English teacups: a collecting love letter



Decorative teacups, most of which came from England, were at the peak of their popularity as collectables in the 1950s and 1950s. It’s the things that made them popular then that are making them popular again:  their shapely shapes, pretty decorations, swirling curling handles and saucy saucers. Of course vintage teacups are ready to serve up your tea, but they are also dandy for off label uses like organizing things on your dresser, providing a safe home for your air plant, storing your pennies, catching your keys and a thousand other uses yet to be imagined.

Anyone who spends more than 35 seconds on Pinterest can tell you that teacups are a popular party favor. Even your least pinkies-up-plus-pearls kind of guest is going to have to work mighty hard not to be happy with their new bone china friend.

Teacups are proof that strong is beautiful. Made of bone china or porcelain, they’re made to last. Bone china is a soft-paste porcelain made with clay, kaolin and bone ash. It’s the sturdiest of the porcelains. Regular porcelain is a clay made with kaolin and other additives depending on where it’s being made.

Most English teacups can be used for actually drinking tea. Once formed and decorated, the painted or stamped design is covered with a clear glaze, making it safe for food use. But there are exceptions. Those that have a mesh of cracks in the clear glaze, known as crazing, are no longer food safe. And it’s probably not a good idea to use Rose Medallion, a popular export ware from the 1920s on, or Japanese novelty lusterware, for example, because those usually do not have a clear coat food-safe glaze.

There are many, many makers of teacups from England, ranging in quality from exquisitely delicate to fancied-up utilitarian. In general, 0n the higher end of the price spectrum are cups made by Shelley, Paragon, Aynsley, Coalport. In the middle are Royal Albert, Royal Standard, Rosina and a multitude of others makers. Like anything that was a trend at some point, there are makers galore and prices are all over the place from several hundred dollars to a few single dollars. Tea cup prices are determined by the same things as all vintage: scarcity, desirability and condition. If you’re favor shopping, you can often find teacup lots online at good prices. And it’s okay to politely ask a seller if they will offer you a bundle price. 

As with most things we humans collect, there is some teacup lingo you’ll find in listings. We’re arranged a few of the more common ones here, arranged alphabetically for your convenience.

Backstamps are the maker’s marks printed on the bottom of many cups and saucers. They are often accompanied by a handpainted style number or maker’s mark.

The bowl is the big round part that holds the tea, it can be flat, conical, flared or a more decorative shape.

Chintz is a tiny overall floral pattern.

Coffee cans are not teacups, but they do come with saucers. They are small straight sided cups usually used for espresso.

Corset waist teacups have a generously sized top and very nipped in bottom.

Demitasse cups are smaller than teacups and are generally used for espresso.

Fluted teacups and saucers have a series of furrowed wedges radiating from the center ring out that get grow in size as they head to edge.

Footed teacups have a distinctive foot at the bottom.

Luncheon sets include a teacup, saucer and matching luncheon plate.

Scalloped teacups and saucers have edges that are composed of arches or semi-circles. They can be evenly sized or alternate large and small.

Smooth shaped teacups and saucers are just that. Smooth and simple. They let the decoration do the talking.

Snack sets or tea and toast sets or luncheon sets are oversized plates with a place for your teacup. There is no saucer.

Swirled teacups and saucers are like fluted teacups that had a ride on the tilt-a-whirl.

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If you want to find out more about teacups, here are some wonderful places to read more:

The National Shelley Collector club has a fabulous pictorial glossary.

The Tea Blog of the English Tea Store has tasty tea time recipes and tea cup loving posts.

Teacup handle shapes have different names, Tea with Friends offers an introduction

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Non-bone china teacup related factoid: NOAA’s Storm Center describes 3″ hail as teacup (for reference, the scale ranges from  .5″ is marble or mothball to 4.5″ for grapefruit)





Crazy About Catherineholm Lotus Bowls!

Have you ever been the last person to get a joke? Or the last person to realize that low-waisted jeans are (were) the latest fad? Or maybe that you were the last person to know about the most popular television show that was popular 10 years ago, and you’ve only just discovered (and love) it?

Well, that’s how I feel about my latest discovery – the Catherineholm Lotus Enamelware bowls. How did I not know about these bowls before this week? How have they escaped my radar? Granted, I usually check out the barns, garages, and basements at estate sales before anything else, and I usually don’t spend much time in the kitchens – maybe that’s how I missed these fabulous bowls! I am sure over the years that I have seen this pattern before in pots and coffee pots, but never really gave it any thought before now.

This week I spotted a green bowl with white flower petals on it. The green caught my eye since it is similar to the lime green I use as accent pieces in our living room. There were no maker marks on the bottom of the bowl, so I searched the internet to learn more about it – and found out it’s a Catherineholm Lotus Enamelware bowl. And I am in love!

Did You Know?

In my research, I found that this design was released in the early 1960s, originating from the Catherineholm factory in Norway, and isn’t limited to just bowls. The design pieces and colors were attributed to Grete Prytz Kittelsen, and Arne Clausen came up with the lotus pattern.

What I like most about the bowls is that they are made of steel, coated with enamelware. The colors are bright and vibrant and the pattern is just as trendy today as it was in the early 1960s. 

Since this line of enamelware was only made from the early 1960s to around 1965, some of the pieces are quite rare. And naturally, are also quite expensive. Some of the bowls are marked, while others are not. 

These Catherineholm Lotus enamelware bowls are so popular, there is even a group on Flickr, filled with photos!

I am now on a quest to find at least one bowl in yellow, orange, green, black, and red with the white lotus flower petal. And don’t even get me started on the striped bowls!

Do you own or collect Catherineholm Lotus Enamelware? What’s your favorite piece?

photo: Hudson River Mercantile


A bedding glossary: what do you call the thing that covers your bed?

vintage bedding

At the end of a long day when all you can think about is laying your weary head on your pillow, the question of what the proper name is for that top layer of bedding you peel back so you can crawl between the sheets probably does not cross your mind. But as a vintage seller who occasionally writes a listing for that top layer of bedding, it does cross my mind. And it often makes me wrinkle my brow because there is a surprising amount of nomenclature for the big rectangular things that sit on top of your blanket and sheets. And all those coverings have slightly different characteristics which define them.

Establishing ground rules: The words “bedding,” “bed linens” and “bedclothes” can be used pretty interchangeably here in the USA. Those words mean the whole enchilada from mattress cover to sheets to pillowcases to blankets to that top layer that is the subject of the glossary that follows. 


vintage bedspread

Bedspread is the term most of us are most familiar with. It can be made of all kinds of material, usually a single layer, and it covers the pillows and reaches all the way to the floor on three sides of the bed. Summer bedspreads are usually light and thin, winter bedspreads are a little thicker. (photo: Betty Pepis Interior Decoration A to Z, 1965)


vintage coverlet

A coverlet is also a single layer of fabric, it also covers the pillows but it only reaches down just past the top of the box spring, just below the place a bedskirt starts on a traditional bed. (photo: Billy Baldwin Decorates, 1972)


A bedcover is a generic term that is used for both bedspreads and coverlets.


vintage daybed

A slipcover or fitted bedspread is tailored to fit a bed’s dimensions precisely. Usually used on daybeds or perhaps in a guest room, it’s not all that commonly seen currently, but it was a definite fave in the 1950s and 1960s. (photo: House and Garden Complete Guide to Interior Decoration, 1953)


vintage quilt

A quilt is two layers of fabric, sewn together with a layer of something warm in the middle like flannel, wool or batting. The top can be a single piece of fabric or it can be made with a patchwork of many pieces of fabric. The quilting stitches go though all layers and generally are an important design feature. (photo: www.countryliving.com)


rayon comforter

A comforter is two layers of fabric sewn together to be puffy and warm. It might be filled with a polyester batting, down, or synthetic down substitutes. It is stitched or tufted through all layers to prevent the filling from shifting.


vintage duvet

A duvet is thick and puffy like a comforter, but unlike a comforter which is used with sheets, duvets have a removable cover that acts as the top sheet. For those Ikea fans out there, their bedding department sells a lot of plain white comforters that fit inside their many patterned duvet colors. (photo: Fabric Magic, 1987)


A couple of quaint old terms you may hear are eiderdown, a luxe comforter filled with feathers from the eider duck, and counterpane, yet another old word for a bedspread, but used with charm galore in the Robert Louis Stevenson poem from his collection A Child’s Garden of Verses.

the land of counterpane



Your Favorite Iconic Toys


If someone asked you to name a vintage toy what would you think of? The little red Radio Flyer wagon? Barbie? Hula Hoop? Slinky? Erector sets? Easy Bake Oven? Frisbees?

Your answer would probably depend on the era you (or your parents in some cases) grew up in and more than likely at least to some extent the area of the country where you lived.

Creepy Crawlers ant
1960s Thingmaker Creepy Crawlers giant ant mold from ThirdShift.

For me it was Barbie (who was born the same year as me!), the Slip ‘n Slide, the Easy Bake Oven, Viewmaster and best of all the Thingmaker (aka Creepy Crawlers), well next to my all time favorite, my Hot Wheel cars. (Yes, I was a tomboy).

You may be surprised at just how many folks seek out toys from their childhood. Maybe it is part comfort. You know, reminders of the “good old days.” Maybe it’s to find that one toy that always eluded them, or broke too soon. Perhaps to share the fun from their past with their children or grandchildren. Whatever the reason vintage toys are a hot commodity and will most likely stay that way – perhaps forever.

Every decade has their favorites…. Rubik’s Cube, Garbage Pail Kids, Star Wars, PEZ dispensers or Beanie Babies anyone? Whatever your favorite(s) I’ll bet just the thought of them brings a smile to your face. You may find some of them at the National Toy Hall of Fame.


If you enjoyed reading this article you might also enjoy visiting these fine shops for items like the ones shown here:


  1. Vintage Lesney toy cars.
  2. Vintage buckskin toy horses.
  3. Vintage paper dolls.
  4. Vintage scooter.
  5. Vintage story film cards.
  6. Antique toy furniture.
  7. Vintage Buddy L Coca Cola truck.

St Patrick’s Day and the Shamrock


Saint Patrick’s Day falls on March 17 and even though it is an Irish tradition, it is celebrated all over the world. In the US, we generally celebrate by wearing green clothes and shamrocks and indulging in an Irish or green beer. Parades are a common celebrations, as is eating corned beef and cabbage. Chicago even dyes the river green.  

The shamrock is associated with Saint Patrick’s Day because Ireland’s patron saint, you guessed it, Saint Patrick, used the plant to explain to his followers the concept of the Holy Trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy spirit. March 17 is believed to be the day of his death. People wore shamrocks on their coats and closed the day by “drowning the shamrock” — placing it in the bottom of a glass of whiskey or beer before drinking.  

four leaf cloverYou will see four leaf clovers being referred to as shamrocks but that’s wrong. Shamrocks have three leaves and, of course, the lucky clover has four. The four-leaf clover is believed to be “lucky” because they are rarely found (1 in 10,000) and to find one will bring you good luck. Legend has it that if you eat one, a genie appears and grants you three wishes which must be used within one year. I have pressed and dried these and carried them in my wallet for years and all I had to do was eat it! How did I not know this!? 

It is believed the four leaves represent faith, hope, love and the fourth is for luck. Supposedly a five leafed clover can be found, and the fifth leaf represents money. Yeah, I never found one of those either…just my luck!

And don’t be fooled by these impostors as the lucky four leaf clover.

Oh, and you know those three wishes I mentioned? Another Irish legend is if you catch a leprechaun, he will grant you three wishes in exchange for his freedom. I always thought it was a genie that granted three wishes and that they came out of a bottle! If you want to study up on the leprechaun to increase your chances, here’s an article

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  May the luck of the Irish be with you.

51 Years of Football in America (in Ads)

Sunday February 5th is Super Bowl LI – the 51st Super Bowl. Whether you are a fan of football or not, the Super Bowl is one of the most watched sporting events on television to happen each year.

Some people watch the game to support their teams and because they are football fans. Other people watch the game because they like the halftime entertainment show. And other people (like me) simply like to watch the ads.

Yes. I only watch the game for the ads. I enjoy the creativity, cinematography, and humor of the ads.

Did You Know? The first Super Bowl commercials cost $40,000 for a 30-second spot.

Since the first super bowl in 1967, there have been many notable, controversial, and memorable super bowl ads. The popularity of commercials during the Super Bowl really took off in the 1970s. Surely you remember the 1973 Super Bowl Noxema ad with Farrah Fawcett and Joe Namath?


In 1975, the McDonalds Big Mac song was a hit Super Bowl commercial. Remember this one? I know you won’t be able to resist signing along! “Two all beef patties special sauce lettuce cheese pickles onions on a sesame seed bun”.


I remember thinking that the Apple commercial in the 1984 Super Bowl was rather scary! 


I loved the 1995 Budweiser Super Bowl commercial! I still remember laughing the first time I saw that ad.


Some of the most popular ads are the Budweiser Clydesdales‘ ads. One of the most poignant and memorable of the Budweiser Clydesdales ads was shown during the 2002 Super Bowl. This one still brings tears to my eyes.


The Dodge Charger commercial in the Super Bowl of 2011 is definitely a (man) favorite.


Another of my favorite Super Bowl commercials was the Volkswagen Jamaican ad in 2013. Trust me – once you watch this commercial, you’ll be talking with a Jamaican accent all week! “Wicked coffee Mr. Jim”.


Super Bowl commercials are so popular, there is even a CBS show called “Super Bowl Greatest Commericals” where you can vote for your favorites.

Did You Know? The minimum price for a Super Bowl ad for the 2017 game is $5 millon! 

Hopefully this years Super Bowl will feature another iconic ad!

Do you have a favorite Super Bowl commercial? Share in a comment below!

Today Is National Handwriting Day!

Did you know? Today is National Handwriting Day!

Give us your John Hancock!

What? You know…. commonly referred to as your signature.

Why? John Hancock (the first person to sign the Declaration of Independence) was born on January 23rd. Because of this, the Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association declared today National Handwriting Day back in 1977. Their motive for this celebration was to promote the consumption of pens, pencils, and writing paper. Remember what those are? Class? Anyone? Hello!?!?!? Put your smartphones down and pay attention!

In honor of National Handwriting Day, we present for your reading satisfaction, The Handwriting of the Vintage Unscripted Team… Each member of our team wrote the classic sentence “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” Anyone know the significance of this sentence? Class? Anyone? Helloooo!?!?! Okay, you don’t need to Google it – I’ll tell you. This sentence includes every letter of the alphabet, and was often used in (vintage) typing classes and cursive classes. 

Dot’s handwriting (AtticAndBarnTreasures.com) …

JayDee’s handwriting (ThirdShiftVintage.com)


Laurie’s handwriting (NextStageVintage.com)


Linda’s handwriting (SelectiveSalvage.com)


Mary Ellen’s handwriting (AuntHattiesAtticVintage.com)

Pam’s handwriting (VintageRenude.com)

Tina’s handwriting (GirlPickers.com)

How about you? Why not try this at home, and write this same sentence yourself. It feels good to hold a pen to paper, and you might enjoy it so much, you decide to give up text messages and actually send handwritten notes to your friends and family. Well, it could happen!

To take this celebration of handwriting a step further, here is a fun website where you can examine your handwriting (and now – ours) to analyze your personality based solely on your John Hancock! Give it a try! Self Evaluation of Your Handwriting . And for a second opinion, check out this Free Handwriting Analysis website.

Want to learn more? Take this Basic Handwriting Analysis Course


“Though computers and e-mail play an important role in our lives, nothing will ever replace the sincerity and individualism expressed through the handwritten word.” ~ David H. Baker, Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association Executive Director

5 Myths About Vintage Items Many Think Are True

Some people love and appreciate vintage items. Others just don’t see the attraction or the value. Here’s a round-up of five of the most common myths about vintage that many people think are true, and my take on busting these myths.

Myth #1 – Vintage items are just someone’s old, used trash.

Many of us think beauty is in the eye of the holder. Yeah, it’s cliche, but really – it’s true! There is nothing like finding a rusty dusty metal shop table that someone has dumped at the end of their driveway with a “FREE” sign! The original owner sees it as “trash”, but I see it as sturdy, “good bones”, vintage love! After a quick cleanup, items like this can become one of your favorite pieces and can be re-purposed in so many ways. You know the old saying, right? One man’s trash, is another man’s treasure. Trust that adage – it’s also true!

Myth #2 – Vintage items are old, are no longer sturdy, or of good quality.

Sure, some old items might no longer be sturdy after many years of use, but the quality of the item is generally FAR better than anything made today. Think about a coffee table, as an example. The coffee tables that were made in the ’50s and ’60s were made to last. You could actually SIT on these coffee tables (or dance on them – *wink*) and not worry about them collapsing under your weight. Unlike many coffee tables of today that are made of press-board, veneer, and other inexpensive materials – the coffee tables of yesteryear where built with integrity and were designed to be functional for years. And their designs were just plain cool!  Most modern items are made of plastic, or thin, inferior metals. Cost savings and light weight are primary considerations in today’s manufacturing… neither of these equate to longevity. Genuine vintage items are made of forged steel, heavy cast aluminum, quality hardwoods, high-quality nickel or gold plating, and many were handcrafted or hand-assembled… not built by a machine or robot in an autonomous factory. Vintage pieces have a soul!

Myth #3 – Vintage items are cheap second-hand items for people who can’t afford new.

I agree with the second-hand part. Vintage pieces are often second-hand items.  If you are lucky, they can be found in thrift stores, garage sales, or yard sales. And they might be found for pennies on the dollar. BUT, these vintage pieces are usually a much higher quality item than things mass-produced today, which makes them actually much more appealing than new items. Finding these treasures can make your heart skip a beat when you know you’ve just purchased a genuine Herman Miller chair for $20 at a garage sale, knowing it is a highly sought after item that typically is worth $300 or more. That’s high quality. So, just because the items are vintage, doesn’t mean they are “cheap”. I think people who are lucky enough to find good quality for second-hand prices are “thrifty”!  When you buy rare vintage items, you are paying for longevity and rarity – and those qualities are priceless!

Myth #4 – Vintage items that no longer look new, look like junk.

Remember the adage from #1? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Some people don’t like the 50-year old patina that time has graciously given an item. Some people want shiny and new. But, there are plenty of other people who appreciate that patina and know how long the item has survived the test of time to achieve that look – something that just cannot be reproduced – no matter how hard the manufacturers of reproduction pieces try. There is just NOTHING like REAL vintage and REAL patina. This patina gives a piece character. REAL character. Not manufactured character, or painted-on “faux patina” character. There is a difference. A piece that has been loved, used, cherished, and worn over time has a unique “feeling” that just cannot be reproduced. Give it a chance. I know you will feel the difference!

Myth #5 – Vintage items are passe and boring, and certainly not trendy.

Au contraire!  Vintage is a HOT trend these days! Just look at any home decor store or craft store – they are ALL trying to replicate the look of vintage! Seriously?!? NOTHING comes close to REAL vintage. The real thing is classic. It is something built to last. Not something manufactured to “look” old – I’m talking the real deal. In a world where everyone struggles to find their own identity in a crowd of lemmings, vintage is a sure-fire way to assert your individualism and personality.  Vintage pieces make great conversation pieces, and add character to any decor. Be unique, buy vintage!

Hopefully I’ve been able to bust these myths for you, and you find a new appreciation for vintage items. Find something old, consider where it’s been – it’s history – and picture it in your life.   


Always Authentic. Always Vintage.

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