Collector Q & A: Nancy Drew historian Jennifer Fisher

nancy drew books

nancy drew books

Collecting is part knowledge, part treasure hunt and all passion. At VU we celebrate collectors and the entire world of things people collect by asking seven questions they expect, and one question that’s unscripted.

Nancy Drew, girl sleuth, has been entertaining and inspiring readers since 1930. Through all the decades, through all the updates, through all the expansions into TV and interactive games, the one constant is Nancy’s curiosity, ingeniousness, fearlessness, intellect and ability to get herself stuck in dangerous situations.

Jennifer Fisher knows a little something about Nancy Drew. She’s the creator of the Nancy Drew Sleuth Unofficial Website, the president of the Nancy Drew Sleuths fan club, and one of the foremost Nancy Drew historians. We asked her about her collection of Nancy Drew materials.

What do you collect and how did you get started collecting?

I collect Nancy Drew books – vintage and modern plus all collectibles and ephemera related to Nancy Drew. I also collect books and series by the Nancy Drew original ghostwriter Mildred Wirt Benson, who I am writing a biography of and other miscellaneous series that interest me. I also collect vintage Halloween from the early 1900s to 1950s.

How many pieces do you have?
I have over 4000 books, collectibles and ephemera in my Nancy Drew collection at last count. Also several hundred vintage Halloween items.
What is your favorite piece?
My favorite is my first printing Nancy Drew book, The Secret of the Old Clock from 1930.
What piece is your holy grail? That one thing that has eluded you since you started?
First printings of some of the early Nancy Drew books that are hard to find in dust jacket in the early format they came in.
What is your favorite collecting story?
Meeting the original ghostwriter of the Nancy Drew books in 2001 when she was age 95 and still working at the Toledo Blade as a journalist, a very spunky lady!
Are there any interest groups or clubs you belong to focused on what you collect?
I am President of the Nancy Drew Sleuths, a fan organization of collectors and scholars of Nancy Drew and vintage children’s series books. We publish a zine, The Sleuth, 6 times a year and also have annual Nancy Drew conventions as well as officially licensed Nancy Drew merchandise.
What advice do you have for someone starting a collection like yours?
Start out with what is most sentimental to you and what you like the most and then build out from there as you complete various series or formats of the books. Scour your local antique stores and used book shops and also don’t be afraid to use sites like eBay or Etsy as they are great sources for vintage stuff that you are not always likely to find in your area.
And one Unscripted question:
Which would be your choice: cape or trench coat?
Trench coat/cape hybrid?! 😉 Trench coat!





10 What If’s for Valentines Day


What if: love was effortless?

What if:  love came with no strings attached?

What if: Valentine’s Day was everyday?

What if:  love was unconditional, always?

What if:  love was easy to find?


What if:  love does mean never having to say you’re sorry?

What if: the words “love thy neighbor” were literal and not figurative?

What if:  love really did make the world go around?

What if: the words “I love you” were always spoken truthfully?

What if:  all your dreams came true?

7 Gift Ideas For The Man In Your Life

To Him With Love


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Finding the Perfect Vintage Valentine

Whether your perfect vintage valentine is manifested in the floral, edible, or ephemera form, finding one that is just right might mean taking a trip back in time.

The history of Valentines Day is a bit cloudy with several interpretations about just how we determined that February 14 would become the day to proclaim your love. But finding just the right way to show someone how much you love them should never be that difficult.

While flowers and candy are lovely, neither one will last for long.  Better to make a statement with a bit of history that is everlasting so as not to be forgotten. And what better way to tell someone how much you love them than to choose something that has stood the test of time.

Antique Valentine Postcard available at Aunt Hatties Attic on Etsy

Large Vintage Valentine Tin available at Attic and Barn Treasures


Sterling Silver Filigree Heart Chain Bracelet available at Vintage Renude


19th. Century Rare Sailor’s Sea Shell Box Memento available at Bridgets Cabinet on Etsy



A Round Up of Valentine’s Day Table Decor With a Vintage Twist

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, but there is still time to find some cool vintage pieces to incorporate into your Valentine’s Day dinner table decor. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Vintage China, Silverware, and Figurines

Pair red and white or pink and white vintage plates with plain white plates to create an interesting place setting. Add vintage stemware for wine or desserts, and vintage silverware for interest. Place a vintage cupid angel or two on the table and you have a great look for your celebration.


Decorate With Vintage Milk Glass

Vintage milk glass adds a fun, whimsical touch to any dinner table decor! Fill with pink and red candies, desserts, flowers, or floating candles. So many possibilities!



Utilize Vintage Crates

Fill a large vintage crate with vases of fresh cut flowers, bowls of candy and a vintage glass pitcher filled with your favorite beverage. Sweet!


Celebrate with Vintage Beverage Pitcher and Glasses

Of course you’ll want to serve your favorite beverage on Valentine’s Day. Just fill a vintage pitcher with a fun punch recipe and serve in vintage glasses. Don’t forget the vintage serving tray. Yum!


Go Glam with Vintage Trays and Valentine Cards

Decorate your Valentine’s Day table with a vintage floral tray in gold, gold charger plates, and vintage stemware. Place a vintage Valentine card on each place setting, a special gift for your dinner guests. Don’t forget to repurpose a dresser box to hold special after dinner mints. 



Upcycle Vintage Brooches

Turn those sparkly vintage brooches and rings into unique napkin rings! What an elegant touch for your dinner table. You could also use vintage necklaces draped over vases to add more sparkle. Be creative!




Pony Pictures – An Urban Child’s Dream Come True

I was captivated by a a 1920s photograph of my Mother in Law, Harriet, 6 years old at that time with her dog in her arms on a pony. I asked if she had a pony and she told me the story that thousands of children of her generation knew about these photographs and that special day.

Pony pictures are photographs taken from about 1915 into the 1950s of a child, siblings or even a baby on a pony. This is a unique genre of photographs with an interesting backstory. A pony owner and photographer would bring a pony into urban and suburban areas to pose for a low cost child’s portrait. Sometimes it was one person who brought the pony and was the photographer as well. Some brought cowboy and cowgirl props with them to entice the local kids to go scurrying home to get a dime to pose. The ponies often had nice tack and were carefully groomed which gussied them up for their part of the portrait. The photographer kept a record of each child so that when the picture was developed it would go to the correct child. I have a photograph of a chalk number 99 on a stirrup cup that could identify the shot and the model.

These are such sweet and innocent photos and would make a nice collection. Please note in my little collection here that in every instance a house or building is in the background. There is a book by a local historian, Emily M. Bancroft titled “Pony Pictures Photographs of the 1900s”, filled with photos and reminiscences of the children who got to have their pony picture taken. You might just enjoy her book as much as she enjoyed making it as a self published tome. What a magical day for them and for us!

Do you have a pony picture of an elder member of your family? Ask them to tell you the story of that day and watch their face because you will easily see the child still in them! (By the way, if you don’t have any pony riding relatives in your immediate family, you can start building a collection by adopting the ones I’ve found. The photo of Harriet isn’t for sale but the others are. Just click on the pony rider you love and you’ll be taken to the owner’s shop.) Enjoy. 

11 more words vintage sellers love to know

definition of vintage

One of the challenges of being an online vintage seller is finding the right words to describe your items. Some of those words are so cool they make us feel smart just knowing them. Some are the kind of words that are fun to say. We’re not ones to be stingy with information, so here’s a short and entirely random list of words we’ve used recently to describe vintage items.


Arabesque is a design of interlacing foliage, usually designed for a vertical panel, with the sides resembling each other. If you like symmetry in your home decor, an arabesque pattern is definitely for you!



Celluloid was the first synthetic plastic material, patented under that name in 1873 by the Hyatt Mfg. Co.  It was billed as a practical and affordable substitute for natural occurring materials like ivory and tortoiseshell and was used for movie film, combs, dolls, piano keys and eyeglass frames. The Victorian era saw celluloid photo albums, vanity boxes and photo buttons become wildly popular. Its flammability and tendency to deteriorate caused the compound to fall from favor in the 1930’s which makes the surviving pieces of celluloid even more collectible. 


En Tremblant

En Tremblant is from the French to tremble. Jewelry in the 18th and 19th century especially featuring diamonds in this form would tremble in the firelight and sparkle in the eyes and hearts of those who viewed it. Especially popular during the Georgian era. Imagine the slight tremor of a leaf, petals or insect’s wings on a piece of fabulous jewelry.


Hobnailhobnail glass

Hobnail. Go ahead. Say it. Hobnail. See? That was fun, wasn’t it?! Not only is hobnail one of those words that is just plan fun to say, it’s also the term that describes those blunt bumps in glassware and other glass pieces. There are many different styles of hobnail – some hobnail pieces are smooth bumps (sort of like bubblewrap), while others are more sharp and spiky. 


Jardiniere jardiniere

A decorative ceramic pot used for plants, sometimes called a cachepot. Highly ornamental, some jardinieres come with pottery stands. Roseville jardinieres are perhaps the most prized among vintage lovers.


Knapp Jointknapp joint

If you are fortunate to own a piece of furniture with this type of drawer joint you are in luck. This easily dates your piece to between 1870 – 1900. This method of drawer joint was invented by Mr. Charles Knapp of Wisconsin and he patented the first joint making machine in 1867. The example shown in this photo is a drawer in a Victorian Eastlake dresser – owned by none other than my husband. He forbade me to sell it. 🙂


Mercury Glass

True mercury glass items will be blown double walled glass with a liquid silvering solution poured between the two walls and sealed.  Many items can be found described as being mercury glass but they will not be double walled and will be a simple silvered or mirrored coating.    


Pince-Nez pince nez

Pince-Nez are spectacles that literally pinch the nose. They reached their popularity from 1880 to 1900. There were many design improvements to the bridges to add comfort to the men and women wearing these for long periods of time. One would equip these with a chain, ribbon and even a chatelaine pin in order to have them at the ready when not in use.



Pinchbeck is a zinc and copper alloy developed in the early 1700’s as a reasonably priced substitute for gold. Named for it’s inventor Christopher Pinchbeck a clockmaker of the time. With a look and feel of gold as well as the ability to work with it in similar fashion pinchbeck became a popular replacement to high cost gold jewelry. Mr. Pinchbeck’s formula was quickly copied and adopted by many other jewelers of the time causing the word to become a generic term for gold substitutes of the time.



Plinth blocks were common in turn of the century homes and added interest to door and window trim.  I especially like the craftsman style homes and would live in one if given the opportunity.  All that warm dark wood is just so yummy!  There are many styles of plinth blocks and some with carved leaves and flower shapes but these here are called a bullseye block for obvious reasons.  


Tramp Art tramp art

Tramp Art is an art movement found throughout the world where small pieces of wood, typically from cigar boxes and shipping crates, were whittled into chip carved layers using pocket knives. It was most popular from the 1870’s – 1940’s and the most common forms were boxes and frames. There were no rules so phenomenal pieces of furniture and whimsy were produced by the hands of really imaginative artists. 






5 DIY lampshades tutorials for vintage lovers


You can have the most beautiful vintage lamp in the world, but if the lampshade isn’t right no one is going to notice. A shade needs to fit right. And it’s form should follow it’s function. You wouldn’t choose the same shade for task lighting as you would for an accent light. And it should be such a good partner with the lamp that you can’t imagine one without the other.

Store bought shades don’t always hit those marks. Target, Home Goods and Ikea offer great basic and novelty shades that are inexpensive enough so you can change when you fall out of love. But a great lamp deserves a great shade, and sometimes that means taking matters into your own hands, heating up the glue gun or threading the needle. We know, we’ve been there. So we’re rounded up some DIY tutorials to inspire you and get you started.

1 Hand sewn sweet floral shade

floral lampshade
Lampshade by Honestly WTF.

A lampshade hand sewn in pretty Liberty of London florals from the Honestly WTF blog takes patience but oh my, the finished product is worth it. The small-scale floral is torn into strips and sewn to a metal frame. The good news, hand sewing is easy to tear out if you need to redo something. The bad news, this DIY makes the process look like so much fun you probably won’t be satisfied doing only once. 

There is something particularly charming in the use of a traditional British floral to make a shade for a modern lamp base as styled for the blog. But this shade would also be amazing on a milk glass base. And think of the fabrics you could try–a small scale plaid, a tiny star print, an ombre.

2 Rustic stained stir sticks shade

HGTV lampshade
Rustic stained paint sticks lampshade by Clara MacLellen for HGTV.

HGTV offers up a pretty cool rustic paint stick shade. It’s straight forward DIY:  pre-made shade, stain, paint sticks and glue. Mix them together and get rustic shade with interesting details purely from the shape of the sticks. This is one of those DIY projects that is on a tightrope between too crafty projecty and clever. I think with a with a dark metal base, I would probably love it unequivocally.

Imagine how adorable this would be with white stained paint sticks partially dipped in a rainbow of colors. Or if instead of stir sticks, colored plastic rulers or lengths of yard stick were substituted.

3 Cozy sweater lamp shade

sweater lampshade
Thrift store sweater lamp shade by Unskinny Boppy.

Some days are magic. Get an idea, have a perfect thrift score and cook up a DIY that’s so simple it seems like cheating. That about sums up Beth Bryan’s sweater lampshade. Anytime you cut a sweater, you’ve got to stay on top of the raveling edges. But happily there’s an app for that, a generous application of glue, that is. Using the sweater’s ribbed waistband as the base of the shade is perfect.

Not every sweater is going to work for this. You need the pattern on the front and the back. You need to be able to cut it. It needs to fit snugly over the shade, so it shouldn’t have a lot of shaping. If I were going down this road, you can be sure I would be wandering the thrift store with my drum shade trying sweaters on for size. And I wouldn’t even attempt this with a bell shade. Also, Ms. Bryan truly nailed the styling–on that floor lamp, the sweater shade looks epic.

4 Ribbon wrapped shade

ribbon lampshade
Jane Means design for a ribbon shade using Jane Means designed ribbon.

While some DIY ideas work best on shades for big lamps, ribbon shades are at their best topping off small vanity lamps or candlestick lamps. Ribbon designer Jane Mears’s ribbon shade tutorial features two flavors of shade: a sweet confection in pastels and pompoms and a more prim navy blue and cream shade with lovely crimping at the bottom.

A nice tightly woven ribbon over the additional layer of a paper shade is not going to let a lot of light through, so in practicality this is best for accent lighting. Doing some test wrapping before you whip out the glue and commit makes some sense–not every ribbon style is going to make an awesome shade. Imagine using a satin ribbon and finishing the hem by gluing on bits of broken clip earrings…with a thin glass lamp base.

5 Paper lantern jamboree

The Ikea Regolit paper lantern + Hemma cord set is the $14.99 investment that has launched at least a million DIY lampshade projects. An enterprising DIY blogger could easily post a new Regolit design a day. But here are three faves, and one project that will be my own future contribution to the Regolit oevre. Bonjour Quilts sews a tiny bunting for her lantern. Crafty Nest turned a marked-down poinsettia garland into a magical flower ball with bonus pompom companion lantern. iSuat posted an sakura flower lantern made with black gouche and tissue paper. And the final blurry photo is a bit of inspiration for my own DIY project in the making. The Caracas Arepa Bar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn has incredible pendant lamps made from plastic baskets and plastic flowers. I have been collecting vintage plastic flowers for months because I need to make one of these lamps, but mine will be on a Regolit and not a plastic basket for sure!














Pretty In Pink

Pretty In Pink...


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Even mom jeans get the blues: new projects from old denim

blue jeans

I remember it well, the day I found out via my adult girl-child’s single arched eyebrow that the answer to the question “Do I wear mom jeans?” was an unspoken yet emphatic yes. Sigh.

My drawers are still well stocked with “Jeans, Mom Jeans” but as a result of my January purge of clothes that have done their part to keep me clothed but are now best destined for the textile recycling bin at our transfer station, there is also a pile of beautifully and honestly aged and faded mom jeans lurking on the bedroom floor.

All that blissfully soft worn in denim looks less like a pile of sad jeans and more like a pile of creative opportunity. Giving it a chance to get recycled into a raw material again is appealing. But so is the idea of blowing the dust off my sewing machine and renovating it into something new for my home. (Something that does not look like it started as mom jeans.)

Inspiration does not always come when we need it. The jeans are still waiting patiently, all potentialled up with no where to go. So I went out and poked in the corners of the internet to soak up some DIY ideas and hopefully find a spark to turn those jeans into a perfect decorative accent for our house.

denim pouf
Denim pouf from Michele Made Me.

There’s a lot of denim projects compilation lists, and this sassy little recycled denim pouf tutorial by Michele Made Me makes nearly every one. With good reason. Form + function + style = timeless awesomeness. 

denim quilt
Hand quilted strip pieced denim quilt from Mollie Makes.

Maura Grace Ambrose has a fabulous tutorial for turning old denim into a strip quilt. Hand quilting is a beautiful zen way to relax.

denim rug
Denim sunburst rug from the Ohoh Blog.

Blogger and DIY addict Ama Ryliss cleverly uses the shape of jeans legs to make a sunburst rug that has the same country charm as a Dresden plate quilt square. The appeal of this beauty is it can definitely survive repeated launderings. In fact, it will only give it better patina.

denim pillows
Denim pillows from H&M Home, as spotlighted on Apartment Therapy.

And although the pillows from H&M Home are new denim, the temptation to make a pile of pillows and break out some embroidery floss to personalize them is tempting indeed. Thanks Apartment Therapy!

This has also caught my imagination: Vlogger Izzy Meimsaab’s  smart video about how to turn your old jeans into flat material panels.

So what will I do with those mom jeans? Not quite sure, but tiny idea seeds are germinating in my brain. What happens next? You’ll have to wait and see…