My Weekly Score: Maritime Lantern

As I’ve said before, The Boss seems to have an affinity for lights and lamps. Lanterns are no exception. We got this bad boy in quite a while ago:

It’s an antique lantern that, presumably, once belonged on a ship. It was made out of copper and brass. Etched on the front were a bunch of number and letter combinations we couldn’t make head or tail out of.

The inside was for oil, and there was still a little bit of usable wick in there for it. There was some damage to the lantern as a whole, including some rusty areas, but overall I thought it still looked pretty nice.

Maritime items are pretty popular – particularly ones that have lighthouses on them. These old lanterns sell pretty well too. We had to sit on this one for a while, but having bought it from $150, we sold it off for $200, which didn’t include the shipping.

Although this was a great sale in terms of what we sold, the price wasn’t quite as much as we would hope for. No complaints here, though. It’s a neat item and I’m just glad that somebody found a good use for it!

Have you come across any neat nautical items recently?

Word of the Week: Cut Glass

Cut glass is glass that has been decorated with a pattern that was cut by hand using rotating wheels. The wheels can either be made of metal or made of stone.

Identifying cut glass can be a little tricky sometimes, but the more you deal in it, the better off you’ll be. My go-to indicator is to feel the edges of the pattern – if they’re a little sharper than usual, then you’ve probably got cut glass on your hands. Cut glass also won’t have a seam anywhere on it like pressed glass does.

Although it doesn’t do much good to show you pictures of cut glass, since both cut and pressed glass can essentially have the same pattern, here are some examples anyway:

Do you collect cut glass? Have you ever come across any awesome pieces before?

Resource Guide: Illusion Jewels

I’ve got another resource guide for you guys today and another wonderful site to add to your bookmarks. If you’re as into costume jewelry as we are, then you’re going to love Illusion Jewels as much as we do!

Illusion Jewels is a website where you can buy all sorts of jewelry, but it’s also a great place to do some research. That’s what I’m going to discuss today, but please take some time and look around the website on your own – they’ve got a lot of wonderful things to offer.

The part of the site that we use most often would have to do with maker’s marks. Here’s what you see as soon as you click on that link:

Click to enlarge.

The best part about this site is that it’s really simple to use and very informative. No fluff here! At the bottom of that image you’ll see a section with all the letters of the alphabet. This is what you’ll click on to find the specific mark that you’re looking for. Say, for instance, you want to look at all the marks that start with “A” – just click the letter, then scroll down and you’ll see this:

Click to enlarge.

This is a list of each maker under that letter, in alphabetical order. Each one has a bold heading with information and pictures underneath. In some cases it’ll tell you which marks go with which dates and there may even be some history there as well.

So, how do we use this site? It’s most helpful when you know what the maker’s mark says. For instance, if it says “Deltah” on it, I need only to click on the letter “D” and ctrl+f the word in order to find it in the list. (That’s the fast way. You can, of course, just scroll down through until you find it since it is alphabetized.) There I will find information about when the company was established, a few pictures of the hang tags that were often used, some info about dates, and even a mini-timeline .

Sometime you can still use the site even if you can’t quite make out the mark. If you know what it starts with, that’s the most important part. They don’t have a search function, unfortunately, so a lot of searching must be done “by hand” (computer mouse?) in order to find what you’re looking for. You can always Google the mark, then come back here for the information once you know who made it.

And that’s about it. Like I said, this is a very simple, but very useful site. It’s taught me a lot about costume jewelry and this is definitely my go-to site. I hope it’s as useful for you as it is for me!

What’s your go-to site for research about costume jewelry?

My Weekly Score: Shakespeare Precision Fishing Reel

Now, this is a story all about how — Whoa, am I the only one that just got a Fresh Prince of Bel-Air flashback? Yes? Okay, then…

Anyway, this really is a story all about how you can buy something for dirt cheap and turn it around and sell it for a lot more. It’s also a story about making sure you always take your time when you create your listings so there are absolutely no mistakes when you’re finished. Because if there are, it might just cost you a pretty penny to fix them.

First, the item:

This is a vintage precision casting reel from Shakespeare. It’s the 1922 model and came in the original box. It still worked smoothly and was actually in excellent condition, even though we knew that it was used.

The exciting part of the tale is as follows. We bought this for right around $9. It sold for $222.50. We knew we’d get a good turnaround on it, but no one here had any idea it would be so popular. It was an incredible sale and definitely one for our “best scores ever” book.

Then we got the e-mail that no eBay seller ever wants to see: “Item not as described.”

Uh-oh.

Here’s my disclaimer. I try really, really hard to make all of our listings as accurate as possible. I never try to hide damage or misrepresent our items. Not only was I not brought up to be that way, but it just serves to give you a headache later on. Everyone on eBay pretty much has to have a refund policy at this point, so the buyer can return it and get their money back even if you were trying to be sneaky. Plus you’ll probably have to pay the return shipping and that puts you in the hole rather than out on top.

With that being said, I do miss things. And it happens more often than I’d care to admit. But I also have to list as many items in a day as I possibly can, and that leads to being rushed and making mistakes. I’m human and it happens. Some people get that, and others don’t.

This person got it. He was probably the nicest eBay buyer I’ve had to deal with so far. He told us that the flap to the box was missing and was wondering if (since we didn’t say it was missing in the description) we could look for it around our store to see if it just fell off.

But there never was a flap. It completely just slipped my mind to mention the fact that the box was damaged. With a little bit of humor, and a lot of apologies, I explained that to the buyer. He totally understood. He kindly asked for a refund, since (and I know this too, which makes me feel even more horrible!) the box is worth more money than the actual reel is.

In the end, we both agreed a $100 refund would be fair. He’d keep the reel, and we still had a $110 profit. It was win-win, just maybe not so much of a win-win.

But, lesson learned. Slow down, take your time. It’ll pay off in the end (sometimes quite literally).

Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever been on the buying side of this? Either way it’s a horrible thing to have to run into, but it definitely happens in this business, particularly when you’re dealing in vintage.

Word of the Week: Tarnish

So, I’m kind of cheating with this week’s WotW. I mean, I think most of us know what tarnish is. For those of you that don’t, or are unaware of its technical definition, tarnish is simply a thin layer of corrosion that forms over certain types of metal (silver and copper being amongst the top two), when that metal comes in contact with certain elements.

The interesting part is that tarnish is actually kind of complicated. It’s actually a chemical reaction between the metal and the air (in some cases, but not all). Other metal need certain chemicals to jump start this process for them. Tarnish is also not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just a surface phenomenon, unlike rust, and doesn’t harm the metal. In fact, it actually seals in the layers underneath and protects them from further tarnish!

There are different kinds of tarnish too, the most well known being called patina. This is the reaction that you usually see on copper or brass. (And if you want an in-your-face example of it, just look at the Statue of Liberty!)

As I stated above, most tarnish is harmless. It’s also easy to remove. You can use steel wool, sand paper, baking soda, metal polish, or a variety of other things. I’ve heard that using ketchup is a great way to get rid of patina.

The best part about all of this is that tarnish can be beautiful. In some cases, it causes a rainbow affect to your pieces. Some people will collect silverplate and keep the tarnish intact because it’s just that gorgeous!

Check out some examples that I pulled down from our shelves, just for you!

First Up:

This is the most beautiful spoon I’ve ever seen. it is COMPLETELY covered in tarnish from head to toe. It’s got orange, red, pink, purple, and a stunning teal color running through it. I’ve never seen something so completely covered before!

Next:

Here’s a huge teapot that’s tarnished on just one side. This one in particular is very purple and blue. You can see how the tarnish doesn’t cover every inch of the pot, which makes the spoon above even more amazing.

Lastly:

Here’s a gorgeous sugar bowl that actually comes from the same set as the teapot above.

Doesn’t that make you never want to never polish your silver sets again!? It’s important to note that I didn’t do ANYTHING to change the coloring on these pictures. I didn’t even whiten the background because I wanted them to be as true to the real thing as possible. These are 100% absolutely what they look like when you hold them in your hand.

So the real question here is, “To polish or not to polish?” I know my answer…what’s yours?

Spotlight: Mid-century

I have a feeling a few of you are giddy for this topic just by reading that title. It’s true, today I bring you a super cool and well-loved topic: Mid-century!

[Disclaimer: I’m not an expert. This isn’t my usual go-to era, even though I do love the designs. And, as always, there are exceptions to every rule and things that just don’t always fit. This is a general overlook and should be treated as such!]

If this metal lunchbox doesn’t make you think of the 1960s, I don’t know what will!

What is Mid-century?

The full name of this movement is referred to as Mid-century Modern. Modernism itself began as early as the 1930s, but really picked up steam in the 1950s, and sort of fizzled out by the 1970s. When you think Mid-century, think the 1950s and 1960s (which is quite easy to remember, given its name).

What are the characteristics of Mid-century?

Chances are that if you’re in the vintage business, MC designs are pretty easy to spot. Even if you’re not, there’s a good chance you’ve seen plenty of pieces in movies and on television.

A fairly typical portrayal of the MC color palette. (This is all Melmac!)

MC is colorful – teals, yellows, green, pinks. Usually they’re subdued, pastel. Whereas the ‘70s held your typical earth tones (lots of chocolate browns, mustard oranges, and olive greens), MC is much more upbeat and fun.

Furniture tended to look a little futuristic (though now we see them as “retro” designs). Very sleek and rounded, sophisticated, curvy, and functional. It seems a little silly, but the cartoon The Jetsons blends this futuristic, yet retro feel perfectly (at least in my mind!).

There are also certain patterns that just scream Mid-century. Atomic and starburst designs are probably the epitome of this era. There were a lot of floral designs as well, but don’t think groovy, flower-power that you’d see in the ‘70s. MC flowers were smaller and classier.

Here’s an atomic pattern on a Pyrex teapot.

Why should I care?

Personally, I think all people should care about the history of their country and the world. But besides that, this was an extremely prosperous time for the United States. It was post-WWII and the time of the baby-boomers. Innovations were popping up left and right and life was good.

This era also had a direct influence on architecture, design, and fashion. There are so many iconic figures (think Jackie O) and influential designs that came out of these decades that they left their mark on our history. It’s safe to say that the ‘70s and ‘80s (and ‘90s and 2000s) wouldn’t have been what they are today if it wasn’t for these two decades. Time is a linear progression (as much as my Doctor Who heart disagrees) and if you take away one part of that timeline, everything else will be affected.

Plus, MC will make its way back around. In a lot of ways it already has. Shows like the insanely popular Mad Men have seen to that. I’ve also seen red carpet fashion mimicking ‘50s-style dress. And, hey, those were classy and cool designs, so there’s nothing wrong with that.

Barbies from the 1960s are perfect for looking at trends in fashion!

What cool Mid-century items do you think I should keep an eye out for?

If it has an atomic design, pick it up. Whether it’s a Pyrex coffee pot or a pair of curtains. That design is a staple in an MC home and you will find a buyer for it.

Melmac is also super important. This was huge during the 1950s and the 1960s and it’s still quite collectible today.

Anything with an MC color palette will also be popular. Turquoise is probably the most identifiable one, so look out for that. If you can find Melmac in this color, that’s a double score.

Mid-century jewelry is also nice. Modest hoop earrings or classy pearl designs. Anything in turquoise or pink. Anything that feels reserved, yet beautiful and a little fashion-forward. Retro designs are being made every day, so you don’t necessarily have to go vintage to get the same feel.

Pearls are forever classy, and were definitely a staple in fashion accessories during this time.

Awesome Mid-century blogs that you shouldn’t pass up!

Like I said above, I’m not an expert. I’m interested in this era, but I don’t know everything there is to know. I’ve got the basics down, but there are some people who live this life day in and day out. Three of my favorite bloggers are down below. Please check them out, tell them hi, and soak up the fabulous information they post on their blogs every week. You won’t regret it!

That Mid-century Fella

Mid-century Thrifty Gal

Oh, for the Love of Vintage (Black Dahlia)

For all three of you: thank you for writing about Mid-century, and teaching me more about it every day. If you’ve got other tips or tricks, please feel free to leave them in the comments below (especially if I have something wrong, but I did try to do all my research very carefully!). My circle of blogs is still quite small, so if you know of any other awesome MC blogs, feel free to pass those along as well.

How do you feel about Mid-century designs? Are they cool, or are they too retro for you? Do you own any nifty MC items?

My Weekly Score: Gilbert Erector Set

This was a fabulous little find that we came across recently. It’s a vintage A.C. Gilbert erector set from the 1940s. This is the 8 ½ model to build an all electric Ferris wheel. How cool is that!?

It boasted the slogan, “The World’s Greatest Toy!” and I’m sure a lot of boys would have agreed. This is a future engineer’s dream and I’m sure it was on everybody’s Christmas list back when these were super popular.

Our erector set was a little worn. The metal case had some scratches, but not anything too deep or damaging. I’m sure some parts were missing too, but we had over 200 pieces here and a lot of them were still in great shape. There was a little bit of rusting as well, but considering this is 70+ years old…that’s to be expected!

We pitched this as a collector’s item, though we were explicit to note the damage and the fact that it probably wasn’t complete. I also mentioned that it would be good if you already had a set that wasn’t complete, and used this to round out those parts that you were missing.

We bought this set for $30.80 at our local auction house and ended up selling it for $84.99. Some sets, depending on what model it is, sell for $200+. But we were really happy with what this went for and the fact that it got a new home! That’s win-win in my eyes. 🙂

Have you ever come across one of these before? Have you played with one?