a piece of Bakelite jewelry is to dip it in steaming-hot water and then sniff - Bakelite has a strong acrid smell, noticeable immediately. If it smells terrible, it’s probably Bakelite!

Bakelite is no longer made as jewelry, but is still in production for small components such as saucepan handles, electrical plugs and switches, and electric iron parts, as well as for industrial applications in the electronic, power generation and aerospacee industries.

Over the past decade, Bakelite has really increased in popularity amongst collectors, and, as usually follows, has become more and more expensive. Single narrow bracelets can be found for less than $50, but wide-band cuff bracelets which are heavily carved can sport price tags approaching several hundred dollars each. A few really rare pieces have sold at auction for thousands of dollars.

Many people began collecting them because they were colorful and pretty, but now it’s become such a favorite that there are several reference price guides just on Bakelite. Some jewelry designers actively search for broken Bakelite, using bits and pieces to create their own creations in this wonderful material. Many of these custom jewelry designers sign their works, and it's worthwhile to consider adding these to a Bakelite collection.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Spring is Here and it's Time for Gardening with Antiques

I just love playing in the dirt. When I was a toddler, my mother couldn't keep me out of her flower garden, and especially, couldn't keep me from picking her latest blooms and presenting them individually to her as my Toddler Bouquet (but always, just one blossom!!).

She really didn't want to discourage me, yet her garden was quickly being decimated, since I loved ALL her flowers. Finally, she told me politely but firmly that she had enough flowers from me, and would I please allow some of them to grow. Since I was a bit headstrong, that request was soon followed by a stern "No! Don't touch!"

Not a lot fazed me as a child. Even my mother's warning wasn't enough to discourage me, and I knew serious consequences could follow if I continued with the flower presentations. But I did love those pretty blooms, and soon my mother turned around from her weeding in time to see me not touch her few remaining flowers - instead, I was caught biting them off with my teeth! (even at an early age, I did tend to think outside the box . . .)

And so my gardening interests began when I was about three, and I've enjoyed getting dirty ever since. Combined with my love of antiques and digging around in old attics and barns, it just seems right to combine gardening and antiques. I'm always hunting for something old, unusual and meant to be part of a garden display.

Specifically, I search for old gates and fencing, vintage cement statuary and planters, 19th century grinding wheels, fountains, architectural building elements, big old cast iron pots, and interesting farming items.

By being a bit creative, I've found all sorts of things will hold annual plants; not just antiques, but anything that is old and has character - a single old hightop workboot, a hollowed-out tree trunk, even a cracked crock that was just too interesting to toss out.

But antiques don't have to hold plants. Often, just having something colorful to complement a garden display is quite interesting, too. How about three or four graduated sizes of large stones, stacked artistically one on top the other to make a garden statement? And, just for a change, one year I used a whole series of damaged dinner plates I'd salvaged, and lined the edge of a flower garden as a glazed border!

Gardens are the perfect place to use non-perfect antiques and collectibles for decoration. They are so unexpected in that setting, and yet they can be so delightful. Have fun trying oddball decor - if it's something old and you like it, it'll look great as your own personal style of decoration in your garden!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Antiques Fairy Stopped By Yesterday, and . . .

, as is her habit, granted me a surprise. She's my imaginary friend - yes, adults can have imaginary friends! - and once in a while pays me a visit. She's been known to leave me wonderful gifts, sometimes even a special event. Usually they are quite positive and uplifting, but then sometimes, she's in a funk and leaves me with something I wish she hadn't thought of.

Yesterday was one of those "wish-she-hadn't-thought-of" days.

Old Blue, my work van of long-standing, was in the shop for regular maintenance. When I went to pick her up, my favorite mechanic came out with his "bad news" face to talk with me, and clearly the Antiques Fairy had paid him a visit too.

Old Blue has been with me for ten years, and has been my faithful road companion. But my mechanic told me that Old Blue needed almost-emergency surgery - her transmission was failing, and she might not make the upcoming 1000 mile trip I thought I was planning in a few days. Transmission failure was imminent, and could happen at any moment.

So for now, Old Blue is resting in my driveway, patiently awaiting for her new transmission to arrive. Her transplant is scheduled for Tuesday, and my trip to Maine is postponed for a week.

It's not the worst news - after all, she is fixable, and I'm not ready to give up on her yet. And Old Blue is a tough old gal - she's a diesel, one-ton heavy-duty van, and has handled worse than this. Last year she received a heart transplant - a new engine - and after a bit of fine-tuning, was back to her old self. (The Antiques Fairy does seem to be paying a bit too much attention to Old Blue this past year.)

But Old Blue is ready to spring back, and I'm not inclined to replace her. Sure, there's lots of vans out there that could probably do the job, but Old Blue has been my refuge-on-the-road, a little traveling apartment of good music, good food (you'd be amazed what one can carry in a cooler!), and lots of laughter for me as I travel with family and friends across the country.

Last year I learned how truly solid she is. Old Blue has a custom, queen-sized bed which I occasionally use when on over-night trips. Sometimes, when I'm exhibiting at outdoor shows, I'll even spend a few nights in Old Blue. A year ago, I was participating in some of the Texas Antiques Week shows, and stayed in Old Blue for a few days. One night, dreadful storms blew across the area during the middle of the night. The winds approached 60 miles per hour, and during the night show tents blew down, huge furniture fell over, and heavy rains assaulted all the exhibitors' merchandise, leaving the show areas a chaotic - and expensive - mess. Many of us lost a lot of money in those blowing hours of downpour.

But Old Blue held her ground, and in those torrential storms never budged an inch. I stayed safely inside Old Blue and watched the weather reports on my little television, cell phone at hand in case something really bad happened.
Old Blue hardly swayed with the high winds, while outside my van I could see in the darkness several nearby tents blowing down. I could hear glass crashing and breaking, and the heavy thud of furniture tipping over into the mud.

Old Blue held tight. I have to admit I was quite amazed to be so safe and secure, and felt that I was actually as well-protected as if I had been in a hotel. Guess I am a bit partial to Old Blue - she's been a great travel companion all these years . . .

As for the Antiques Fairy, well, I suppose she can't be all good-tidings-and-joy. (What fun would that be?) She has a bit of the devil in her, so I do recognize her need for the downside of life. But, she regularly brings me fabulous antiques acquisitions unexpectedly - beautiful antiques at wondrously fair prices. Many times my customers benefit because of this high-spirited Antiques Fairy; she has led me to things special and reasonably priced, and has given me great joy in my antiques hunts.

My philosophy is to pass on the antiques goodies to my customers who know me to be fair and honest. They appreciate quality antiques, and if I share the good fortunes the Antiques Fairy brings, it will only come back to me somehow, someway at a later time. You know - that "what goes around, comes around" theory . . .

So - in her own way - this time around the Antiques Fairy is doing the right thing. She's giving Old Blue a rest and recuperation break, and is probably preventing me from a serious breakdown on the road during my upcoming trip. It's a surprise I wasn't counting on, but I'm a flexible person, and can swing with those unexpected things that come along when life just happens. My trip is temporarily postponed, but Old Blue will be feeling much better, ready to go to work again.

Besides - now I have a few extra days to stock up on some new music, and some even-better road snacks (antique-ing is hard work - for an antiques dealer, good food and good music are road-requirements!!). It won't be much longer, and I'll be in my beloved Maine, on the hunt again and roaming the backroads with a much happier Old Blue.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Things I learned while looking up other things . . .

Just a hodge-podge of things I've learned (and will probably forget) while I was researching other things . . .

These fun facts came from my research on 18th century American cooking:

In Colonial American, battalia pie was a pie made of various tidbits such as cockscombs (and they didn't mean the plant), sweetbreads, livers and gizzards. The early American housewife didn't waste anything.

Surprisingly, two hundred years ago, a man who made and repaired shoes was known as a cat whipper. (This wasn't part of my cooking research - I just thought it was interesting.) Another term for the shoemaker was "cordwainer."

An ell rule was a measuring device generally used to measure cloth, and was approximately 45 inches long. (Same for this one - not really a cooking term, but happened to come up while I was looking something else up!)

The term "faggot" was used to describe a bunch, or a bundle, as in a "faggot of herbs."

A small glazed earthen pot was sometimes referred to as a gallipot.

The old English measure known as the gill is one-fourth pint in US measure.

Isinglass was actually used long ago in making jellies, and was a very pure form of gelatin made from the air bladders of sturgeons or other fish.

A sippet was a small piece of toast or dried bread, often cut into triangles, and was usually served in soup or broth, though sometimes served with a meat dish and used to dip in the gravy.

A tammy was a cloth made from wool, or a wool and cotton combination, and used as a strainer or sieve.

Tench, thornback, scate, roach, plaice, gudgeons, and charr were all types of fish eaten by the Colonists.

To bray an item meant to beat it into a smaller dimension, to bruise, pound or crush into a powder, usually in a mortar - as in "Bray the hard part in a mortar."

The Colonists used boiling as their most common way of cooking, but also used other methods - not as often - such as roasting, baking and frying.

Shoes were not mated as right and left; instead, they looked exactly alike and had to be switched daily to keep the wear even.

"Chandlers" were candlemakers, some of whom traveled and carried their own big candle molds which could make six dozen candles at a time.

Cookbooks weren't printed in America until the mid-1700s. Most of the American population was rural, and most couldn't read or write. There was little need for cookbooks and few were printed. Those which existed during the earliest Colonial days were often handed down in families and originated in England.

Recipes were called "receipts", and some titles of 19th century cookbooks actually include the word "receipts".

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Remember the U.S.S Maine!

Battleship Maine
U.S. Battleship Maine,
Samuel H. Gottscho, photographer, taken before February 15, 1898.

On April 25, 1898, the United States formally declared war on Spain, after the battleship U.S.S. Maine was sunk in Cuba's Havana harbor. By December of 1898, the United States and Spain had signed a peace treaty, whereby Spain gave up it's claims to Cuba, Puerto Rico and Guam, and - for $20 million - transferred the Phillipines to the United States.

Coincidently, the Spanish-American War was the first US war in which the motion picture industry played a significant role. If you'd like to see early film presentations on this war, click on The Spanish-American War in Motion Pictures to see the Library of Congress's offerings. There's lots of additional info about the Spanish-American war on this site, so be sure to have your bowl of popcorn ready before you start!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Today is FREE Computer Programs Day!!

Last year I changed my computer's browser to Mozilla Firefox. Previous to that, I'd been using a very fast German browser named Opera, which worked well for me as I was in an area that offered dial-up service at a reasonable price, but the dsl service was $50/mo, which was beyond my budget. Opera was great for dial-up, except that it wasn't always compatible with all websites, and I was missing out on some really interesting info.

Switching to Firefox meant instant acceptability to all the websites I've tried since I downloaded it. It too is quite fast, and I use it with both my dial-up service when I'm on the road, and my home computer's dsl service. Even better - it's FREE!

I love FREE.

Firefox has so many features that make my computing easy. It has eliminated all pop-ups and spywares, and has also removed the annoying flashy/distracting banners at the top of the page. My blood pressure has gone down just because I no longer am subjected to those flashing, disturbing banners at the top of the page! I hated them.

One of the best reasons for using Firefox is it's tabbed home pages, which allows me to have many different websites available to me all at once. I use six programs, sometimes simultaneously, every day. Using the tabbed system means I can easily jump back and forth amongst them, never losing any of the sites. I even leave one tab blank, just for research purposes - I can download anything into that tab from my Bookmarks, or can surf on that tab to my heart's content without disturbing the other regularly used websites.

These tabs and websites come up everytime I turn on my monitor (my computer stays on all the time, but I usually shut off my monitor when I'm not at my desk - saves a few dollars each month on my electric bill and gives a bit longer life to my monitor). I never have to search for my favorite websites (for example, Google Calendar, PayPal and my banking site), since Firefox keeps them ready at my fingertips.

Firefox has lots of free extensions, too. I use their weather site ForecastFox
nearly every day. It installs a small, inconspicuous weather bar on the lower right corner of my screen, and shows the current regional radar for my area. It also gives me today's weather and a forecast for the next two days, too. In addition, if you need more weather info - maybe you are traveling and want to see what else is happening across the country - you can click on the weather bar in the lower right corner of your screen and find out what else is happening now and in the future anywhere in the world for free!

Another couple of programs which make my computing simpler are Flash Player and Shockwave Player. Many websites you surf use these two programs for display of their content, and you'll need one of these players to view these websites. These two programs are FREE, and you can get them here. Look on the right side of the page for these two free programs.

I've already mentioned AVG in an earlier blog posting, which is a free anti-virus program. Firefox also includes an anti-virus program, and I added AVG as an added protection. AVG automatically updates my computer with it's latest installations, again, another time-saver.

Hope some of these come in handy for you. I especially recommend Firefox to everyone I talk with - it is SO much better than Internet Explorer! Give the other free programs (and other Foxfire extensions) a try - you'll be surprised at how much easier computing can be.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Is it True, or is it Fiction - Find Out Here !

Nearly all of us get those emails forwarded to us from well-meaning friends and family, spouting amazing stories of all sorts. Some are quite believable, while others seem incredibly unlikely. A few are so convincing, we quickly forward them on to others, feeling that we are passing on information meant to protect our loved ones, or at least be helpful to them.

Remember, the Internet is worse than your local newspaper - you just can't believe everything you read. For some people, reading information in print gives it legitimacy.

No, no, no
- after all, anyone can post information on the Internet, and before long, hundreds of people have seen it and have passed it on with the belief that it MUST be true because they read all about it on the World Wide Web.

If you have ever wondered how to check something out before you pass it on, one of the most useful sites you can try is, which allows you to check out the latest Urban Legends. There are more than 40 categories of Fact vs. Fiction, and there's even listings for "What's New" and "Hottest 25 Legends".

Here's where you can find out if Herman, the German Giant rabbit, really is 3 feet tall on his hind legs, and weighs 17 pounds. (Yes, this one is true). Or, how about the email shipped across the US about the Formosan subterranean termites
supposedly showing up in mulch being sold by home improvement stores - click on Formosan Termites .

In any case, you might want to bookmark the site for future reference - that way you can check out some of these stories before you pass them on.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Conservation Tips on Vintage Paper

If you like vintage paper items, this suggestion list might be helpful in preserving your collection. Many of these ideas can be applied to books, posters, photographs and similar old paper items.

  • Storage: Don't store paper collectibles in a damp place like a basement or garage. Moisture can cause rotten leather bindings, sticky photographs, and those yellow-ish brown stains called foxing.
  • Temperature: Ideal temperature ranges for storing books and paper is 65 - 75 degrees Fahrenheit, along with 50% relative humidity. You can buy a small meter to determine temperature and humidity at your local Walmart or other department store for a few dollars. Also, direct sunlight, artificial light, or intense heat can dry out and fade leather and cloth bindings.
  • If you want to reverse dog-eared corners in books, try putting a sheet of clean white paper on top of the creased page and press with a warm - not hot - iron.
  • Water spills: A frost-free freezer will draw out moisture and free the book pages which have stuck together. If you have too many books to fit in your freezer, call a local wholesale meat distributor or food processor and ask to rent freezer space.
  • Clean leather book bindings with saddle soap. Apply sparingly with your fingers or a clean cloth, cheesecloth or a chamois. Wait several hours and then repeat.
  • Sometimes the best way to dust books is the easiest - you can vacuum them with a dusting-brush attachment. Or, you can use a shaving brush or a soft clean paintbrush, too.
  • Moldy pages? Wipe mold and mildew from the bindings and pages with a soft, clean cloth. If the pages are moldy, wipe with an alcohol-dampened clean cloth, then fan the pages open so they'll dry. You can also try sprinkling the pages with cornstarch, then brushing them off a few hours later.
  • Pencil marks? An art gum eraser from an art supply store will do the trick. You can also use this eraser to clean dingy book covers and page ends. Work carefully, from the center outwards, to avoid damage.
  • Don't remove books from shelves by pulling on the tops of the bindings, as vintage books tear easily. Instead, push in the two books on either side of the book you want, and you'll be able to grasp it properly without damaging it.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Auctions - Never believe everything you read

The other day I went to an auction. Hadn't been to one in months, and it sounded good - on-site at a farm out in the country, long listing of antiques including many country items (and I do love country), and it was on a Monday, which often means that there wouldn't be a crowd. The auctioneer was well-known in the area, having been in the family auction business for several decades. It all sounded great, so I threw my jacket and camera in the van and headed out for a fun work day.

Should have looked more closely at the ad. Maybe then I would have noticed the warning signs.

First Warning Sign: the directions to the auction site were quite vague. It gave a specific address, but unless you lived in that neighborhood, you wouldn't know how to find it. No road directions were given on how to get there - instead, there was just a note that it was south of a certain very small town. Okay - well, with effort and logic, I can usually find just about any place, so I continued on, searching for this wonderful farm auction.

After nearly two hours of driving across bumpy back roads with lots of country potholes, I finally stumbled across this middle-of-nowhere farm. Even though I'd left with plenty of extra time to find this place, I still was late and arrived just as the auction was starting. Quickly, I signed up for a bid number, champing at the bit to get into some really interesting good-quality buying.

Warning Sign #2: A Monday auction isn't always a sure bet. There was a large crowd (Monday!!!??!), yet I only recognized one other dealer there. Since we dealers are known to be crazy enough to travel great distances for a good country auction, this was a bad sign. There should have been at least a half dozen or more dealers, all eyeing each other and vying for the best stuff.

Then I remembered that I'd seen quite a few openings in the parking field. Apparently, there had been dealers there, but after viewing the auction, had decided to leave.

Instead, most of the attendees appeared to be local farmers and neighbors. They were scattered in small groups, chatting up a storm, and not paying much attention to the auctioneer. This had turned into more of a post-Winter social event than an auction, and the locals were just blowing off a beautiful Spring day and catching up with the neighborhood gossip.

Warning Sign #3: Too little detail in the auction listing. It sounded good initially, but later, when I re-read it, I realized there just wasn't very much detail.

Before I bid on anything, I always scan the merchandise first to see what catches my eye or could be a sleeper - there's no point in bidding on something I haven't personally inspected. But after the first 10 minutes of wandering through this farm auction, I knew I'd not be buying much.

What had been described in the auction ad as "lots of antiques, farm implements, furniture" etc., etc., etc., missed one very important point - it didn't mention that this auction was the left-overs from a long-defunct antiques business. The merchandise (geez, I just hate to call it that, since most of it really belonged at the local dump) was in very poor condition - furniture had been left in an old, rickety barn, pretty much exposed to the elemenets. All of it needed much repair (and how many single chairs can one have?? there were nearly 75 old, unmatched, shaky, finish-gone chairs!), also glass and china mostly with chips and cracks, plus stoneware which might have been nifty to buy if it didn't have major hairlines and heavy stains. Much of the offerings were yard sale remains, the kind of stuff you see over and over again at many "antiques malls." The auctioneer was having a tough time getting bids, since much of the table-top "antiques" were of low quality and had damage. Even the locals weren't interested.

I headed for the farm implements, determined to find something to buy. Often I can find something that was used in farming but now would be spectacular in a new life as a fabulous architectural ornament. This was a pretty big farm. Surely I would find some cool wall farm art, right? Not so. At least, not unless I wanted to buy entire cultivators, drags or any of the other major farm implements, all full-sized and old, but needing major disassembly for them to work architecturally. Since none of them would fit in my van, Plan B wasn't going to work either.

Even worse, I noticed that at the end of a long line of beat-up, non-working 1950s tractors was a large thirty-year-old box van, also non-running and very rusted, with the lettering on the side: Empty Pockets Antiques. That certainly explained everything.

After spending an hour wandering this farm, I had to give in. There just wasn't anything of acceptable quality that I could buy and make a few dollars on. All the furniture needed more work than would justify a reasonable retail price. The small "antiques" - mostly from the mid-20th century - were damaged and unsaleable. The potential farm architectural items were old (good), rusted beyond disassembly (bad), and way too big for me to manage.

So I did what any other self-respecting antiques dealer would do - I stopped at the concession trailer for a nice, big, calorie and fat-overloaded Polish dog. Which, I should add, was a terrific surprise - it was quite lean and tasty, and was the concessionaire's Spring Special - an extra-large locally-made Polish sausage, smothered with chopped fresh spinach and home-made sweet red onion relish. All for $2.50 - and I loved it! This was the best this auction had to offer, and for me was the beginning of Plan C.

If one is handed an armful of lemons, the obvious answer is to make lemonade. So, Plan C was now in effect. Starting with a pretty decently full tummy of my unusual fresh spinach/sweet onion relish-covered Polish dog, I was now ready to enjoy the rest of the day by leaving this god-forsaken auction and doing something else.

Hopping into the van, I let it lead wherever the road went. I had no idea where I was going, other than somewhere easterly. I just wandered backroads, heading in the general direction of home. Since it was Monday, the chances were slim of finding any antiques shops to hunt; most shops around our part of the state are closed on Monday. But for nearly 2 hours I slowly rambled rural roads through three counties, enjoying the trees and flowers in blossom, the rolling hills, the open green pastures with cattle, goats and horses, and beautiful zig-zaggy streams. Took my time, soaked it all in, received lots of good mental health.

I ignored the fact that I'd just driven 175 miles, spent nearly $45 in gas, and wasted a pointless morning at an auction full of junk which really belonged at the county refuse station. Instead of sitting on the pity-pot feeling sorry for myself over a morning squandered, I "made lemonade", and refreshed myself with timeless nature. I didn't have to be anywhere at any specific time, and spending a few hours of being lost sure gave me a much better attitude throughout the rest of the day!

In fact, I came home earlier than I had planned - after all, I usually spend an entire day at an auction - and managed a few hours playing in my yard, too. Picked up a cart-full of winter's dead branches, decided which perennials needed to be transplanted and which were slated as a gift for a friend's garden, and cavorted with my cats in the warm Spring sun.

And then, I went inside and made some REAL lemonade, the first of the season, reminding myself to read between the lines in the next auction ad, but if it doesn't quite turn out the way I'd planned, there was always Plan C!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Antique Photography - Fun to Find, Inexpensive to Collect!

So often I hear customers complaining that antiques have become too expensive and they just can't afford to collect anymore. Pshaw! That's the furthest excuse from the truth. If you like old things, and want to collect, you definitely can find something old which gives you pleasure and is affordable, too.

Antique photography is an excellent example. I love old photos, probably because I was raised on photography as my father was a professional photographer for an international news organization for more than 30 years. I recall him teaching me how to shoot photos with his very expensive Nikon cameras when I was only six years old - he sure had a lot of faith in me!!

I especially love those earlier photos from the 1870s through the 1920s.
Collectible American photography covers a vast range, from the very first ambrotypes and daguerreotypes during the mid-1800s through tintypes and paper photography during the later 1800s into the early 1900s. During this latter time period, some folks even had their favorite photos turned into postcards to send to their friends and family.

Early photographica shows America during simpler times, and often reflects lives of everyday people who worked hard to accomplish their goals and enjoy the life they earned. These pictorials of a century ago make a fabulous, unique and very personal collection, all based on a collector's subjective interests and tastes. You can amass a superb collection of early photos for a very reasonable and small amount of money.

Vintage photos aren't difficult to find. I find them at antiques shops and shows, flea markets, sometimes even estate and yard sales. Usually, the better ones come from dealers who understand photography and sell the best quality they can find. Working with a dealer can bring a collector some really fantastic photo finds, and it's worth the effort to befriend a dealer who understands and loves early photography.

Photos are usually inexpensive. I regularly sell really nice turn-of-the-century photos for $10 - 25 each, with many of them in frames and ready to display. I often tell my customers that this is for their "diet collection" - for every pizza they give up, they can instead buy one or two really cool old photos!

Subjects of these photos include children, animals, people in their occupations, early cars, instant ancestors and family groups, and a whole wide scope of topics that folks find interesting. Some of my customers only collect a certain theme, while others search for photos which accent their homes and add to an atmosphere of comfort and warmth.

One of my customers only searches for photos of young girls carrying dolls, as an accompaniment to her extensive doll collection. One man likes Civil War photography. Another customer buys early horse photos, and has a couple shelves of them - she groups all different horse photos in all different sizes and they decorate her family room built-in bookcase. They really add to the horsey atmosphere of her favorite room, and since her daughter is an accomplished horsewoman, they mix in perfectly with all the ribbons and awards the daughter has earned.

I've also sold early photos to artists, who use them for ideas in future projects, and to interior decorators who want a special one-of-a-kind early photo to enhance a client's home. Instant ancestor photos are popular - after all, who cares if that person in the photo is really your g-g-g-g-grandmother??? It's the photo itself that draws attention, and gives your home a toasty, home-spun, comfortable feeling.

I regularly sell vintage photos in my Red Moon Antiques webshop on Ruby Lane. While in Texas a couple weeks ago, I purchased a really nice group of quality photos, all originating from one Indiana family from around the 1890s -1930s who eventually moved to Texas. Many of these photos are professionally-shot cabinet cards showing studio scenes of various individuals, while some are home-shot photos of life in America. They are a wonderful documentation of the lives of several different family members, and I have had several very enjoyable hours sorting through and framing them.

Antique photos are marvelous! Why not try collecting in a whole new field?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

A Smile for You

Okay, so today is a beautiful spring day, and I really want to be outside cleaning up my yard, listening to the birds tell my cats off as they cruise the yard, and I really want to uncoop from my office and enjoy some fresh Michigan air.

But before I do, I have to smile and share a fun email (thanks, Mark!) which brings back fond memories of my years in law enforcement. Please enjoy, and I'll be back with antiques-stuff in my next post.

The following 15 police comments were taken off actual police car videos around the country:

#15 "Relax, the handcuffs are tight because they're new. They'll stretch out after you wear them awhile."

#14 "Take your hands off the car, and I'll make your birth certificate a worthless document."

#13 "If you run, you'll only go to jail tired."

#12 "Can you run faster than 1200 feet per second? In case you didn't know, that is the average speed of a 9mm bullet fired from my gun."

#11 "So you don't know how fast you were going. I guess that means I can write anything I want on the ticket, huh?

#10 "Yes, Sir, you can talk to the shift supervisor, but I don't think it will help. Oh. Did I mention that I am the shift supervisor?"

# 9 "Warning! You want a warning? O.K, I'm warning you not to do that again or I'll give you another ticket."

# 8 "The answer to this last question will determine whether you are drunk or not. Was Mickey Mouse a cat or a dog?"

# 7 "Fair? You want me to be fair? Listen, fair is a place where you go to ride on rides, eat cotton candy, and step in monkey doo."

# 6 "Yeah, we have a quota. Two more tickets and my wife gets a toaster oven."

# 5 "In God we trust, all others we run through NCIC."

# 4 "Just how big were those two beers?"

# 3 "No sir we don't have quotas anymore. We used to have quotas but now we're allowed to write
as many tickets as we want."

# 2 "I'm glad to hear the Chief of Police is a good personal friend of yours. At least you know someone who can post your bail."

And... THE BEST ONE!!!

# 1 "You didn't think we give pretty women tickets?... You're right, we don't. ... Sign here.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Theft Story is Painful

Yesterday while out shopping with my husband in a large antiques mall, I ran into a long-time dealer/customer who specializes in fine estate jewelry. Knowing I'd spent nearly 14 years in law enforcement, he felt comfortable in sharing his sad story.

The night before, he's received a late night phone call. Another antiques mall at a different location was phoning to tell him that the police had just notified them that they'd had a break-in. He has a booth in this mall. His jewelry booth had just been robbed, and the police were investigating the after-hours theft.

The thieves had pretty much cleaned him out of the good stuff, which they obviously recognized. They broke into the mall, knew exactly what they were looking for, popped his showcase locks (and his were some of the better professional case locks available, not your typical inexpensive showcase slide locks which can be purchased at any hardware store for $5), and apparently left only when the audible alarm went off. That store's audible alarm goes off about two - three minutes after the silent alarm alerts the local police department.

By the time the police arrived, they'd cleaned out 2/3s of his showcase and were gone, leaving only the bottom shelf of lower-end jewelry. This was the second time in six weeks he'd been robbed afterhours at the same store. This particular store has inside video equipment, which they operate only during the regular store hours and not during the night, so no record was made of this theft or the previous one. This shop also did not have deadbolt locks on their exterior doors, making it much easier for thieves to enter.

The jewelry dealer lost more than $50,000 in jewelry, and more than $20,000 in the first theft. He was now pulling his good jewelry from the second antiques mall, thinking that it was possible that the thieves knew where else he displayed, and did not want to tempt them into robbing him at the second store too. Since he also exhibits at shows, he was removing his better inventory with the plan to display it at shows in other states and not take a chance on a late-night break-in at any of the antiques malls where he still has booths.

We talked for a long time about ways to minimize theft and protect inventory from the bad guys. It's clear that he was being targeted, since he was hit twice in a short period of time.

During the first theft, only one other dealer in the shop was robbed - a coin dealer. In the second theft, his jewelry booth was the only booth which was robbed. It's unknown if that is because the audible alarm came on and scared the thieves off, or if they discovered that they could move jewelry easier than coins, or if different thieves were involved, or if they were just tageting this one dealer and being very quick about it. No leads for police yet on either of these thefts, so there's a lot of questions and very few answers.

Unfortunately, the owners of the robbed shop hadn't addressed this very serious problem properly. After the first robbery, they continued to only video-tape their shop during open hours. Their thought process was that shoplifting theft was their major liability, instead of being pro-active in preventing very expensive afterhours robberies. Additionally, they still hadn't yet added solid, heavy-duty deadbolt locks to their doors, which might have actually prevented the second theft.

Had they consulted with the local police department on other measures they could take to minimize problems like this, the story might have been different. Instead, they just went on with business-as-usual, and someone out there recognized the opportunity to steal again, much to the pain of the jewelry dealer.

Do you have a booth in an antiques mall? If your booth was cleaned out in a night-time robbery, could you sustain the loss? Ask yourself how financially painful it would be if most of your antiques were stolen, and then ask yourself the most important question - is the shop I'm in taking the proper measures to protect me?

There's much an antiques mall can do, at minimal or reasonable cost, to clip theft problems in the bud. A video taping system is only good for shoplifting theft if the theft is recognized soon afterwards and reported to the police. Most videos work on a loop system which erases previous recordings after a certain period of time, so if a shoplifting theft is discovered after that time period, it won't show who did the deed. Most thieves have checked out the shop, and many notice whether someone is actually watching the cameras for active shoplifting. Since shops often just don't have the personnel - like the big box stores do - to assign an employee to spend the entire day watching cameras for theft, the video systems don't work well. Professional thieves recognize this, and know they can easily steal a few things here and there, booth by booth.

But it's the really bad guys who are looking for a major hit which will make them a large amount of money quickly. They aren't looking for a small pocketful of items to pawn; they want a large amount of something expensive - like high quality antique jewelry - to grab quickly and run, and they know they need to do it when the shop is closed. This antiques mall was an easy target, and most probably the thieves looked it over again just before the second theft to make sure it could be done. Somehow they knew the video tape wasn't running during the night, and that they wouldn't have to fight with deadbolt locks.

In other words, they were successful because they most likely took the time to find any obstacles which could prevent them from accomplishing their goals.

In any case, our friend the jewelry dealer is out a huge amount of money, and is reconsidering his business plan in terms of how to sell without opening himself to robbery. The second shop he is in has much better security, and he's a bit more confident selling there, although he's pulling his best stock and showing only his medium-level quality until he's confident the thieves aren't following him from shop to shop.

If you are in an antiques mall, ask the owners about their security cameras, deadbolt locks and other security measures they may be taking. And if you aren't comfortable with the answers, ask if they have invited the local police department to visit and suggest improvements the shop owners can make to minimize theft during both day and night hours. Most police departments are quite willing to share their knowledge and experience at no charge - all you need to do is ask.

If the shop owner of the mall you are in doesn't respond positively, ask yourself if you can withstand major theft - because it can happen anywhere, at anytime, and it can definitely happen to YOU.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Back Home From the Texas Shows - Soon in Maine!

Home again from three weeks of shopping, shopping, shopping plus exhibiting at The Original Round Top Antiques Fair during Antiques Week in Texas, and my eight cats are just now forgiving me for leaving them for so long. Most of them I've bribed with extra kitty treats, but one is still mad and ignoring me; hopefully she'll get over it soon.

Came back with plenty of fun new antiques treasures from Texas, which will soon be added to my inventory for the shows I'll be doing up in New England, as well as the group shops I am in along the Maine coast. By the end of this month, I'll be on my way to Maine for the summer, where I run my custom antiques tour business for folks looking to maximize their search time for antiques while cutting down on gas, time and effort. I customize each tour to my clients' desires, trying to fine-tune the hunt to their favorite antiques and their pocketbooks.

I personally escort buyers to Maine shops which carry the type of antiques my customers are looking for - whether it's furniture or thimbles, I can supply a full day of shopping, find a great place for lunch, and assist in finding overnight accommodations in mid-Coast Maine, all at a very reasonable cost.
If needed, I'll even assist in finding a reliable shipper to get their purchases home.

Like lobster? We can eat fresh lobster that was caught that morning, enjoying a fabulous lunch at a local restaurant in one of the most scenic coastal locations Maine has to offer.

Want a fabulous place to stay during your visit to Maine? I can locate for you a picturesque Victorian summer hotel that's right next to a Maine lighthouse, or find a classic bed and breakfast inn that will pamper you and give you years of great memories.

Doesn't matter if there's one person or a half-dozen, my price is the same. We'll have loads of fun exploring both small and large antiques shops, many which are off the beaten path and not well-known (perfect for finding special treasures!). This year there are a few brand new ones that aren't even listed anywhere yet, but I've already pencilled them into my shopping list for exploration.

Still have openings for summer 2006 - feel free to contact me for information on my custom and confidential Maine antiques tours at